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John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-394-3790
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Health and Wellness

Alpacas, llamas, and other South American camelids share many unique traits and behaviors. Combined, these qualities are part of what makes these animals so enjoyable to be around. There are issues to be aware of in caring for these beautiful animals, and some husbandry is different than with more traditional livestock.


Feet

Alpaca feet are unlike hooves like horses, cattle, sheep or goats. Their feet have unique structure which enables them to be very sure-footed and cause minimal damage to the environment.
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Teeth

Alpacas, llamas and other camelids have deciduous (baby teeth which fall out) and permanent teeth just like any other species. How many of each type varies with each species.

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Heat Stress

Alpacas evolved in the higher altitudes of the Andes Mountains where the temperature rarely gets above 75 to 80 degrees. They are not equipped to handle high heat and humidity. This creates management problems in many parts of the United States during the summer months.

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The Sick Alpaca

Alpacas are very stoic creatures and may not show overt clinical signs of illness until they are very sick. Any subtle change in behavior can be significant early in the disease process. Signs of a problem can include but are not limited to:

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Choanal Atresia

Choanal atresia is a devastating congenital defect which is relatively common in alpacas and very uncommon in most other animals and people.

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Induced Ovulation

Alpacas are reproductively very different than cows, sheep, goats or horses. Unlike all those other species, female alpacas do not have a regular estrous cycle where they come into heat at regular intervals. Camelids are induced ovulators. This means that the female does not ovulate any eggs (oocytes) until she has been bred by the male. The act of breeding stimulates hormonal events inside the female which result in ovulation and hopefully conception.

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BVDV in Alpacas

In 2005 a serious ailment was identified in alpacas for the first time.  Bovine Viral Diarrhea Viruses (BVDV) is able to compromise the immune system of an unborn fetus, resulting in an animal that is "persistantly infected" shedding huge amounts of virus and endangering entire herds.  This illness has led to significant changes across the alpaca industry, including changes in show rules and an increased awareness of infection control on individual farms.

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Sand Colic in Alpacas

Much of the United States is an ancient sea bed. This makes those areas, and the sand floored barn prime areas for the alpaca to ingest sand. Horses, cows, alpacas and probably goats and sheep can all suffer or die from sand ingestion. Sand colic is easy to control in the alpaca once the danger is acknowledged and the symptoms are recognized.

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"The dark, brilliant eyes fixed themselves on the slight, flat-chested little form, clad in brown alpaca..."

- Anne Aldrich
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