A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 4, 2008

Found Him!

Well the watching and waiting paid off, we have found the culprit with the diarrhea, it’s Atlas.


Atlas is the oldest of our cria group and so is definitely trying out the hay, but he also is a milk thief and has tried milk from several of the dams in the pasture.  Atlas is a pretty good milk thief too, he waits until the dams’ cria is happily nursing and the dam is not paying attention and then sneaks his head under the dam to steal some milk.  Our older dams are wiser and realize pretty quickly that they have an intruder, but some of the younger dams take a while to realize.


We do discourage Atlas when we see him nursing from other dams, we do not want him depriving the other crias of their milk or putting an unnecessary strain on the dams.  We do allow Atlas to nurse from our llama Inca, as she does not have a cria of her own and actively encourages crias to nurse from her (see blog entry Hey Llama Lady – Got Milk to read more about Inca)


Atlas does of course have his own dam Queen to nurse from, but Queen is an experienced dam who has very definite rules for her crias, one of which is that they don’t nurse from her until she has had a good chance to pick out the best hay.  Once she has finished at the hay feeder she will find her cria and allow nursing, but until then she makes her crias wait.   Queen’s crias are always robust and outgoing so I guess her rules work for her and her crias.


We have started Atlas on the MSE drench and Biosponge and he has shown some improvement, he will be under a close watch until he gets back to normal and if he does not continue to improve we will look at other causes and treatment options. 

Funnily enough the picture I used for yesterday’s blog entry is a picture of Atlas wrestling with Dream, maybe my subconscious knew all along which cria has diarrhea and was trying to tell me!



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!





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.   


December 11, 2007

A Cold Rain and A Wet Cria

Yesterday was wet all day, much needed rain fell steadily and we were fortunate that the predicted cold air did not make it down to us, thus avoiding an ice storm.

The alpacas are not usually too bothered by the rain.  If it is a heavy pounding rain they will seek shelter but if the rain is just a gentle soft rain they will often stay out in it.  Some of the time they will cush out in the pasture, and once they get comfortable they don’t want to move, unless of course they see hay or feed being brought in and then they are up straight away.

As I started chores yesterday morning I noticed there was some liquid diarrhea at one of the poop piles.  I was pretty certain that it was one of the crias and sure enough as I fed the girls I realized that little Kanika was under the weather.  She wasn’t eating as she normally does and seemed lethargic and droopy.  As I watched her I realized that she was also shivering which was not a good sign.

Kanika was pretty wet having apparently been out in the rain for part of the night.   I took her temperature, which was 100.9, not too unusual for a cria as their temperatures can run from 101 – 102.5.  I knew I needed to get her where she could be warm and dry and that I also needed to figure out a plan to treat her diarrhea.

Often with crias if the diarrhea is not too severe and they are not running a temperature I will just give them probiotics for the first 24 hours to see if that alone will cause an improvement.  As crias like to explore and often nibble everything they come across they are at risk of picking up unfriendly bacteria, often a good probiotic will be sufficient treatment.  With Kanika though her diarrhea was very watery and her shivering and lethargy were concerning to me.

First I gave her 5cc of MSE drench as a probiotic treatment and then I gave her an antibiotic called Tucoprim (SMZ – TMZ), I also gave her a photonic red light treatment.  Kanika was not too thrilled about my giving her the probiotic or the antibiotic, even though I did mix the antibiotic with some applesauce.

Having given Kanika her medicine now the challenge was to get her dry and warm.  An alpaca fleece that is soaked to the skin takes a long while to dry and sometimes in an effort to dry the fleece you can end up pushing the moisture further into the fleece.  A cria coat can help to keep a cria dry and warm, but if the cria is already wet and you put a cria coat on it you can actually cause the cria to become chilled.

Fortunately Kanika’s fleece appeared to be wet only on the outside ½” or so.  I moved Kanika and Chai into the small shelter in the girls pasture so that Kanika did not get any wetter.  I then got a one of those super chamois cloths (you know the ones you see on TV infomercials that are advertised as being able to soak up huge amounts of water) and draped it over Kanika’s back and patted it lightly to soak up some of the moisture from her fleece.  I then strapped a cria coat over the top of the chamois cloth and put a nice bucket of hay in the shelter to keep Chai occupied and in the shelter so that Kanika would stay with her.

I went out about an hour later and found Kanika and Chai both cushed in the shelter.  I took off the cria coat and the chamois.  Amazingly the chamois cloth had soaked up most of the moisture from Kanika’s fleece.  I put a clean dry cria coat back on Kanika and left her in the shelter with Chai.

I kept a close eye on Kanika for the rest of the day, she was still a little shivery to begin with but by the evening she was no longer shivering and her diarrhea was improved.  She was even ready to join in with the nightly cria dash around the pasture

Our forecast for the next few days is for continued precipitation (either rain or snow) and cold, so Kanika will be wearing her cria coat again at least for the next few days.  She will also be on a course of antibiotics for five days to make sure that whatever it was she had is completely gone from her system – and I had better check my collection of super chamois cloths to make sure I have enough to dry off any other wet crias who need it!


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