Articles of Interest
Helpful Information for and from SeAA Members
Opinion on Current Investments in Alpacas
Submitted by Michael Goldston, High Meadow Alpacas July 2009
Everyone loves a bargain. We aggressively shop for low prices on cars, clothes, whatever we fancy, and are delighted when we get a good deal. Yet when it comes to investments (including alpacas), we hesitate to buy when prices are low because we let fear get in the way, thinking prices may go lower.
" Buy Low-Sell High" is one of the most well known secrets to successful investing. Yet few people are able to do that. Why? Because fear and greed occupy opposite ends of the investment " risk/reward" spectrum, and it is emotionally challenging to be in the minority viewpoint (i.e. to be a buyer when most others are selling). Yet that is when the best opportunities are available!
It is no surprise that most people lose money when investing, because they get too enthusiastic when times are good, and too pessimistic at the bottom of the market cycle. But if you wait for the headlines to signal the directional change, you are often too late. The news was still bullish on real estate in 2006; internet stocks in 2000; and tulip bulbs in 1637, and on and on. History seems to repeat itself and investors rarely learn from their past mistakes. Yet these were market tops for these once "hot" investments. Investment euphoria in these, or rather "irrational exuberance" to borrow former FED Chairman Mr. Greenspan's term, is typical when times are very, very good. Beware, don't confuse brains with a bull market!
What does this have to do with alpacas? Everything! It is a buyer's market today, with prices for alpacas selling well off their 2007 highs. If you have ever coveted a high-end bloodline, you can probably afford it now. Make an offer, you may be surprised.
Of course the economy is still exiting from a major recession and both money and buyers are scarce; but this will likely be one of those pivotal times that you will be able to brag about in the future if you step up to the plate. No guts; no glory! Add to your herd today and you will be one happy camper in the near future.
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HEAT STRESS: Protocol for High Meadow Alpacas
by Charlotte Goldston
An idea that came from the KY Association that thought would be good to share with our farms in the Southeast. Their Education Committee asked all their members to share what their protocol was in dealing with Heat Stress. My response is below, and thought it might help someone, or generate an idea.
Heat stress can not only cause temporary or permanent sterility, it can be lethal regardless of type, sex or age of the Alpaca. Since we are having such an unusual heat wave and high humidity in the Southeast, I wanted to share what High Meadow Alpacas does to prevent and cope with if it happens. This is certainly not what everyone will do or should do, but just happens to be “our” protocol.
Having shade and shelter is imperative. And then you go to work from there.
Providing electrolytes is one of the MOST important things we do, (routinely in any type of weather, but especially in this heat.) …Our alpacas prefer cherry electrolytes...and they are harder to find at our local COOP...so sometimes they have to settle for apple, which doesn't cause a red mustache! (Even in the winter Dr. Evans has us keep electrolytes going, saying that (in normal times) the alpacas will drink more in the winter than in the summer. ) We also have Nelson electric waterers but during this heat wave, we are having to fill our electrolyte buckets at 11PM or Midnight, and again by 4 or 5AM as well as every couple of hours during the day. When we fill the buckets, every couple of times, we clean out completely, and redo.
We do NOTHING, not absolutely necessary to the alpacas during this period. No weighing, no examining, no pictures, no nail clipping...Nothing that would cause any stress. They can come to us to be loved, and hugged...but we don't initiate anything...that is not urgent. We do not wean in this heat, even though it may be time. We do not make huge changes...no transporting, changing barns...
We are actually feeding late, when sun goes down (vs morning and evening which is what our regular routine is), and we keep Fiber Nutrients in the food, and free minerals out all day.
We look for symptoms of heat stress, and if see any, try to do something BEFORE there is a real problem. Some of the symptoms of heat stress that we have seen are lethargy, head drooping, unsteady on their feet or stiff legged, babies trying to drink, and drink, and drink, heavy breathing that is obvious in the flanks, nostrils flaring, drooling ...We will take their temperatures (and to get a better idea of a normal one in this heat, may take 3 or 4 that are acting normal. Currently our average temperature in this heat is probably 102*...something that would concern us any other time.)
We keep bottles of alcohol on hand in case of heat stress...to wet down their legs with it... (Buy it by the case). We start out with their legs, and move up to the belly and stomach areas...(Try it on your hand...alcohol opens the pores.) Jake, our farm manager, is adamant about not doing anything too quickly, (don't immediately wet down, or pour alcohol over every part, or submerge in water, or douse with hose...lead up to it...) much like with horses. Start with their legs and move up.
We also keep shears on hand, just in case need to do a belly shear...
