Monday 14 September 2009

Alpacas and E.coli

The Times did a brilliant job today of linking together alpacas and the terrible E.coli outbreak at Godstone Farm in Surrey. Their front page scare headline was accompanied with a nice boy alpaca front and centre.

I love to see alpacas in the press but what a lamentable association. It does not matter that the story makes no mention of alpacas being the source (which is technically possible but I think less likely than other animals on site though who knows at this stage). It will be the image that sticks in people's minds - 20,000 children put at risk by petting an alpaca. Oh dear!

Still I guess most will probably think it is a picture of a llama anyway!

More ground to be reclaimed.

(ps the Times Online does not use the picture).

Monday 7 September 2009

Liver Fluke Forecast

I don't need to tell you we have had another wet summer.

For the alpacas this may mean a parasite problem in the shape of liver fluke . If you are on wet ground you really ought to consider it as a possibility.

Your Vet and the VLA
Talk to your vet and see what they think about your local conditions and risk factors. You could also ask your local Veterinary Laboratories Agency VLA what they are aware of in terms of fluke infections. The VLA is where your vet usually sends samples, if your vet does not do them in-house. They can therefore have a feel for trends in your area, though experience with alpacas may be patchy.

2008 a problem year
Last year we had major problems here because we did not start treating early enough and our girls were exposed to high levels of immature fluke which caused severe liver damage. The wet summer of 2008 brought the peak for acute liver fluke infection forward. We lost a breeding female in November from acute fascioliasis and have had to give extra care to the others that were exposed. We had another die in March with generalised bacterial infection and abscesses all over the place plus a funny heart lesion. Death was not directly attributable to liver fluke but the liver damage surely could not have helped.

The good news is that they can recover if the exposure to the immature stage is not excessive but it does take them a long time. Another one of our girls aborted in June most likely as a result of poor condition linking back to the problem last year. She has struggled since November with fluctuations in weight and health, with anaemia a constant factor. Thankfully she is currently in a good phase and starting to pick up.

We have therefore been trying to find lots of ways to break the life-cycle of the parasite, with improvements to land drainage, routine and regular treatment with a flukicide (just don't use the same one all the time to avoid creating a resistant strain), fencing off or restricting access to land when it has standing water etc.

More info on life cycle and treatment of liver fluke is available from the Scottish Agricultural College publication SAC Technical Note 557 (PDF 1MB). In addition, why not have a general browse of the Technical Notes section of their website which covers a wide range of topics.

The National Animal Disease Information Service produce a Parasite Forecast available as a PDF for download by region. The whole NADIS website is worth a browse and a bookmark too.

The forecast for us in South Wales says it is another bad year for liver fluke with a wetter July than last year which has got to be saying something.

Liver Fluke is another thing to keep looking out for and to add to the learning curve. We just need to avoid learning things the hard way where we can.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Alys has a haircut

Normally I would not do one as late as this but we have a cria almost 6 months old, who will be too wooly come June next year when we would normally shear. We will keep an eye on night temperatures and add a coat as necessary. Tonight is going to be warm which is good.

She was as good as gold and the fleece came off well, even though it was a magnet for debris when she rolled - which she did regularly.

Once we had finished, her mum did not seem to recognise her but everyone else wanted to check out the new haircut. She looks really stunning and is a dark brown, not quite black, with a lovely chocolate top knot.

Hopefully she will have forgiven me by breakfast time.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Welsh Valley Alpacas

We are a small breeder working to grow herds of distinction.

Currently we have 15 animals, the latest born on Monday 31st August. There are 10 females including the cria that is 2 days old, and 5 boys, two born this year.

It is interesting to see how the overall colour of the herd shifts with the birth of new cria. We are now quite white in the field, though we do want to maintain a range of colours - mainly because we like the look of it but it also gives potential customers a better range to choose from. I am sure it will balance up over time.

Hope you enjoy journeying with us.

Last cria of the year just arrived

(This is Lalana, the mum.)

Bank holiday Monday saw another wet day to go with the many we have had during the summer here in Swansea.

Finally the sun arrived in the afternoon. This was closely followed by a pair of white feet, spotted at a distance across the valley. Lalana, our oldest mum at 6 yrs, produced a gorgeous girl with long legs.

(This is the new cria at the really floppy stage.)

She weighed in at 8.75 Kg which is big in anybody's books. She struggled initially because of being born on a steep slope. As she tried to cush, she kept toppling over and kept sliding further and further down the hill. In the end I decided she needed some flat ground to get herself established so I picked her up in the sling (taking the opportunity to weigh her) and gently moved her. Mum was in tow and keeping a very close eye on me. Really don't like interfering like this but felt it was necessary in the end.

After 10 minutes she had cushed for the first time (briefly), 50 minutes to her first wobbly stand and just over an hour and a half to her first feed. I think it would all have been quicker on the flat but you just have to try to let them get on with it without interfering too much.

Last year Lalana gave us days of warning behaviour with her cushing and frequent trips to the poo pile and lots of tail lifting; this time she fooled me. I had weighed Lalana earlier in the day and checked her Sacrotuberous ligaments (they run from base of tail to wing of pelvis) which are normally like piano wires but near to giving birth relax and almost disappear. They were hardly present but the rest of her behaviour suggested it was not going to be today. Ah well, learning all the time.

Lalana's cria is doing just fine and feeding well. She is getting stronger all of the time and moves around with the herd without any trouble. They are all gorgeous at this stage but she is particularly pretty girl and her fleece looks really nice though it is obviously too early to be sure just how good it is. Nice to finish the cria season with a girl, having had two boys earlier in the year.

Now if it would just stop raining for a while...

Finally, this is a video clip of her first attempts at walking. Lots of forward momentum but she had trouble with the stopping or turning. As you can see, the rest of the herd seemed to want to check out her technique and give general encouragement.

Alpaca Open Day

Sunday was our autumn Alpaca Open Day.

We now have 14 alpacas, having started with 5 pregnant females in March 2008.

While I was talking non-stop in the stable, where the girls and their cria were safely in a pen, Sue was up at the house with lots of lovely helpers, supplying our guests with hot drinks and home made cakes (even if not from our home on this occasion). They also got a chance to get their hands on some toasty warm and soft alpaca socks.

The weather was seriously wet and we appreciated every one of the 70+ visitors who came to see us and the animals. Walks in the valley had been planned but will have to wait for another time.

Learning all the time.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Farmer takes alpaca to pub

BBC NEWS | England | Farmer takes alpaca to pub
Wonderful video clip from the news. My mum told me about it and while we were still talking on the phone, Google popped up the answer of this page at the BBC. She was delighted that I had not missed out seeing it after all.

This has got to be one of those 'don't try this at home' moments. It does raise the awareness of pub-goers to the existence of alpacas but I am not sure I would like to see this duplicated generally throughout the country.

Perhaps I should have a word with Rob and Joanne at the Shepherds? Maybe a bit of extra interest for the beer garden in the summer.