A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 1, 2008

Oh Dear – Diarrhea

Skylar Moon
As a caretaker for livestock I find myself having a different focus on subjects that at one time would have not held any interest at all.   Several years ago I could never have imagined that I would find myself writing about diarrhea and then posting my writing on the internet for the world to see!  It’s funny how life leads you along some strange paths sometimes.

Our quarantine pen currently houses three dams and two crias.  The dams are here for breeding and the crias are still nursing from their dams and so came along too.  The little herd will have been in quarantine three weeks at the end of this week and all was looking good until Saturday when one of the crias started with diarrhea.

Cria diarrhea is something that happens for a variety of reasons, some more serious than others.  We always pay close attention to a cria that has diarrhea, and when that cria doesn’t belong to you it drives home how responsible you are for that alpaca.

At our farm we don’t rush into instant panic when we see a cria starting with diarrhea.  Crias pick up things as they nibble around the pasture, their little rumens can also be adjusting as they start to try eating grain or a larger volume of hay and sometimes diarrhea is the consequence of their exploration.

If the cria is running a fever my concern level is higher, fevers tell us that the body is busy fighting something.  Taking a sick alpaca’s temperature, heart rate and respiration can all give you clues as to what might be the problem.

In the case of the cria in the quarantine pen, Skylar, he was not running a fever, was still active and was eating hay well.  The day before Skylar had eaten some of the alpaca pellets that we feed.  Skylar’s owners had told us that Skylar was not really eating many pellets yet, not unusual behavior for a cria of his age, so when we had seen him eating more pellets than usual we were not completely surprised when he had loose poop the next day.  Having established that Skylar was otherwise okay we decided to first try him on MSE drench to help stimulate the good bacteria in his rumen and help him cope with digesting new foods.  We also gave him a photonic red light treatment that has good results on cria diarrhea.

By the next day the diarrhea was less and so we repeated the MSE drench and photonic red light treatment.  Yesterday morning though Skylar’s poop was getting looser so it was time to try something else and we started him on a course of antibiotics.  By the evening he was showing improvement and so we suspect that the cause of his problem may be either bacterial or coccidiosis. 

Coccidiosis is caused by a small parasite that can be carried by other alpacas or by birds.  At this time of the year when the birds are very active it is not unusual for us to see a case or two of coccidiosis.  As hard as we try to keep the water buckets clear of bird poop the birds do drink from them during the day and being birds they often poop in the water.  If the bird is carrying coccidia and an alpaca then drinks from that water the alpaca may introduce the coccidia into its system possibly resulting in coccidiosis.

As we have had one cria start with diarrhea it is possible that coccidiosis is present in other alpacas in the herd.  We had noticed some “ball stools” in the pasture as opposed to the usual alpaca beans and this can be an indication that coccidiosis is present.

For the next five days we will treat the whole herd against coccidiosis by adding a treatment medicine to their water.  It is an easy process, and with the exception of Griffin the llama (who spent yesterday turning the automatic waterers back on so that she could gain access to plain water) the alpacas drink the treated water without a problem.

Naturally we have notified Skylars owners of his condition, when you are caring for someone else’s alpacas I feel it is best to notify them straight away of any issues with their alpacas.  I know I wouldn’t be too pleased if I found out several days after the event that my alpaca had been sick.

If Skylar continues to improve as he did today he will soon be back to normal and by starting a proactive treatment of the whole herd we will hopefully avoid anyone else starting with the same problem.   

Rosemary

October 18, 2007

Poop, Soup and an Interesting Facial!

Yesterday was an incredibly windy day with sustained winds at 35 – 40 mph and some wind gusts reaching in the mid fifties.  It is always a challenge to do chores in those conditions, getting the hay to the pastures without half of it blowing away, putting out fresh water without a ton of sand landing in it, trying to scoop poop and getting it successfully in the wheelbarrow – such are the joys of doing chores in high winds.

On such an inclement day I have little inclination to be working outside so once the chores were finished it was time to take care of some tasks inside the house.  I am leaving on Friday to go to the Wild and Wooly Alpaca Expo in Folsom, Louisiana to give a presentation on preparing alpaca fleece for showing, and so took the opportunity to gather my paperwork together, check my travel arrangements and start packing for my trip.

With the fall weather outside, it was a good day to have something warm to eat and so I made up a batch of minestrone soup for lunch.  It’s been several months since it has been cool enough to have soup here and so it was a welcome change to our lunch time menu – and it didn’t last long either!

Then it was time to run some fecal tests on the girls pasture.  I had tested the quarantine boys the day before and discovered that despite giving them a preventative treatment for coccidia when they first returned from the State Fair there was still some coccidia present, so another round of treatment is in the works.  The girl’s fecal test however was good which was pleasing and is a testament to our quarantine procedures and also to our use of diatomaceous earth on our feed.  As always when working with fecal samples I was extra careful in the handling of the samples and also of the clean up of my work area once I had finished my tests.  Bleach solution is a wonderful thing!

By 4:30 pm it was time for chores again and the wind was still blowing hard, so round two of battling the winds commenced.  The poor alpacas were not too impressed with the weather either, they loved the falling leaves dropping into the pasture but the wind and dirt blowing into their eyes was not nice for them.  They have access to their shelters and stayed in there for part of the day, but as grazing animals they need to get out and about several times during the day.

