A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 29, 2017

A Difficult Month at Windrush Alpacas – Test Results

Test Results

On Monday, July 28, we received test results that gave us some answers and direction. It seems as if we experienced a bizarre coincidence with the events on our farm.

The first alpaca we lost, Echo, who was in our male pen, tested positive for West Nile.

Moonie’s test results came back with 100% diagnosis for Polioencephalomalacia (PEM). The next step was to figure out what caused the PEM. The vets were still suspecting the water, grain or hay with the water and grain being top of the list, so those samples were tested first.

The girls who showed symptoms were all in the same pen. They were girls who needed additional supplementation for one reason or another and so received more grain than the rest of the herd. We were suspecting that it could be a combination of a problem in the grain and a problem in our water supply. In the meantime, we had been advised by our vet to feed only long stem grass hay to help clean out our alpacas’ stomach compartments just in case there were toxins.

As of August 15, 2017, we have results back on the hay and water.  The hay did not contain any noxious weeds or seeds and the water tested as being suitable for livestock.  So now we are waiting for results on the feed tests, a liver toxicity screening on Moonie’s liver and a West Nile test on Moonie’s brain. We will update this post when we receive the results.

For those of you in the Clovis/Portales area please take steps to control mosquitoes on your property and also use bug spray to protect yourselves.

West Nile Virus can affect humans as well as animals and is a devastating and sometimes deadly disease. If Echo’s death can at least serve as a reminder to people that West Nile Virus is still a threat in the US then he will not have died in vain. https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/symptoms/index.html

Here is a link explaining what PEM is for those interested in learning more.http://www.merckvetmanual.com/…/overview-of-polioencephalom…

Into August

On July 30, after a couple of days off all appearing to be okay on the farm, we were upset when we found our girl Dream showing neurological symptoms. She was trembling, in a stupor, staring into space and walking backward. Fortunately, we feel we caught her early and she responded well to treatment overnight. By the next day, she was eating and drinking and appeared okay. Our vigilance continues, we are not out of the woods yet.

Thankfully no one else has shown any systems. We adopted a new normal at the farm as we waited for the test results. We give you the details of our experience to offer assistance to other alpaca farmers and breeders who experience dis-ease in their herd. Act quickly. Be diligent in watching your entire herd. Treat accordingly. Had we not done so, our herd may have been hit even harder.

Tributes to Echo, Queen, and Moonie

The beginning of the story

October 23, 2013

And Then She Walked ….

It’s been a while since I have been able to find the time to write.  I know many are anxious to hear how our Pearl is doing and I am happy to tell you the news is good.

As Pearl has been getting stronger Ric and I have been going out several times during the day and getting her into a standing position.  Initially she wasn’t able to bear any weight on her legs, but as the days progressed she started to be able to put weight on first her back legs and then her front legs.   Soon Pearl was at a point where she could balance on her own for a few seconds.  At times we would catch her trying to push herself up, she was getting stronger and wanted to be up and about but her body was not quite ready yet for that feat.

Our last Open Farm Day was October 12; it was a lovely fall day with blue skies, sunshine and just a little bite in the air.  I monitored Pearl throughout the day making sure she got her medicines and always had access to hay and water. When all of our visitors had gone Ric and I went out to make sure Pearl had hay and water and to stand her up.  Once we got her standing she seemed pretty stable so Ric suggested we let go of her and see what happened.  So let go we did, and then with shaky, wobbly, ungainly steps Pearl walked.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t for very long but we could tell Pearl was very excited to be able to move around on her own – and you can bet that we were excited too!

As Pearl tired she grew very wobbly and soon she cushed (sat down) again.  We gave her a lot of praise and made sure she had plenty of hay and water to celebrate her major progress with.

From that point on Pearl’s progress has been quite amazing.  To begin with we still had to help her get up, but once we did she would always walk for a several steps before she had to cush again.  Unfortunately the other alpacas didn’t realize that Pearl had a limited time to be up on her feet, curious to see Pearl up and about they often crowded around her and got in her way so Ric and I had to make sure we cleared a path for our special girl.  Out of the way girls, Pearl is coming!

As Pearl’s legs have gained strength she has gone from not being able to get up on her own to being able to get up on her own and move about at will.    The act of cushing from a standing positing was quite challenging for her to begin with, but as her muscles have strengthened and her joints have got used to moving again she is managing to cush much easier.  It is still a little challenging to her but every day it gets a little easier.

Pearl finds her feet

Pearl finds her feet

I think one of Pearl’s biggest joys, once she was up and about, was when she was able to make it to the poop pile instead of having to poop and pee where she lay.  The instinct to poop and pee on the poop pile is very strong in alpacas, and if you are in any doubt about that you would soon have that doubt removed if you saw how hard Pearl worked to get to that poop pile and do what she wanted to do!

Pearl is a little hunched up at the rear and we can see that her legs are still not quite back to normal, but it is only 11 days since she started walking again and given the progress that she has made in that short time we are optimistic that in time she will walk normally again.  It has been nothing short of amazing to see Pearl’s progress every day.

Pearl continues to be her sweet self with the exception of when I treat her legs with my photonic red light.  Then she tells me that she is not a fan of my light touching her legs, something that is much more the behavior of a healthy alpaca.  A good sign.

When Pearl is walking and starts to get tired she makes rapid little hums as though to say “I want to keep walking but I just can’t do it anymore”  I let her cush wherever she is and allow her to rest before moving her back into a pen where we can feed her away from the other alpacas.

