Body Scoring

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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: sometimes in a herd only one will lose condition while the others thrive. Alpacas, in common with all other species, suffer health wise if they are too fat or too thin. The only sure way to know whether your alpaca is under or over weight is by body scoring.

Body Scoring simply means checking to see if your alpaca is the correct weight. Do not not rely on visual clues, these can be misleading, as your alpaca can appear fatter or thinner than it actually is. The owners of small herds or pet alpacas are unlikely to own expensive weighing equipment and must assess the condition of their alpaca by alternative means.
To body score your alpaca, place your open hand on the alpaca’s back, just behind the withers (the point where the shoulders meet at the base of the neck) as shown here.

 

 

 

Your fingers should be on one side of the alpaca’s back, and your thumb on the other.

figure 6

If your hand is spread wide, your alpaca is too fat, and may need to have his food intake restricted. If the angle between fingers and thumb is acute, then your alpaca is too thin, and needs improved pasture or additional hay or concentrated animal feed.

 

 

 

 

figure 1 Fig 1: Emaciated. This animal is in trouble! You may need veterinary advice to ensure survival, and that there is no long term damage to internal organs.
figure 2 Fig 2: This animal is still too thin, but has some muscle tissue. Will still feel very bony
figure 3 Fig 3: Ideal shape: good amount of muscle mass and subcutaneous fat.  Fits neatly into the V-shape of your hand without creating an acute angle.
figure 4 Fig 4: Begins to feel convex under your hand, spreading the angle between thumb and fingers. Subcutaneous fat over the muscle causes a rounded feel. This animal needs a diet!
figure 5 Fig 5: Obese! Back feels flat under your hand. There is excess fat over the ribs and body. Thighs look fat and may rub together when walking. This animal is also in trouble!