On days like today we joke that there is no need to spend money on skin exfoliation treatments in this area – just a couple or rounds of doing chores in the wind and the dust and you get plenty of abrasive exfoliation for your skin!  So not only did I get my work done but I also got to have a facial too!

Rosemary 

October 14, 2007

Alpaca Face Pack

 Yesterday we received a new product that we want to try out on the alpacas.  It is called “All Species Poultice” and it is described as “an astringent poultice used to draw out toxins and foreign matter from the skin while stimulating circulation”.  The “All Species Poultice” is made by a company called Eagle Peak Herbals and is made from a combination of various herbs.

We are hoping to be able to use the poultice on facial abscesses that occur occasionally on the alpacas.  We have had three alpacas that have had a run in with facial abscesses in the past, two of them had abscesses in exactly the same place on the bottom jaw, the other had a very large abscess on her neck. 

Sometimes abscesses are caused by hay poking the skin and allowing an infection to get started, other times there does not seem to be an explanation as to why the abscesses occur but we suspect it is a sign that the alpaca’s immune system is a little depleted allowing the infection to take root.  Some alpacas definitely seem more prone to abscesses than others and so far we have only had facial abscesses in our female alpacas.  The females usually are undergoing the stresses of pregnancy and often the additional stress of a nursing cria and so it makes sense that they are more likely to be prone to abscesses. 

Typically abscesses on alpacas are in positions where it is difficult to apply any sort of dressing on them to hold a poultice in place.  One of the appeals of the “All Species Poultice” is that it is made up into a paste that is then coated on to the affected area and allowed to dry, the poultice can then be either washed off or left to flake off on it’s own. 

As well as the “All Species Poultice” Eagle Peak Herbals sell a range of herbal products for both humans and animals including one named Paravac™ that is used to expel parasites and tone the digestive tract of the animal.  According to the Eagle Peak Herbals catalogue (which by the way makes for interesting reading) Paravac™ has been tested on llamas and alpacas at Ohio State University and has been found to be effective against coccidia.  It sounds as if Paravac™ would also be a handy preparation to have on hand. 

We will try the All Species Poultice first and see how that works, fingers crossed it will be effective on facial abscesses and the girls that we treat with it will all be looking good after their special alpaca facial pack!

Rosemary

September 24, 2007

On The Matter of Boys

The State Fair is now over and Ric and the alpacas have returned home.  All of the show alpacas will now be placed in quarantine for about three weeks just in case they picked something up at the show that could be transmitted to the rest of the herd.  We will also give them a preventative treatment for coccidia for the next five days, as that is a parasite that can sometimes make an appearance after shows.   

Having the Darts of Llano Soleado Alpacas so close to our farm works out great for both herds.  We each take one group of alpacas for quarantine – this time we will quarantine all of the show males from both farms and the Darts will quarantine all of the show females from both farms.  By doing this each farm only needs to provide one quarantine pasture, plus it means that there are no lone alpacas quarantine, as between us we always have more than one show alpaca of each sex.

Our boys did not do quite as well at the show as Shiimsa, but we still came home with some ribbons.  A fifth place for Rascal and a sixth place for Treasure with little Echo and Rian not placing.  All of the boys we took to the show were white and the white male classes are typically the most competitive classes in the show, so to even get a ribbon in a white class these days is something to be grateful for.

On the home front, Zoies cria now has a name; his owners are calling him Zeus.  It is a name that really suits him and follows the “Z” theme of his sire (Zindel) and dam (Zoie).  It also ties in with his grandsire Poseidon so all in all it is a good name for the little guy. 

Young Zeus had actually lost 1/10 of a lb. in weight when we weighed him yesterday morning, it is not unusual to have crias lose some weight on their first day but I am still a little concerned about Zoie’s ability to produce milk.  I feel she has some, but wonder if it is enough for her cria.

Signs that a cria may not be getting enough milk are lethargy, frequent nursing and a lack of a milk moustache when the cria comes away from nursing his dam.  Zeus trotted around a little yesterday, but I would like to see him a little more active, he is not nursing frequently but I did see Zoie walk away while he was nursing yesterday.  I went out and watched Zeus trying to nurse and noticed that Zoie’s teats each have a raw spot or two on them.  Either little Zeus has some sharp teeth, or he is sucking so hard on Zoie that he is irritating her udder.  When watching Zeus nurse I do not see a milk moustache on him when he comes away from nursing, milk moustaches are harder to see on white crias but I just don’t see any signs of milk on his lips.  He could well be fooling us as he did have a small frolic around the pasture with Carissima yesterday evening that shows that he at least has some energy.

So this morning we will see how much weight Zeus has gained, if it is very little or a weight loss I will introduce a supplemental bottle or two of goats’ milk and yoghurt.   Perhaps if Zeus felt fuller then he would not suck so hard on Zoie and her udder will get a chance to heal.   Actually Zeus has taken matters into his own hands (or feet!), I caught him earlier today stealing milk from Carina as Carissima was nursing.  If Carina had not been producing much milk I would have taken steps to stop Zeus from nursing her, but as she produces a lot of good milk I let him continue to nurse.  Hopefully as the days go by Zoie’s milk will really come into it’s own and we will not need to be so concerned about little Zeus.   Whether or not he stops stealing milk from Carina will be a different matter though, to quote my mother “it’s unusual for a man not to find his way to the pantry” and in Zeus’s case I think he has found a new pantry to visit in Carina!

Rosemary

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