We stop all breeding at High Meadow Alpacas, the end of May, (or when it gets too hot, whichever comes first) and do not start back until mid November. We do not want summer babies. Dr. Evans is the vet of record here, and those are his dates, and we adhere to them. Even if were not too hot on our herd sires, we do not want pregnant females birthing in this, or carrying the cria during the last month in this heat. Our babies start coming mid October at High Meadow.
We sheared in April and have resheared our herd sires (thank goodness prior to the heat wave). Mark Loffhagen came for a visit, and got all the babies, and the herd sires, as well as several of the girls with such heavy fleece, sheared again in July...He was so quick, that it wasn't a problem. A shearer that was slow...might have been.
We have the high fans and ceiling fans, which are constant...but we put up the smaller fans (individual), where they lie down in front of it, and blowing in their face. We put those up as soon as weather gets warm in Spring (and take down in Winter). We have boards running across each side of the barn where the individual fans can be attached...with plugs. (For anyone building a new barn, a word of advice...learned from our first one, when didn't do it right.) You cannot have too many fans (which means electrical outlets well spaced (until your electrical system will not handle!) My big fear has been a power outage, so we have several generators on hand for emergencies.
And we wet them down on their stomach, legs, and back end. (They turn where they want it next.) We do that every few hours during the day...Each group gets it 4 or 5 times a day in this heat. If they see a hose, (even watering trees or shrubs) they converge on the person watering in a circle. (One of the teenage boys working for landscaper, almost had a meltdown...so afraid when all these animals rushed from the barn and surrounded him, (with his hose in hand), and kept moving closer and closer. Would have been hilarious but he was terrified, until we let him know WHY!
We also wet the ground where they lie down several times a day. We put down prewashed gravel in our barns at the new farm, and it stays cooler when we wet it down.
We bought some of the small plastic pools, thinking it would be a good idea, but Dr. Evans vetoed. Had not thought of it, but they can go to the bathroom in the water, and then everyone drinking, and end up with worse problem. He did like the idea of having access to a large pool, or pond, in case of heat stress...being able to submerge an alpaca with heat stress, slowly..submerge.
The worse problem we have ever experienced was two years ago, when we moved our animals to the new farm....Did not have the set up done as well as previous barns, at that time, and had a serious heat stress. We bought a water bed...at a regular waterbed store, (just the mattress, and not expensive), and put her on it...We got her body temperature down so fast...that couldn't keep her on it for too long..plus it is comfortable, for any animal that can't stand up. And we bought her a pool (the 4 foot deep kind) that we used for therapy to get her back using her feet. (A few snickers from some, but it worked!!!)
Heat is cumulative. A couple of the KY farms told of losing herd sires in mid September from what they were doing in August. They quoted Dr. Evans as saying that heat stress can occur two weeks after the first signs.
We have bought the misters for use around a pool, and they do lower the temperature and humidity, but found you have to be careful setting up, not to get too close...ours wanted to get soaked...which is not good...then we created mud...then found the happy medium of having an area far enough back to keep from getting too wet, but getting the effects. We are still working on that...
We keep ice on hand...if needed to help lower a temperature, or sometimes to put in buckets. You can freeze water in bottles, (used water bottles, or drink bottles,) and add to buckets of water during the day and if needed have enough so you have some to put around an animal if you get one down (under their arm pits as well as other areas.)
Again, the above may not be for everyone, and others may have their own routine. This is just the protocol that is used at High Meadow Alpacas. Call a Vet if you do get an animal down, but hopefully some of the things to do before hand will alleviate the necessity.
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The following excerpt is taken from Dr. Norm Evans new book,
REASONS TO CALL THE VETERINARIAN
C. Norm Evans, D. V. M.
ALPACA FIELD MANUAL, and reprinted with permission from Dr. Evans.
- 1. Any animal with ataxia, the inability to coordinate movement.
- 2. Any animal with seizures.
- 3. Any animal that cannot rise.
- 4. Any adult diarrhea present more than 24 hours.
- 5. Any cria diarrhea present more than 12 hours.
- 6. Any pregnant female uncomfortable more than 2 hours or experiencing more than an hour of labor.
- 7. Any animal drooling or vomiting saliva more than 45 to 60 minutes.
- 8. Any animal with temperature over 103.5*F or pulse greater than 100.
- 9. Any female that lies on her side or bleeds after breeding.
- 10.Any animal that does not eat for 2 days or has rancid breath.
- 11. Mother that birthed and has no milk.
- 12. Newborn cria that cannot stand after 2 hours.
