• All About Alfalfa Forage, Hay, and Nutrition and Storage

    Alfalfa (“lucerne” for those “down under”) is leafy forage that is a rich, highly palatable, perennial legume. This type of plant “fixes”atmospheric nitrogen in the root system, converting gaseous nitrogen into plant nitrogen (protein). Like bermuda grass, it is not native to the USA, but likely came in from central Asia and has been known for thousands of years as a superb animal and horse forage. Alfalfa grows almost everywhere in the USA, perhaps best in the mid-south and less so in the upper north.More »
  • Alpaca Nutrition Overview

    Alpacas are members of a family that comprise the old and new world camelids. As a group, they all have very similar digestive systems adapted for digesting lower protein plant materials. They have three gut compartments before the intestines. Humans (primates) have one – the simple stomach. Cows, a true ruminant, have four “stomachs”. Like alpacas, cows are classified as ruminants as they chew their cud. Horses are not ruminants as they lack a rumen and do not chew their cud.More »
  • Bermudagrass – History, Management, Forage, and Hay

    Bermudagrass is an excellent perennial hot season (southern) grass for grazing alpacas. It produces moderate protein levels, is tremendously productive, lives in marginal soils, and responds well to water and fertilizer. It is superb winter hay quite resistant to rot and mold. Here is some information on its history, cultivation and regional applications.More »
  • Disorders of the Digestive System

    Disorders of the digestive system are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in New World camelids, accounting for approximately one quarter of both fatal and nonfatal illnesses in these species. In spite of our recognition of the importance of these disorders, the number of reports on the diseases of this system is still relatively small, and some important, common disorders remain sketchily described, if at all, in the primary scientific literature. Veterinarians presented with a sick camelid often are forced to extrapolate from experiences with other species to determine whether the disorders are gastrointestinal (GI) in origin, to establish lists of differential diagnoses, and to formulate diagnostic and treatment plans.More »
  • Effects of Exogenous Insulin on Glucose Tolerance in Alpacas

    Objective—To evaluate the effects of exogenous insulin on clearance of exogenous glucose in alpacas. Animals—7 adult castrated male alpacas. Procedure—Prior to each of 2 trials, food was withheld for 8 hours. Glucose (0.5 g/kg of body weight) was then administered by rapid IV infusion. During 1 of the trials, regular insulin (0.2 U/kg, IV) was also administered 15 minutes later. Blood was collected immediately before (0 minutes) and 15, 20, 25, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, 180, and 240 minutes after glucose administration. Plasma concentrations of glucose and lactate were determined, and glucose fractional turnover rate and plasma half-life were calculated. Results—Insulin treatment caused a significant increase in fractional turnover rate of glucose and plasma lactate concentration. Plasma glucose concentrations were less in insulin-treated alpacas from 30 minutes after glucose administration (15 minutes after insulin administration) until the conclusion of each trial, compared with nontreated alpacas. In addition, plasma glucose concentration in insulin-treated alpacas returned to baseline values 1 hour sooner than in the nontreated group. Conclusion and Clinical Relevance—Glucose uptake in alpacas improves after insulin treatment, suggesting that administration of exogenous insulin will increase the therapeutic and decrease the pathologic effects of exogenous glucose administered to hypoglycemic alpacas. However, alpacas and other New World camelids should be monitored carefully during treatment with glucose or insulin, because these species appear to be partially insulin resistant.More »
  • Esophageal Dysfunction in Four Alpaca Crias and a Llama Cria with Vascular Ring Anomalies

    CASE DESCRIPTION: 3 alpaca crias and cadavers of an alpaca cria and a llama cria were evaluated for evidence of esophageal dysfunction. CLINICAL FINDINGS: All 5 crias were between 3 and 5 months of age when clinical signs developed, and all had a thin body condition when examined. Clinical signs included coughing, regurgitation, and grossly visible esophageal peristaltic waves. A barium esophagram was used to diagnose esophageal obstruction, megaesophagus, and a vascular ring anomaly (VRA). Fluoroscopy was used to evaluate deglutition, esophageal peristalsis, and the extent of esophageal dilation in 1 alpaca cria. A persistent right aortic arch was identified in 1 alpaca cria, and a left aortic arch with right ductus arteriosus or ligamentum arteriosum and an aberrant right subclavian artery were identified in the 4 remaining crias. TREATMENT AND OUTCOME: Surgical correction of the VRA was attempted in the 3 live alpaca crias. It was complicated by the conformation and location of each VRA and inaccurate anatomic diagnosis of the VRAs before surgery. Treatment was universally unsuccessful because of intraoperative complications and the persistence of clinical signs after surgery. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Megaesophagus is typically an idiopathic condition in camelids. However, these findings suggested that camelids with esophageal dysfunction during the neonatal period may have a VRA. The prognosis is grave for camelids with VRA, and accurate anatomic diagnosis of the VRA via the use of advanced imaging techniques (eg, angiography, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging) may improve the success of surgical intervention.More »
  • Hepatic Lipidosis in Camelids

