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Health and Welfare


Alpacas are generally very healthy animals, with few succumbing to disease. Most South American alpacas receive minimal or no veterinary care, and only the strong survive. Here in New Zealand we currently reap the benefit of the “survival of the fittest” technique, as most New Zealand born alpacas are only a few generations away from Chilean or Peruvian imports.

On the other hand, there are some conditions here in New Zealand that Alpacas have never before encountered and they are susceptible to these, the most notable being Facial Eczema, and Rickets (caused by a lack of Vitamin D). Rye grass staggers are another risk faced by alpacas in New Zealand, and we will discuss these  items in greater detail on other pages (see Index below).

It is worth pointing out that health issues that have been identified as risks to alpacas are common to all traditional livestock species. Alpacas may be viewed as “exotic”, but they do not have exotic diseases or health issues! Please note: Articles on these pages are intended as informational only. In all cases where your alpaca’s health is involved, you should consult your Veterinary Surgeon!

 

  • Tuberculosis (TB)

    Alpacas appear to be somewhat resistant to TB.  In the 30 odd years (1985-2015) alpacas have been farmed and tested for tuberculosis (TB) in NZ, there have been very few (under 5) reported cases of reactors (animals which have a positive TB test). Because neither alpacas, nor their by-products (milk etc), are generally eaten in New Zealand, Read more…

  • Teeth & Toenail Trimming

    Alpacas have a soft pad on their feet, similar to the pads on a dog’s foot. These pads are protected by a tough triangular shaped toenail, which constantly grows. On stony ground the toenails are naturally ground down, but most NZ alpaca owners keep their alpacas on soft pasture, and as a result, the toenails Read more…

  • Vaccinations & Worming

    All animals require some basic maintenance, and alpacas are no exception. Luckily for us, basic health tasks for alpacas can just about be counted on the fingers of one hand! Worming and Vaccination are two of these critical care issues – worming deals with internal parasites, while vaccination deals with the protection of animals against Read more…

  • Body Scoring

    Because alpacas often carry a heavy fleece, it can be difficult to determine visually how much condition (weight) an alpaca is carrying. Alpacas can generally survive on very little, and for most being too fat is more likely than being too thin. However some alpacas on good grazing lose condition for some reason or other: Read more…

  • FE Supplement

    Sample Collection Collect pasture samples throughout the paddock, not just in a single area. Aim to get a good representation of the paddock as a whole. Cut the pasture off a grazing height (which is usually 1cm above soil level). Try to avoid collecting soil and faeces as they make spore counting more difficult. Spore Read more…

  • Heat Stress

    Alpacas are native to a climate which can fluctuate between extremes of temperature in excess of 30ºC during the day to below freezing at night, combined with a very low humidity, making them extremely resilient in regards to heat and cold, but not so tolerant to heat combined with high humidity, or cold combined with Read more…

  • Mites

    Mites are an external parasite. In common with many alpaca health issues, they are not common, but they are not rare either. Typically, one or two members of a herd may be infected with mites, the rest being unaffected. The life cycle of mites: The adult mite tunnels under the skin to lay eggs, which Read more…

  • Staggers

    There are at least 3 conditions which result in “staggers” type symptoms, the severity of which can vary from a mild head tremor to animals unable to keep their balance and prone to falling over. The most common cause is Rye Grass Staggers, caused by a toxin producing endophyte, however there is also a condition Read more…

  • Rickets & Phosphate Deficiency

    Rickets is a deficiency disease that manifests itself in the bony joints, causing swelling and bending of the joint. Symptoms include bowed or splayed legs, and distorted joints. It is an extremely painful condition. One of the causes of rickets is a lack of phosphate and/or Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption Read more…

  • Facial Eczema

    The following article is reprinted by permission of Dr Geoff Neal of Manawatu Veterinary Service. The article is a handout prepared by Geoff for a seminar presented at an Alpaca Assn Focus Farm seminar on Facial Eczema. It is superbly presented and well worth studying, as facial eczema presents a significant threat to your alpaca Read more…

  • Copper Deficiency

    Copper deficiency is a recognised side effect of feeding zinc, or zinc-laced pellets, to livestock. However, not all animals are equally susceptable, and because copper supplements are potentially toxic themselves, treatment for copper deficiency should never be random (as in treating an entire herd as a preventive measure), but should be restricted only to those Read more…

  • Underweight Alpacas

    There are a number of reasons why an  alpaca may be too thin, many of them life-threatening – so if increasing your alpacas food intake does not cause your alpaca to put on weight, consult your veterinary surgeon! Remember, body-scoring is a valuable tool to check your alpaca’s condition. Intestinal worms can cause weight loss, however some Read more…