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TEN TIPS FOR AVOIDING VACCINATION PITFALLS
By David E Anderson, DVM, MS, DACVS
Head and Associate Professor of Farm Animal Surgery
Director, International Camelid Initiative
Ohio State University
College of Veterinary Medicine
601 Vernon L Tharp Street
Columbus, Ohio 43210
reprinted with permission from Dr. David Anderson
- 1. Clean, new syringe - do not leave syringes lying around. Open them just before using and be efficient.
- 2. Clean, new needle - and keep it that way. Needles can become quickly contaminated in the hair, dirt and debris of the barn.
- 3. Clean new vaccine vial (vaccines from multidose vials should be used or discarded. Many adverse reactions I have seen are from large vials stored for prolonged periods. If you need 20 doses, buy TWO 10 dose vials rather than a 50 dose vial. That 50 dose vial that had 20 doses removed is unlikely to be sterile when you come back 6 months or a year later to do "another round").
- 4. Accurate administration - give subQ preferably, not IM. IM increases liklihood of adverse reaction because of accidental IV administration.
(Most vaccine reactions are sterile abscesses that break and drain. Although these are unsightly, one that breaks and drains from just under the skin is far less likely to cause a probelmt han one that has to break and drain from deep in a muscle.)
- 5. Pull back on plunger before adminstration - make sure you are not in a vein. (Even a small amount of vaccine can cause reactions when given in a vein or artery. If the animal jumps around, re-check your position.)
- 6. Administer in a clean site. ZEN of vaccination: Part the fiber - "see the site - be the site"
- 7. Avoid using multidose syringes - These are far more likely to cause a problem because of contamination.
- 8. Store vaccine correctly - usually in a refridgerator, at minimum cool, dark place. Absolutely follow label storage directions. Do you know your supplier - was the vaccine shipped correctly, stored correctly, how close to the "out of date" is the vial, etc. You get what you pay for.
- 9. Talk to your vet - have a plan to deal with vaccine reactions. Plans do no good when they are made after the fact. Discuss risk assessments to decide what vaccines are "critical", which ones are "optional", and which are "not needed".
- 10. There are no labeled vaccines for camelids so ALL vaccines are used extralabel. You assume the risk in giving them. I feel comfortable in saying that far more camelids have been helped by vaccines than have ever been hurt by them, but that does not mean that there are any guarantees.
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HYPOTHERMIA: Are you ready for the winter?
David E Anderson, DVM, MS, DACVS
Head and Associate Professor of Farm Animal Surgery
Director, International Camelid Initiative
Ohio State University
College of Veterinary Medicine
As we enter the autumn months in North America, my thoughts drift to concerns for care and management of livestock during the often-harsh environmental conditions of winter. In general, llamas and alpacas are well suited to cooler temperatures. After all, winter in the Andes can be trying on the soul if one is not prepared for it. However, camelids are susceptible to extremes of environment, hot (hyperthermia) or cold (hypothermia). The highest risk animals on the farm are very young, very old, very thin, or diseased camelids.
Perhaps the biggest concern we have for hypothermia are newborn crias. Crias are born without the stores of fat needed from which to draw energy to maintain body temperature. Newborns are dependent on the dam's colostrum and milk to provide glucose, fat, and protein. Early and frequent access to these nutrients are critical for the cria to survive the first few days of life. Without the milk fat, crias have a limited ability to maintain body temperature and blood glucose, both of which are necessary to survival. When crias are exposed to extremes of temperature, they must burn energy at a much higher rate to maintain body temperature and the remainder of the body systems may become starved. At some point, the cria is unable to ingest adequate milk to survive and hypothermia begins. These crias are often found down in the pasture in a cushed position with the head and neck extended in front of them on the ground. This posture is designed to close off all areas where heat is lost: around the tail (perineum), between the legs (axilla and groin), the underside of the belly (ventral abdomen), and the base of the neck (sternum and thoracic inlet). At this point and if body heat and energy are not restored quickly, the cria will die from hypothermia and hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) within a few hours.
The veterinary community has spent considerable time and energy evaluating risk factors and developing prevention strategies for heat stress. This is time well spent but we must consider both sides of the coin. Several years ago, a new farm lost several alpacas to heat stress. The farm did not have adequate shade and had not sheared the alpacas. When the peak daytime temperatures rose above 90 F and humidity climbed to 80 %, the alpacas could no longer tolerate the extremes and several died before intervention could be instituted. The most significant factor seemed to be that the night time temperature did not fall below around 80 F. Thus, the alpacas could not exhaust the heat build up from the day before. This is bad when you are wearing an alpaca sweater! The next year, the farm manager was determined not to succumb to the same problem and the alpacas were shorn in April of the next year. Unfortunately, a bitter cold spell including freezing temperatures and snowfall hit that area late in April. Eight alpacas were hospitalized for hypothermia and, fortunately, all were saved. I enjoyed watching them walk around with Ohio State sweatshirts on!