In the mornings now Pearl is sometimes up and walking around when we get up.  The leaves are starting to fall from the trees and on Monday morning I got up to find Pearl up and about looking for fallen elm leaves which are an alpaca delicacy.   On Monday evening Pearl even tried to run a little as the rest of the herd ran towards the hay at feeding time.  Pearl now walks over to join her regular feeding group in the morning.  She can’t quite remain standing for the full time they are eating but she tries and she tries hard.  Step by step, moment by moment Pearl gets closer to being “normal” again.

Pearl is still on medication; probiotics once a day and a homeopathic liquid twice a day.  I continue to use the photonic red light on her but am now treating her every other day.  Pearl also still receives her daily bowl of vegetables along with her regular hay and grain, she gets so excited when she sees me coming with her feed, uttering grunting noises and sometimes flicking her tail up in the air.  At times I get the impression that she feels her waitress service is not quite as rapid as she would like it to be!

Pearl enjoys some pumpkin

Pearl enjoys some pumpkin

Throughout her recovery Pearl has showed immense strength, determination and will to live, she never once seemed as if she was going to give up, she just fought and fought and fought.  I believe that strength and will to live have been crucial components of her recovery.  We can do all we can to aid an alpaca’s recovery, but if they decide they don’t want to live all the medicine in the world won’t fix the problem.  Pearl wanted to live, and live she has.

We still have a way to go with Pearl, but I feel we are now on the downward slope and that time will be her best medicine from this point on.

I send many thanks to all those who have prayed and sent healing thoughts to Pearl, those who have emailed or called to check on her progress.  All of those kind and good acts have been very much appreciated and just look at the results they have created!

Rosemary

August 20, 2008

Ticks or Mosquitoes – They Both Bring Trouble

TeQueely

TeQueely

 

 I had a call

 

 

 yesterday from an alpaca breeder who was concerned that one of her female alpacas was having a problem due to ticks.  The breeder had noticed her alpaca staggering as if she were drunk, she had also noticed her carrying one ear back and on checking the alpaca’s ears had found ticks in them, which she removed. 

 

 

Ticks can cause a condition commonly referred to as tick paralysis.  It is caused by the secretions of the female tick and can cause an alpaca to die if left untreated.  Unfortunately alpaca ears are an ideal environment for ticks to thrive in, and due to the anatomy of the alpaca ear, ticks can easily get into the area of the ear that cannot be seen by the human eye or even by using an otoscope.  I know of one alpaca breeder who having realized that one of her young alpacas was having a problem took her to a veterinary teaching hospital where under anesthesia they removed 16 ticks from the alpaca’s ears. 

 

In early 2006 we experienced a bad case of tick paralysis in one of our alpacas TeQueely. TeQueely’s story is one that illustrates not only how severe and life-threatening ticks can be, but also is testimony to TeQueely’s will to live.  Fortunately TeQueely’s story had a happy ending and this year she delighted us by producing her first cria, but there are other alpaca breeders who have not the same luck as we did.

 

I cannot stress enough how important it is to be vigilant for ticks in your alpacas ears, or on any other part of their body.  While not everyone has the skill or time to check every alpaca ear with an otoscope, the least they can do is treat the alpacas ears every month during active tick season and watch for signs of ticks at other times of the year.  I hate to recommend treating every month on a routine basis as over time the ticks could become resistant to the treatment you are using.  Certainly in TeQueely’s case Ivermectin, a commonly recommended treatment for parasites and ticks, was not effective at all on the ticks on our property.  We live in cattle country where I am sure Ivermectin has been used repeatedly over the years perhaps leading to a tick that is now resistant to Ivermectin.

 

We currently use Adams Fly Spray and Repellent for Horses for our ear tick treatment; another product used by some breeders is Catron IV.  With the Adams treatment we put 2 cc into each adult ear, 1.5 cc into each weanling ear and 0.5 cc (or even maybe less if the cria is tiny) into each cria’s ear.

 

The breeder who I spoke to yesterday took her alpaca into her vet who checked to make sure that all ticks that could be seen with an otoscope had been removed.  The breeder will now follow a plan of regular treatments and examinations of her alpaca’s ears to combat any new ticks that may hatch.  She has some work ahead of her, but it will be worth it if she restores her alpaca to full health.

 

While the breeder was at the vet, the vet also mentioned to her the possibility that the alpaca’s problem was West Nile Virus, a terrible virus that is carried by mosquitoes.  As a precaution the vet has taken blood samples from the alpaca for a Complete Blood Count and West Nile Virus testing.  The West Nile Virus test typically takes a few days which may be too late if the alpaca does have West Nile Virus, but the alpaca breeder is keeping a vigilant eye on her alpaca and if the alpaca seems to be deteriorating she will have the vet treat her for West Nile Virus. 

 

In New Mexico we have recently had heavy rains, over the weekend at our farm we had approximately 3.25 inches of rain in two days, which is unusual for us. The increase in water and moisture will lead to a surge in both the tick and mosquito populations and we will need to be alert to any signs of problems with the alpacas.  We have noticed that our dogs have recently been picking up ticks despite us treating them and the yard we keep them in, so we know the ticks are around.  I am sure it is only a matter of time before the mosquitoes start appearing too.

 

I will keep my fingers crossed that the breeders alpaca makes a full recovery, hopefully her actions of removing the ticks from her alpacas ears, consulting with her vet and treating the alpacas ears will prove to be fruitful.

 

Rosemary

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