Alpacas and llamas are susceptible to many of the gastro-intestinal nematodes or “worms” that infect sheep and cattle, including barber’s pole worm (Haemonchus spp) and the scour worms. The behavior of worms in alpacas is not well described and is currently being studied at the University of Melbourne. The project is identifying worm species, worm behaviour, methods of diagnosis/monitoring of worm burdens and worm control in alpacas. In the interim, camelid farmers need to extrapolate from sheep research on how best to control worms. The benefits of good worm control include:
- Fewer deaths and illness from worms
- Fewer drenches, particularly long-acting drenches
- Improved productivity
- Prolonged life of drenches
Camelids are highly susceptible to the liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica. It is the only liver fluke found in Australia and can lead to reduced productivity and death. It is essential to routinely check for fluke eggs in the faeces of your herd if you are in a liver fluke district. Fluke populations wax and wane according to time of year and rainfall in your district – look for fluke eggs at every opportunity so you do not get caught out!
The primary ectoparasite to infest Australian alpacas and llamas is the camelid chewing louse, Bovicola breviceps. These lice are spread at shows, mobile-matings and on shearing gear. Treatment is possible if you run a closed herd, but prevention of it entering the herd is ideal. After all, alpacas are bred for their soft, light and lustrous fleece.