These lessons are simple: management and husbandry practices greatly influence an animal's ability to thrive. Consider your farm in light of the following tips for prevention of hypothermia:
- 1. Shelter: Camelids must be provided with a shelter from which they can seek protection form environmental extremes. These facilities should have sufficient width, length, and height to allow protection from wind. If three-sided shelters are used, a portion of the open side may be enclosed to provide a more effective windbreak. The orientation of the shelter should be such that the open side is not presented to prevailing winds (e.g. in Ohio, shelters face southeast to brace against northwesterly winds). Our research has shown that llamas and alpacas will "loaf" (referring to relaxed cushing rather than seeking shelter for protection) in shelters that provide approximately 36 square feet per animal. During environmental extremes (e.g. cold below 20 F, high wind, hard rain, sleet/ice, heavy snow) llamas and alpacas will utilize shelters at a rate of 18 to 24 square feet per animal. Inadequate shelter space will cause animals to be "left out" without protection from the environment. a. Remember - the single most important toll to prevent hypothermia is to stay DRY. The second most import is to protect against wind. WET + WIND = HYPOTHERMIA. Thin and young and old animals are the most susceptible to these effects.
- 2. Bedding: Bedding should be sufficient to help camelids close off their natural thermal windows. Remember, in summer we are trying to increase the thermal window. In winter, our goal is to decrease this thermal window. I prefer straw for this purpose. Straw is inexpensive, clean enough to use for birthing areas, has adequate insulating features, and can be easily cleaned from the floor and fiber coat.
- 3. Water: Water is a critical nutrient in all seasons. Ingestion of water fluctuates with the temperature of the water. When water is near freezing or frozen, water intake is decreased. Insufficient water intake causes decreased feed intake and the ability to regulate body temperature
becomes impaired. In lactating females, milk production suffers and crias will fail to gain weight or will loose weight. If passive waterers are used (e.g. buckets, troughs), the water should be refreshed daily or several times a day as needed. I prefer heated automatic waters to optimize access and decrease labor.
- 4. Feed: During extremes of cold, camelids have a vital need for energy. I am often asked to consult on farms during winter months because females are loosing weight, crias are not gaining weight, or hypothermia cases have been seen. Many of these problems can be tied to inadequate winter nutrition. Grain feeding may be increased to provide rapidly metabolizable energy sources, but this must be done cautiously. Hay should be analyzed before winter months. I prefer to test each new shipment of hay and make acceptance of the hay contingent upon this analysis. Total digestible nutrient content of the hay should exceed 55% and is most desirable to exceed 60% for winter forage. I recommend that every animal in every herd have a BCS (body condition score) done every month. Loss of body condition score should be addressed quickly unless it can be explained (e.g. females are expected to loose 1 to 1.5 BCS during the first 2 months of lactation).
- 5. Feeding: Providing adequate quality of feed is only one-half of the story. Providing adequate access to feed is the other. In regions where heavy snowfall occurs and in areas where ice storms are common, camelids must be able to gain access to feed. In these situations, I prefer to offer feed inside of the shelter so that animals are not required to walk to a different location to get feed. Camelids will opt for protection against environmental extremes rather that eat or may eat for fewer hours each day. For farms that have barns this is rarely an issue. Farms using three-sided shelters may have a more difficult time providing sheltered feed.
- 6. Ventilation: During summer months, high ventilation is desired. During winter months, ventilation remains important. When shelters are "battened down" for the winter, we must be careful not to over-insulate the interior. Camelids tend to urinate and defecate inside of shelters. Who can blame them - nobody likes a draft in the bathroom! If ventilation is too restricted in winter housing, ammonia and other gases from the dung pile buildup and can contribute to winter pneumonia and poor thriving crias. As always, hygiene is the key to success.
- 7. Shearing: Talking about shearing for winter seems strange at first, but what I am referring to here is 'when did you shear and how is your fiber growing'. Last year, I worked with a herd that had not been able to shear until late in July. Although nutrition was adequate, there was not much room to spare. The fiber coats had not grown well enough before winter to provide adequate protection from the wind. Examination of the herd revealed a suboptimal herd BCS (average 4 out of 10) and approximately 25% of the herd had subnormal rectal temperatures (average of hypothermic alpacas 98 F). Although this temperature was not acutely critical, the chronic environmental stress decreased immunity, decreased lactation, and caused weight loss. Nutrition and sheltering had to be addressed quickly and within a few weeks the problem had stabilized. Unfortunately, the affected alpacas required over 1 year to fully recover.
