A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 3, 2008

Tracking Down The Culprit

Atlas and Dream have fun wrestling

Ahh, the joy of crias.  We watch them chase each other around the pasture, checking out new sights or sounds, stalking one of the cats when it is close to the fence line and then jumping and runing away when the cat turns to look at them and then there is the joy of trying to figure out which one of your crias has diarrhea.


Yes, the cria diarrhea has revisited the pasture most likely brought on by the crias really starting to eat the hay.  They love our new hay and the other night one hay feeder was completely surrounded by all eight crias and Griffin the llama.  The diarrhea does not seem to be something that is contagious, as we are not seeing evidence of a lot of it; just enough for us to know that most likely just one of the crias has it.


We have checked under all of the crias tails and no clues there, we have checked the crias hind legs for evidence but there is none.  All of the crias are behaving well and are lively, none of them has a temperature and so how on earth are we going to figure out which one is the culprit.  Well we are just going to have to watch and wait.


We thought we stood a good chance of finding out who has the problem when we cleaned up all the poop piles and kept all the adult girls in their pens while they ate.  We did manage to eliminate at least three of the crias from our suspect list as we saw them use the poop pile and everything was okay.  Then we turned our backs for a second and there is was, diarrhea on the poop pile and not a cria one next to the poop pile in question!


So back to more watching and waiting it is.  Once we find the culprit our first step will be to use probiotics and something like Biosponge, a product which will help stop the diarrhea itself but will not address the cause of the diarrhea.  If that does not work we will most likely resort to an antibiotic and treat the alpacas water for coccidia, which may be the cause of the problem.  But my instinct tells me that this is a result of one of the crias eating the new hay as the diarrhea is the exact color of the hay!


Of course we will also be keeping a close eye on the crias for any other signs that one of them is not feeling well, we cannot completely assume that the hay is what is causing the problem.  In the meantime our eyes will be glued to the pasture – guess it beats watching TV!






  1. it is not uncommon to see changes in consistency of what should be normal when there is a sudden change in diet especially hay and especially if the new hay is significantly better than what the animals have been eating, BUT [I hate this word sometimes], diarrhea is somewhat extreme, especially in cria. I would probably take some of the diarrhea as awful as it sounds and get it in for testing for parasites before treating. I don’t like waiting very long when diarrhea is present especially in the summer months and will almost immediately start adding electrolytes to water to offset potential dehydration issues while waiting for the results of the fecal tests. it does get complicated with treatment, but prefer to treat the animals individually rather than just hope treating the water will resolve an issue if there is one.
    but that’s just me.

    Comment by Gary Kaufman — July 3, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

  2. Thanks for your wise comments Gary, I am sure the readers will find them helpful. I have always been told that a diarrhea sample is difficult to diagnose parasites from, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t try. As our temperatures here are high during the summer we always have electrolyte water and plain water available during the hot summer months, but others in cooler areas may not follow that practice and definitely it is important to prevent dehydration in a cria with diarrhea.

    We too prefer to treat on an individual basis, but when it comes to coccidia our vet advises that if we see signs of it in any of the alpacas in the herd it is best to treat the water supply for the whole herd. We are located in a town with a high number of large dairy herds and it is too easy for the birds to bring coccidia onto our property even despite our best efforts to keep our water supply and buckets clean and the birds away from the alpacas feed and water supply.


    Comment by alpacalady — July 4, 2008 @ 3:34 am

  3. As a potable water quality specialist I was contacted for advice on the proper pH for drinking water specific to Alpacas. I was informed that high pH (8.0 plus) was not good for the alpca. Lots of information on nutrition and hydration available but hardly a word on this issue.
    I would appreciate confirmation or clarification and method of pH reduction if required.

    Comment by Herb Spencer — August 8, 2008 @ 12:35 am

  4. Hi Herb,

    Thank you for reading the blog and posting a comment. You are right there is very little information available regarding water quality for alpacas. Dr. Norm Evans does have a section on the subject in the second edition of his book the Alpaca Field Manual. He list the various water parameters and what they mean to alpacas. In his book Dr. Evans mentions that alpacas perform best when the water they consume is a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Dr. Evans does not mention specific water treatment methods. You might consider contacting Dr. Evans or perhaps try Holmes Laboratory, Inc. (www.holmeslab.com). Dr. Evans recommends Holmes Lab for water and feed testing and they might be able to give you the answers you need. Holmes Laboratory offer a comprehensive Camelid Water Suitability analysis.

    Perhaps you will come back and share with the readers of the blog any information you compile on the subject of water quality and alpacas.

    With best wishes,


    Comment by alpacalady — August 8, 2008 @ 4:27 am

  5. Your references were very helpful. I had a long conversation with Gary at Holmes Laboratory. Essentially you are correct in the acceptable pH range of 6.5 to 7.5 for drinking water. After some research with some of my farmer friends who raise sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, chickens, etc. I found a suitable (acid) to reduce the high pH water currently availble. Based upon their experience, they were able to obtain Food Grade Citric Acid (dry) from their feed supplier. Most made up batch water solutions to feed the sensitive livestock. However, it is also possible to prepare a citric acid solution and meter into the water line whenever the well comes on. An experienced water treatment equipment supplier/installer can provide this. Jar testing procedure must be followed to determine how many mg/L or ppm Citric Acid is necessary to lower the pH into the desired range. Much like other constituents of the water (iron, manganese, sulfate, nitrate) pH impacts the proper digestion, hence nutrition of the animal. High iron and manganese will affect the taste to a point where water consumption is reduced. Sulfates can be a diuretic and nitrates will displace oxygen in the blood (blue baby).
    The Holmes Laboratory can analyze both feed and water for suitability at a reasonable cost, but they are not familiar with the citric acid approach. It has not been an issue in the area they serve (Northeastern, Ohio)

    Comment by Herb Spencer — August 10, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

  6. Hello Herb,

    I am glad to hear the references were helpful and thank you for posting such an interesting comment. With so little information available perhaps your and/or your alpaca client could consider writing an article for one of the Camelid publications such as Camelid Quarterly or Alpacas Magazine. I am sure there would be many alpaca and llama owners who would be interested in learning more on suitable water parameters and the affect that various levels could have on their herd.


    Comment by alpacalady — August 11, 2008 @ 5:05 am

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