Judith Newman – 1st February 2021

01 February 2021     British Alpaca Society     BAS Board

There has been no let-up in the weather and the rain seems to go on and on. I live on the Somerset Levels and we don’t generally see a lot of snow here but we even had some of that this past week. Waterproofs from head to foot and a good pair of wellies are essential in this weather.

The levels are often linked to serious flooding but we are lucky in that we live to the north of the A39 which forms a high ridge where on one side it can flood badly and the other, where we live, it doesn’t. The rain can sit for a while but thanks to a very good drainage system that was first built in the 17th century the ditches around every field take the water away to the rhynes leaving the fields once again dry if a little soggy.

Land that is subject to lying wet in the winter creates a great environment for the tiny mud snails Galba (Lymnaea) truncatula that carry liver fluke eggs to thrive and pass those eggs on to the alpacas when they graze. One snail can produce 100,000 offspring in 3 to 4 months and so the parasite load on the ground can be huge and risk liver damage to infected livestock. On the levels we are advised by our vets to treat our herd with Fasinex in the Autumn and again in the Spring to ensure that they are not carrying harmful fluke. We have never had a sick alpaca due to liver fluke. You can send off a faecal sample to a suitably qualified lab where they will carry out a sediment test to look for fluke.

Of course, all the other intestinal parasites can be present all year and particularly love damp warm places to lay their eggs just waiting for a host to come along and munch them up with a mouthful of grass. I did a course some years back on the various parasites that affect Camelids and the best anthelmintics to dose an infected alpaca with and that has been invaluable. A few years ago I added to this by doing a one-day hands on course on how to carry out faecal testing on my alpacas. I came away with a shopping list of required equipment and an enthusiasm to get stuck in. I introduced a rolling testing programme across the herd that enables me to keep track of each alpacas parasite status and to only treat when evidence based and necessary. Anthelmintic resistance is a huge problem in livestock mainly caused by overuse and underdosing and so it is very important to only treat when you need to and give the correct dose. It also saves a lot of money on drugs! Time in the lab was also a respite from the rain 😊

We currently have our females in the barns as the wet and ensuing mud is not a lot of fun for them or me when I have to get up to feed them etc and I’m sliding around all over the place. We can’t get the big or even the little tractor out on the grass as it would churn it into mud in an instant so everything has to be carried. All of our paddocks have very good spacious shelters in them and our alpacas run for their shelter at the first drop of rain but given the chance they still gallop down to the big barns. We muck out twice a day and use cardboard for their toilet area which rots down really quickly and doesn’t introduce any mites to the barns. First thing in the morning is my favourite part of the day when we go out and put up the Camelibra for the alpacas and then we sit on a bench in the barn having a lovely hot mug of tea discussing the relative merits of each alpaca and get excited about this years birthing season and the mating plan for next years cria.

Despite the difficult times that all of us and our loved ones are going through at the moment there is much to be happy about. Sitting in a barn surrounded by alpacas discussing the future over a mug of tea is high on that list 😊”

Judith Newman – 11 August 2022″