- 8. Maternity: Two important concerns for newborns are cleanliness and warmth. Females have been known to give birth in open fields in the snow when they do not have access to a clean shelter in which to birth. These crias are at high risk for hypothermia if shelter is not provided. In our research, females that had access to a 14 x 16 foot shelter rarely gave birth inside of that shelter in either winter or summer. We assume that the reason for this was the presence of a dung pile in the shelter and a perception by the female that the environmental stress was too great. When females had access to a 25 x 60 foot shelter, the females always gave birth inside of the shelter despite the presence of two dunging areas within the shelter. We assume that the surface area of the shelter was large enough to allow criation and overcome the females concern for the presence of dung piles.
- 9. Stocking densities: Stocking density refers to the number of animals per unit area. I recommend that farm stocking density be no more than 5 llamas or 7 alpacas per acre of land for grazing to maximize forage utilization and minimize parasite burdens on pastures. In winter, grazing is not an issue for most farms because the animals will voluntarily congregate around hay feeders and shelters. Hygiene becomes a vital concern. Our research has shown that a minimum of 12 inches is required for bunker feeders to allow simultaneous feedings. However, this results in failure to feed by many of the submissive animals. Bunker space of 24 inches per head resulted in fewer submissive animals being excluded. Hay feeder space is equally important. Camelids may spend 8 hours or more feeding on hay each day. If limited feeder space is available, submissive animals will not be able to ingest enough hay to maintain weight and will be more prone to hypothermia.
- 10. Parasites: Often, winter is thought to provide a "reprieve" from parasites that can not survive the harsh cold and failure of eggs to hatch into infective larvae. This is true for most intestinal parasites. However, winter is fertile ground for transmission of some parasites (e.g. coccidia, whipworms, lice, mange, skin fungus) because of close animal-to-animal contact and diminished hygiene. Heavy parasite burdens cause stress to the animal and may decrease their ability to tolerate environmental extremes.
Treatment of hypothermia involves warmth, nutrition, and correction of underlying problems (e.g. milk supplements for crias whose dam is not lactating). Critical hypothermia occurs when core body temperature drops below 90 F. Consider the following treatments:
- 1. Protection. Get the animal into a well-insulated, preferably heated area.
- 2. Warmth. Wrap the animal in heated blankets. Using a heat lamp in a cold stall can be detrimental because the direct heat causes dilation of the surface blood vessels, which can exacerbate heat loss. By incubating the animal in a warm blanket, heat loss in prevented.
- 3. Time. Avoid too rapid heating. Warming a critically cold animal up too quickly can cause as much harm as the hypothermia because of altered blood flow and liberation of potassium and organic acids that built up during the period of poor blood flow caused by hypothermia. These can cause the heart to stop!
- 4. Energy. Intravenous administration of electrolytes and glucose are most useful. If an IV line is not available, glucose or other carbohydrate syrups (e.g. honey, fructose, and maple syrup) may be fed orally or may be inserted into the rectum. Yes, that's right! Camelids can absorb glucose from the rectum if there is adequate blood flow. All liquid supplements should be warmed to approximately 95 to 100 F.
- 5. Oxygen. Always a useful supplement to debilitated animals, but particularly useful to critically hypothermic animals.
- 6. Steroids. This is controversial because of camelids sensitivity to glucocorticoids. Our research suggests that dexamethasone should not be used in camelids. Prednisone type steroids may be safely used for short periods at modest dosages (e.g. not exceeding 1 mg/kg twice daily for 2 days).
- 7. Ulcers. I recommend prophylactic use of antiulcer medications for high-risk camelids. I prefer omeprazole (2 to 4 mg/kg, orally, once or twice daily).
- 8. Nutrition. Encourage the camelid to eat themselves back to health.
- 9. Stress. Companion animals are always welcome! Treat any underlying disease, parasites, etc.
- 10. Recovery. The effects of damage from hypothermia may not be fully realized for a day or two. These animals must be kept under constant vigil for 3 to 5 days to be sure other complications will not be suffered (e.g. diarrhea, depression, etc.).
Although heat stress is of great concern to camelids residing in North America, cold stress is equally important. Forethought and preparation will help you keep your llamas and alpacas from being caught with their fur coat down!
This continuing education article is provided by the International Camelid Institute. Consider making a donation today by contacting Karen Longbrake at phone 614-688-8160, fax 614-292-7185, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.internationalcamelidinstitute.org.
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For additional information contact :
Michael & Charlotte Goldston
High Meadow Alpacas, LLC
3400 Floyd Road
Phone (615) 373-0171
FAX (615) 371-8534