Alpacas and llamas are a joy to farm:
- They have padded feet rather than cloven hooves
- They do not require tail docking, mulesing or de-horning
- They are less susceptible to fly-strike than sheep
- They are relatively easy to handle
- They are easy on fences
- Husbandry requirements are generally easy to implement
- Annual shearing provides a “crop” of warm, soft, light and lustrous fleece
Prevention is better than cure when dealing with camelids because they are herd animals: They stick together in a group and reluctantly show any signs of illness, so when they do present with an ailment, they may be very sick and could require extensive veterinary input and/or euthanasia. Implementing sound biosecurity measures on your property will minimise introduction of new diseases, worms, lice and weeds and save you time, money and most importantly keep your animals healthy. Keeping their vaccinations, nutrition and parasite control up-to-date and the herd constantly under observation will maximise production (new crias, fleece production) and minimise illness and death in your herd.
There has not been a death in Australian alpacas or llamas from Johne’s disease (JD) for approximately 20 years. Nevertheless, the Australian alpaca industry has implemented a quality assurance program called Q Alpaca to undertake passive surveillance of JD and other diseases. The program has three major benefits:
- It informs participating farmers why their animals have died so that preventative measures can be instigated on-farm
- It provides a national overview of common diseases in alpacas so research money can be directed appropriately
- It provides assurance of freedom from disease to countries importing alpacas from Australia.
You have an ethical and legal responsibility to provide optimal welfare and sound husbandry practices to all livestock on your farm. Your animals will reap the benefits of your efforts by being happy, healthy and productive animals.