A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 15, 2007

A Worrying Worm

With alpacas being fairly new to the world of commercial livestock, there are many new topics that arise concerning herd management and alpaca health.  Alpacas have only been commercially raised in the United States since the early 1980’s and so there is much research to be done to determine which illnesses they are susceptible too and which are the best medicines to use on alpacas.  The good news is that groups such as the Alpaca Research Foundation and various University Veterinary Schools are doing research, but as with any research it takes a lot of time before the results are determined and published.

I heard yesterday from a fellow alpaca breeder that the Barber Pole Worm (Haemonchus contortus) is a real problem in Texas this year.   The warm wet weather conditions that have been experienced throughout Texas have proved to be ideal conditions for the Barber Pole Worm.

The majority of cases of Barber Pole Worm in Texas have been in sheep and goats.  The eggs of the Barber Pole Worm are passed in manure, the larvae then hatch out and go through various stages of development in the pasture before they infect the next animal.  Sheep and Goats are not as careful as alpacas as to where they poop.  While alpacas poop in one or two piles within a pasture, goats and sheep poop all over the pasture making it easier for the parasites to be spread.

An additional complication with the Barber Pole Worm is that it appears to be resistant to many of the wormers used these days, making it very difficult to treat.  Unfortunately large numbers of sheep and goats in Texas have died from Barber Pole Worm infestation this year and now we are hearing reports of alpacas dying from Barber Pole infestations.

Barber Pole Worms are said to need grass for successful development, warmth and moisture are also necessary for the survival of the Barber Pole Worm.  The Barber Pole Worm goes through a period called arrested development when it sits dormant in the stomach of the infected animal for several months.  It is thought that the worms have developed this pattern to help them survive through the colder winter weather when eggs and larvae would not survive in the pasture.

Here in New Mexico we are very dry and our alpacas are not on lush green pastures but rather on dry lots, so hopefully our risk from Barber Pole Worm is small.  Still it is always good to be aware of such issues, just in case it should pop up in the herd.


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