A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

February 28, 2009

Time to Vaccinate?


This last week we have been preparing some of our alpacas for the trip to their new owner in Texas.  Brucellosis and TB Testing is required by the State of Texas on any alpacas over 18 months entering the state, then a permit number is required to be entered on the health certificate before the alpacas can travel.  That takes care of the mandatory requirements but then we also like to make sure we send our alpacas off to their new owners in good condition and up to date on their health care.  Toenails are trimmed and teeth are checked and trimmed if necessary.


We also check the alpaca’s vaccine schedule and if necessary bring their vaccinations up to date.   A question we are often asked by prospective and new breeders is when to vaccinate their alpacas and what to vaccinate them for.  That seems like a simple question, but it is one where the answer varies, for vaccination needs vary from farm to farm.  In a way the answer to the vaccination question is a simple one – ask your vet.  Your local vet will know the risks for your area and will also be up to date on new vaccination protocols.


When we first started raising alpacas we vaccinated the crias with Covexin 8 and also an oral E-Coli vaccine, we then vaccinated all of the adults every year with Covexin 8.  As time has gone on we have adjusted that schedule on the advice of our veterinarian.  In recent years veterinary medicine has started to sway more to not vaccinating as frequently.  Many people are already aware that where their dog and cat used to have annual vaccinations now they often are only vaccinated every 2 –3 years.  In some areas of the country the same thought process can be applied to alpacas, but only under guidance of a veterinarian.   The last thing you want to do is put your alpacas at an unnecessary risk by not vaccinating.


For us the vaccination routine is quite simple, the crias are still given their initial vaccinations, but where as we used to vaccinate them at a few weeks of age, we now vaccinate them around weaning age unless they have a low IgG rate following birth.   The reason for our switch is that our vet feels that if good passive transfer has occurred from dam to cria via colostrum then the need for vaccination prior to weaning age is small.  As the cria gets to weaning age it starts to rely more on it’s own antibody production and so at that time vaccination is more effective.  If we did not run IgG tests on our crias or if we had experienced problems with particular illnesses on our farm the vaccination protocol for crias would be different.


Our pregnant dams are all given an annual booster of their vaccinations in the time between them giving birth and being bred back again.  We used to vaccinate the pregnant dams about six weeks prior to giving birth.  We never experienced a problem with that protocol, but heard of other breeders who had dams abort pregnancies following vaccination due to the stress of receiving the vaccination.  When we first made the switch in the timing of vaccinating our pregnant dams we were concerned we would not get high IgG results in our crias, but having spoken to other breeders who had made the switch to vaccinating after birth and before the next breeding we were reassured that our IgG levels in our crias would not be effected.  To date if anything the IgG levels have been higher, this may be due to other factors as well as vaccination, but certainly the switch to vaccinating at an easier time for the dam has not had a detrimental effect.  To me anything you do to reduce stress to a heavily pregnant dam is beneficial.


Our adult boys now only receive boosters every three years.  The majority of the boys never leave the farm and those that do are put in quarantine before being allowed to rejoin the herd.  With veterinary science indicating that less frequent vaccination is often sufficient and our low exposure risk we are happy with our three year vaccination cycle for the boys.


As time goes on it may well be that we change our vaccination schedule again depending on risks in our area and other developments in veterinary science, but whatever changes we consider regarding our vaccination schedule one thing is for certain, they will only be done on the advice of our vet.



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