    Hepatic lipidosis is a well-known syndrome in periparturient dairy cattle and sheep, anorexic cats, and a sporadic problem with fat horses and ponies. This pathologic process has also been recognized in most other species, including humans. There are limited reports of hepatic lipidosis in llamas and alpacas in the literature; however, producer groups and practicing veterinarians have an increased interest in the pathogenesis of this disease process.More »
  • Impact of Mycotoxins and of a Mycotoxin Deactivator on Alpacas Grazing Perennial Ryegrass Infected with Wild Endophyte (Neotyphodium spp.)

    Liveweight gain, animal health and the effectiveness of a mycotoxin deactivator were studied on an old pasture that contained 61% perennial ryegrass. Sixty-seven percent of the ryegrass population was infected with endophyte (Neotyphodium spp.). The pasture was fenced into two halves and two groups of 28 alpaca male weaners were rotated between the two plots. Nine to 10 Suris and 18–19 Huacayas were allocated to each group. One group was fed a concentrate supplement (100 g/head per day) and the other was fed the same supplement to which was added the toxin deactivator, Mycofix® Plus (5 g/100 g). Mean liveweight gain on the low-quality pasture over late summer and early autumn was not significantly (P > 0.05) different between the groups. For the control group it was 41 g/day but individual rates of gain ranged from 67 to 0 g/day, depending on the severity of signs of perennial ryegrass toxicosis (r = 0.82, P < 0.001). Liveweight gain was independent of neurotoxic signs in the Mycofix® Plus treated group. Ergovaline concentration in perennial ryegrass varied from 0.43 to a peak in early autumn (March) of 1.05 mg/kg. Mean urine lysergol alkaloid concentration peaked in mid-summer (January) at 109 ng/mg creatinine (control group) and was consistently lower in the Mycofix® Plus group, although the difference approached significance (P = 0.06) only in March. Lolitrem B concentration in perennial ryegrass varied from 0.78 to 1.57 mg/kg. Neurotoxic signs in alpacas were observed throughout the study and peaked in early autumn, coinciding with peak lolitrem B concentration; at this time, 84% of alpacas exhibited neurotoxic signs. Over the 145-day study, the Mycofix® Plus treated group exhibited a lower mean rating of perennial ryegrass toxicosis signs (P < 0.05). Variation in liveweight gain and signs of toxicosis were not associated with significant differences in liver enzyme activity.More »
  • Nitrogen Balance and Blood Metabolites of Alpaca (Lama pacos) Fed Three Forages of Different Protein Content

    Sixteen intact male alpaca consisting of four age groups (AG1, 16 ± 4.4 months, 44.3 ± 9.2 kg; AG2, 25 ± 1.8 months, 51.7 ± 2.3 kg; AG3, 35 ± 1.1 months, 64.7 ± 15.6 kg; and AG4, 60 ± 12.0 months, 67.0 ± 8.2 kg) were housed in metabolism crates (20 °C with 12:12 h on:off light cycle). Three forages, straw (ST), grass hay (GH) and alfalfa (ALF) were fed to each alpaca in random order. The forages were fed at 12 h intervals with water provided ad libitum. Treatment periods were 14 days, with blood samples collected over a 24 h period on day 14 to determine temporal patterns of plasma metabolite and electrolytes. Dry matter intake was lower (PMore »
  • Notes on Alpaca Feed and Nutrition

    The approach I use in feeding alpacas attempts to mimic their natural grazing and foraging eating habits. From what I've read, alpacas are both grazers and foragers and are very good at selecting the tiniest morsel when they are searching for “something” they desire or believe is missing from their diet. So since I've removed them from an extensive/endless/free range environment and enclosed them in a pasture, I've eliminated a wide variety of “culinary” choices. Therefore on our farm, they have access to both hay and pasture year around. Probably says a lot about why my alpacas never body score low!More »
  • Notes on Gastric Rumen Transfaunation

