With Julie Taylor-Browne, founder of Camelid Sense
Obviously we don’t want to think too much about the possibility of our alpacas being ill. But, at the very least, we do have to carry out routine husbandry tasks such as toenail trimming, injecting them against clostridial disease and worming. So having things ready for their visit, coupled with efficient handling and correct facilities, make a significant difference to the emotional, physical and financial stress levels experienced by us, the vet and your animals. Signs of Ill Health When one of your animals is ill, it will stay with the herd trying to appear normal for as long as possible and only when it is seriously ill or injured will it either separate itself or be unable to keep up with them. Unwell as they feel, these animals will still do their utmost to avoid being examined by you (unless of course they are very ill and can’t get up), and will run to the other side of the field, leaving you wondering if you were imagining it all. If I suspect an alpaca is ill or injured I have to make sure I can get it into a smaller, enclosed area for the vet to examine. It is no use leading the vet into the field and expecting them to make a diagnosis without getting their hands on the animal. Whenever you handle your alpaca, try not to grab them round the neck. They really dislike this. On my courses we teach ‘the bracelet’, which is a way of balancing them, rather then restraining them. They feel much safer and are much less likely to struggle. Chasing the animal, cornering it and grabbing it is not going to give genuine readings of temperature, heart rate and respiration rate! If possible, you need to get the alpaca into small, contained area before the vet comes. Try to give yourself plenty of time to do this so that you are as unstressed and as unflustered as possible. I recommend you use a herding tape or long rope. It is usually best not to try to move just the ill animal. If necessary, bring the whole field full of animals in at the same time and then pop your patient into a catch pen with a friend or family member and release the others. When I talk about using a smaller area for examining ill animals, I am talking about an area usually made by hurdles of about 6ft by 6ft (approx 2m x 2m) to 8ft x 8ft (approx 2.5m x 2.5m). It should be under cover and ideally away from the rest of the herd (except any pen companions). I recommend that, for subcutaneous injections, you use the area of skin around or just above the triceps (shoulder) muscle. The vast majority of injections you will give your alpaca can be subcutaneous. Very, very few will be intramuscular, but these can be given into the triceps (shoulder) muscle. When you give the injections, lean over the alpaca and give it in the opposite side from you.Thus, should the alpaca move away from the needle, they will move towards, not away from you. * Julie Taylor-Browne runs training courses on handling and husbandry for camelids. See details and online store of books, halters and training equipment at www.carthveanalpacas.com.