To ensure your alpaca herd stay healthy and happy, the following routine husbandry practices are recommended.
Register with a vets
You will need to register with a large animal veterinary practice. A vet with camelid knowledge and experience is preferable, as alpacas are very different to other stock and animals. If your local vet isn't alpaca savvy, you can check out www.camelidvets.org/categories/findavet to find a vet who is. For more specialist advice, Claire Whitehead is a well known and highly experience camelid specialist vet who runs Camelid Veterinary Services in Reading, but serves clients UK wide and can consult with your local vet.
Body Condition Score (BCS) and, if possible, weigh your alpacas at least once a month and record the figures to track health and wellbeing. Either a scale of 1 - 5 (with 1 being emaciated and 5 being obese) or 1-10 (with 1 being emaciated and 10 being obese) is used.
Score the spine, ribs, tail area and chest as according to how much or how little fat and muscle coverage there is - Claire Whitehead has a helpful video on how to do this here. Cria & pregnant dams will be carrying more weight, so may score slightly higher than their herd mates.
If possible, weigh your alpacas. Veterinary weigh scales are ideal for this task, but if you have just a few alpacas and access to a trailer, you can weigh the empty trailer on a weigh bridge and then weigh your alpacas and divide the figure between them to get a guide weight. IMPORTANT: Don't BCS your alpacas based on weights, as two alpacas can weigh the same but have very different BCS when you get hands on and feel.
Feeding & Vitamin Supplements
Toenail trimming should be carried out 3 - 4 times per year (one of these can be done by the shearer at shearing time). Grey and white alpacas often need their toenails trimming more regularly as they grow faster and some may never need their nails trimmed. Standard sheep foot shears work well. Take a little off at a time - you can always take more, but if you take too much, bleeding will occur. In case you do trim too low, it can be helpful to keep on hand wound spray or wound powder to stem the bleeding and prevent infection. Practice picking up their feet and putting them down whenever you catch your alpacas for health checking, treatment etc so they are used to having their feet held. Check out this video by Claire Whitehead on how to trim nails.
Alpacas need to be shorn once every year - find out everything you need to know about alpaca shearing in our shearing blog here
Alpacas typically have 6 incisor teeth in their lower jaw at the front of their mouths, which should neatly bite onto a hard palate in the upper jaw. 6 sharp canines (3 each side), also known as ‘fighting teeth’ sit behind the incisors. Premolars and 12 molars sit at the back of the mouth. It is normal for incisors to fall out and regrow. An alpaca’s incisor teeth shouldn't need trimming unless they have an ill-aligned bite, causing overgrowth. However, the fighting teeth in males at around 3 - 4 years of age will require trimming to remove the sharp tips.
When carrying out monthly body condition scoring and health checking, taking a look at the teeth is a good idea to ensure they are healthy and spot any issues early. As well as checking the teeth at the front, it is important to check for evidence of tooth root abscesses in the molars, which is not uncommon in alpacas.
Clostridial Disease Vaccination
Treating for Mites
How to Administer Medications
Disclaimer: Fostings Alpacas are not a veterinarian body. Always consult your vet when creating a health plan for your herd and before administering medication.
Learn how to look after alpacas
This 95 page E-Guide is packed full of information for new and prospective alpaca keepers, covering Alpaca 101, Requirements, Diet & Pasture Management, Husbandry Tasks, Disease & Parasites and an Introduction to Breeding & Cria Care. Download upon purchase so you can dive straight in! For the full contents list and to get your copy, click the image below.