    Gastric Rumen Transfer, aka Transfaunation, is used for ruminants that quit chewing regurgitated food, better known as “cud.” Ruminants, have multiple stomachs. Most ruminants have four compartments: the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. Alpacas are frequently referred to as pseudo ruminants because they have three compartments: rumen, reticulum, and the abomasum.More »
  • Nutrition Issues Associated with Pregnancy, Nursing and Breeding

    Good quality grasses (the pasture is always best), hays and other good “rumen foods” are what the camelid physiology is built for. The major issue we see on farms is overfeeding and fat animals.More »
  • Nutrition Terms – “Alphabet Soup”

    Often, nutritionists use terms such as NDF, ADIN and net energy when discussing forage test analyses. What do all of these terms mean? Read on and soon you will understand the significance of these terms and why the results are important to your production.More »
  • Nutritional Diseases of South American Camelids

    Literature describing nutritional or nutrition-related diseases of llamas and alpacas was reviewed. Case reports of copper toxicity, polioencephalomalacia, plant poisonings and urolithiasis accounted for the greatest number of literature citations relative to llamas and alpaca nutritional diseases. However, the overall number of published studies detailing nutritional disease of llamas and alpacas is very limited. Metabolic bone disease, associated with Vitamin D deficiency, and hepatic lipidosis were metabolic diseases for which controlled research studies were completed to address underlying mechanisms. Circumstantial evidence would suggest llamas and alpacas are similar to other ruminants relative to most nutrient deficiency or toxicity disease problems. Llamas and alpacas are unique compared to other ruminant animals in their susceptibility to zinc and Vitamin D deficiency diseases. A zinc-responsive dermatosis has been described, but the true role of zinc deficiency is debated. Llamas and alpacas show a seasonal deficiency in Vitamin D resulting in a hypophosphatemic rickets syndrome. Camelids may have a lower capacity to endogenously synthesize Vitamin D or higher requirement compared to other species. Although mechanisms are not fully understood, llamas and alpacas are somewhat different in metabolic responses to negative energy balance and subsequent hepatic lipidosis. Further research is necessary to better define llama and alpaca nutrient requirements and metabolism as they directly impact potential for nutritional disease.More »
  • Poisonous Plants for Alpacas

    Hopefully, all breeders of alpacas know the appropriate feed for their alpacas. We know the ratio of hay to grain. We know we need to provide grass and foraging for our animals, but do we know which plants are safe foraging plants and which plants are not? We humans have been placing so much importance on the need for fresh vegetables and greens in our diet that we can certainly identify with the need to provide fresh greens for our animals. It would be easy to assume that the vegetables and greens that grow in our organic gardens are healthy and safe for our animals, after all, we eat them. This, however, is a dangerous assumption. What is healthy and safe for humans is not necessarily safe for camelids. The gardens that we routinely plant around our farms and ranches; vegetable and flower, could be deadly for our alpacas should we not be careful. It is, also, dangerous to assume that the most common trees and shrubs that surround our property are equally safe. Just because we see these plants everywhere does not mean that they are innocuous.More »
  • Problems with Rye and Fescue Grasses

    Here is the physiology of “rye grass tetany” or “rye grass staggers” and then you can decide how to control your forage choices. The confusion is that we are talking of at least two separate issues, but with similar symptoms.More »
  • Retrospective Evaluation of Parenteral Nutrition in Alpacas: 22 Cases (2002-2008)

    BACKGROUND: Parenteral nutrition is an important method of nutritional support in hospitalized animals, but minimal information has been published on its use in camelids. HYPOTHESIS/OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to characterize the use of total parenteral nutrition (TPN) in alpacas, evaluate the formulations used, and determine potential complications. ANIMALS: Twenty-two alpacas hospitalized at the Tufts Cummings School for Veterinary Medicine (site 1: n = 8) and the Ohio State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital (site 2: n = 14). METHODS: A retrospective analysis of all alpacas that received TPN between 2002 and 2008 was performed to assess clinical indications, clinical and clinicopathologic data, and outcome. RESULTS: The most common underlying diseases in animals receiving TPN were gastrointestinal dysfunction (n = 16), hepatic disease (n = 2), and neoplasia (n = 2). Several metabolic abnormalities were identified in animals (n = 20/22) before TPN was initiated, including lipemia (n = 12/22), hyperglycemia (11/22), and hypokalemia (n = 11/22). Median age was significantly lower for site 1 cases (0.1 years; range, 0.01-11.0) compared with those from site 2 (4.9 years; range, 0.1-13.7; P = .03). Animals at site 2 also had a longer duration of hospitalization (P = .01) and TPN administration (P = .004), as well as higher survival rate (P < .02). Twenty-one of 22 alpacas developed at least 1 complication during TPN administration. Metabolic complications were most prevalent (n = 21/22) and included hyperglycemia (n = 8/21), lipemia (n = 7/21), hypokalemia (n = 3/21), and refeeding syndrome (n = 3/21). CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL IMPORTANCE: TPN is a feasible method of nutritional support for alpacas when enteral feeding is not possible. Prospective studies are warranted to determine optimal TPN formulations for alpacas.More »
  • Sand Colic in Alpacas

