Closely related to the llama, alpacas are camelids originating from South America. Alpacas are bred for their fleece and can be guardian animals for livestock! I got the amazing opportunity to work with these interesting animals for 2 weeks.
Alpacas donating blood!
Early on into my placement, I got involved in the ‘blood drive’! The farmer drove us and four stud (breeding male) alpacas to a large farm vet practice so blood could be collected from them. Since there isn't a huge population of alpacas in the UK, the blood drive was necessary so blood can be easily accessed if one of the farm’s own alpacas need an emergency blood transfusion. The alpacas gave around 400g of blood each! This was an extraordinary thing to see as I didn’t even realise how vital this was for emergencies and its not every day that you see alpaca blood being collected!
I assisted the herdsman in weighing all the alpacas on site. This involved rounding up the alpacas into a pen and encouraging them to walk on the scale one by one. While they were on the scale, we would carry out a general health check on them. This included checking their eyes and teeth, and giving them a body condition score. Body condition scoring was done by feeling the spinal processes of the animal (along the back). This is important because if an alpaca loses more than 2 kilos, it may mean that it has worms and requires treatment with wormer.
During my second week on the alpaca stud, I got involved in halter training the crias (the juvenile alpacas). This is an important training stage for the crias as being comfortable with handling makes it easier for the farmers when it comes to bringing them down for health checks at the vets and showing them in the future. The training consisted of putting a halter on the cria and gently pulling on the lead rope to encourage them to walk with you. We also trained their obedience by letting go of the rope after walking them for a bit, to make sure that they won't bolt off when you release them.
The Alpaca Show
On my last day of placement, I had the opportunity to see an alpaca show! This was exciting because I got to see a rare alpaca breed - the Suri. Not only are they uncommon in the UK, but also in South America! I also got to see different colour variations amongst alpacas and the champions of their classes.
I had such an amazing time on this placement! I had learnt so much about these endearing camelids and how there is so much more to learn about them! This placement gave me an incredible insight into the alpaca show industry and their husbandry. These 2 weeks have inspired to get involved in camelid medicine in the future.
Written by: Summer Cuviello
Disclaimer: We at Animal Aspirations pride ourselves as being an educational platform. We want people to formulate their own opinions, as well as respect the opinions of others. We kindly ask that you adhere to this message to help create a safe space for expression and starting conversations, for the benefit of everyone using this platform. Any discussion deemed to be offensive has the right to be removed by the Animal Aspirations team.