A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

December 4, 2007

Time for a Dental Check Up

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 7:08 am

Boys at the Wheat Fence

When we do our monthly herd health days, part of our routine is to check the alpaca’s teeth.  When we check teeth we are not only looking to see if their front teeth need trimming, but also looking to see if their jaw alignment is correct and if the fighting teeth on the male alpacas need trimming.

Male alpacas (and some females) have six fighting teeth located between the molars and the front incisors.  Four of the fighting teeth are located on the top jaw (two each side) and the other two fighting teeth are located on the bottom jaw (one each side). These fighting teeth are what would be referred to as the canine teeth in other species.

In alpacas the fighting teeth erupt at about 3 years of age, as they first come through the gum line they are small sharp points but within a short time those teeth will have grown to razor sharp teeth that can do a lot of damage. 

We have been fortunate not to have any serious damage caused by alpacas with fighting teeth, but I have seen an alpaca whose ear was split completely in two by another alpaca with fighting teeth.  I have also seen a male alpaca who lost a testicle due to an injury caused by another alpacas fighting teeth.  With injuries such as those being a possibility you can understand why keeping an alpacas fighting teeth trimmed is so important.

Sometimes though despite our best efforts we will get signs that someone needs attention to their fighting teeth.  Yesterday evening as I was doing chores I noticed that Moonie had some blood on his neck.  I caught Mooney, examined him and discovered that he had a patch of dried blood at the base of his ear.   The injury to Mooney’s ear was not a bad one, more of a puncture wound than a tear, but like most ear injuries it had bled a lot.  

Having determined that Mooney was okay it was now time to find the culprit who caused the injury.  I looked for blood on any of the other alpacas in Mooney’s pen and low and behold there was Braveheart with blood on his neck.  I caught Braveheart and examined him to make sure he was okay.  Sure enough he was fine, he was just wearing some of Mooney’s blood.

My next step was to check Braveheart’s fighting teeth, looking at them I could see that they were trimmed and looked good but there was a snag on one of them that allowed the tooth to have a very sharp edge.  So Mr. Braveheart is going to have a little dental work done as we remove the sharp edge from that tooth.  It will only take us a few minutes to fix the problem tooth but it will prevent Braveheart from injuring another alpaca in the future.


November 10, 2007

Herd Health Day

Today we are having a Herd Health Day and have invited some new alpaca owners and potential alpaca owners to join us for the day.  We like to have a Herd Health Day about once a month.  Truth be known though with over 40 alpacas on the farm Herd Health Day usually ends up being spread over two days.

Herd Health Day gives us a chance to have hands on time with each alpaca, we will weigh each one and also body score them.  Weighing gives us a figure for our records to show whether they have increased or decreased their weight and by body scoring as well we get a better indication of whether the weight they are holding is a good weight for that individual alpaca.

Having weighed the alpaca we will then check its teeth and toenails to see if any trimming is needed.  The toenails only take a couple of minutes to trim and most of the alpacas are not too bothered by it.  Some of the breeding males and pregnant females are not too keen on having their back legs handled but with some careful handling and patience most will allow us to trim their toe nails without a problem. 

Trimming teeth is a little more difficult, we do have a special tool to trim teeth with which only takes a few seconds per alpaca but first we have to get the tool into their mouths and that is more of a challenge then trimming their teeth.  The tool we have has a template that sits over the teeth to ensure that we do not over trim and to help keep the alpacas tongue out of the way during trimming.  The tool works well on those with a regular bite but if we have an alpaca with an uneven bite or maybe one tooth that is longer than the rest then we usually have to use a Dremel tool to trim. 

To be able to use the Dremel tool we have to have a hard cutting blade, as the alpacas teeth are quite tough.  We also use a dog rope toy to put into the alpacas mouth to keep it open during trimming.  When trimming starts it is important that one person keeps an eye on the alpacas tongue to make sure it is kept away from the cutting blade.  Additionally it is a good idea to have a spray bottle of plain water available to spray onto the alpacas teeth to keep them cool during trimming.

Herd health day is also a good opportunity to assess each alpacas fleece.  Fleece can change in it’s qualities from year to year based on nutrition and also the genetics of the alpaca, so it is a good idea to monitor your fleeces for changes and also to assess them realistically.

We also use Herd Health Day to treat our alpacas ears for ear ticks.  With this fall being very mild the ticks are still very active and while we have not seen many signs of ear tick problems so far, we would like to keep it that way and so a preventative treatment is a good idea.  We like to use Adams Fly Spray and Repellent For Horses, which we draw up into a syringe and administer in doses of 2 cc per adult ear, 1.5 cc per weanling ear and 1 cc per cria ear.  We syringe the solution into the ears, massage the ear for a couple of seconds and then stand back as the alpacas will want a good shake when released.

As we work through our herd we will make notes in our barn book of all of the alpacas weights, body scores, treatments given and any other observations.  Those notes will then be transferred into our herd software program.

Herd Health Day is an important part of our routine and we hope by inviting new alpaca owners and prospective alpaca owners they will get a chance to learn more about caring for their alpacas.  From our experience there is nothing like that hands on time to prompt questions and tips that will prove useful to an alpaca owner.

By the time we are finished with Herd Health Day it will be time to do chores, but we will have accomplished a lot during our day and will be able to take time off in the evening as reward for a good days hard work.


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