    Much of the United States is an ancient sea bed. This makes those areas, and the sand floored barn prime areas for the alpaca to ingest sand. Horses, cows, alpacas and probably goats and sheep can all suffer or die from sand ingestion. Sand colic is easy to control in the alpaca once the danger is acknowledged and the symptoms are recognized.More »
  • Supplementing Crias With Milk

    If the dam has no milk/has died or the cria is too weak to nurse, feed warm colostrum (frozen and stored from another disease-free alpaca/cow/goat) via teat (preferred method, to optimise digestion) or stomach tube (last resort) for the first 3 days of life to maximise antibody uptake into blood (first 12 hours of life) and to provide local gut protection from microbes for the duration of use.More »
  • The Effect of an Omega-3 and Vitamin E-Enhanced Diet on Nutritional Status of Alpaca

    The effect of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n3 PUFA) and vitamin E supplementation on blood fatty acids and vitamin E in alpaca were studied, and fatty acid profiles of managed alpaca were compared to Peruvian alpaca consuming native forage. In Experiment 1, 16 adult female alpaca, blocked by phenotype (n=8 Huacaya, 8 Suri), were offered either a control diet or supplemented diet through breeding, gestation and lactation. Cria remained with their dams and had access to the assigned diets until weaning at 6 months. In Experiment 2, 12 female alpaca (Huacaya) at maintenance were transitioned from their normal dietary ration to the supplemented diet for 5 months. In both experiments, blood nutrient profiles were examined. In experiment 3, the fatty acid profiles of blood samples from Peruvian alpaca (n=4) consuming native forage were analysed. Minor differences between phenotypes existed, but in general, supplemented diet consumption was associated with higher serum vitamin E concentrations compared to control or pre-supplemented diet periods (pMore »
  • Top Ten Tips of Alpaca Nutrition

    Down to earth practical tips on everyday alpaca nutrition.More »
  • Undegradable Dietary Protein in Alpaca Diets Affects Fibre Diameter and Time Spent Urinating

    There is evidence that alpacas derive most of their glucose for energy from the deamination of amino acids. Consequently, they may have an insufficient supply of amino acids to meet their requirements for fibre growth. To optimise fibre production, it may be necessary to supply alpacas with supplemental protein to meet their requirement for extra amino acids. In this study, we examined if the proportion of rumen-degradable dietary protein (RDP) to undegradable dietary protein (UDP) from canola meal influenced the fibre growth of alpacas. We hypothesised that alpacas fed at maintenance a diet containing canola meal protein high in UDP would produce more fibre and spend less time urinating than peers fed a similar amount of canola meal protein with a low proportion of UDP. Four groups of eight alpacas were fed diets with the following ratios of UDP : RDP: 0 : 100, 30 : 70, 60 : 40 or 100 : 0 from canola meal protein. The fibre growth of the animals was measured over 2 months and the behaviour of the animals in the two extreme groups (0 and 100% UDP) was measured over 5 days. The alpacas fed the 0% UDP diet produced fibre of finer diameter than the alpacas fed diets containing higher levels of UDP (P = 0.039) and the 0% UDP group also spent more time urinating (P = 0.027). This result suggests that alpacas may have a limited ability to recycle nitrogen to the fermentative chambers of their stomach when fed a diet low in UDP. Consequently, microbial protein synthesis in the fermentative chambers may have limited the supply of amino acids available to the alpacas.More »
  • What’s in Alpaca Milk?

    Following a small survey of milk constituents in 5 lactating alpacas in south-eastern Australia, it was revealed that the average milk fat content was 4.4%, the average milk protein content was 4.2% and the average milk sugar (lactose) content was 5.8%. Constituents in alpaca milk can vary depending on age of dam, number of days post-partum, nutrition and genetics. Accordingly, alpacas and llamas exhibit small ranges for milk fat (2.7-4.9%), milk protein (3.4-4.5%) and milk sugar (lactose; 5.6-7.4%) in the scientific literature.More »