Alpaca Nutrition News November 2007
Last month's newsletter overstated the
lethality of the Snots (AURV) epidemic. Although there were some deaths, the
majority of those infected survived. The illnesses have been attributed to a
virus, although there may have been more than one strain involved. Animal
response may have also been complicated by level of stress (which includes stage
of reproduction) and age. I apologize if anyone thought the October newsletter
It is clear that stress plays a key role
in this infection. Initially, alpacas that attended shows, starting in summer,
contracted the virus. They were brought back to their home farms, where more
animals became infected. Just in time for late gestation and the alternating
temperatures of the Fall season, both major stressors.
The epidemic seems to have dissipated with
many areas of the country now in winter mode. Although cold weather may seem
stressful, it is less so than warm/cold/warm/etc. Unlike humans, alpacas cannot
peel off those excess layers. The same trend will be repeated in the spring,
with the potential for another epidemic unless precautions are taken.
Like the human cold, which AURV simulates,
a few precautions may save calls to the vet, stress for the producer, and lost
animals or productivity. Some of these include:
Be aware of activities and stages of
reproduction that promote stress. These include birth, weaning, shearing,
transportation, and showing.
Use a concentrated probiotic (either
paste or drench) before a known stressor, or as soon afterward as possible.
In the case of showing, dose the show string a couple days before the event,
during, and a few days afterward. MSE drench increases the production of
IgG, and MSE paste increases both IgG and IgA. The immune system is
compromised when the animal is stressed.
Limit contact with strange animals at
the show and use a spray disinfectant on the stall before bring the show
Once home again, quarantine the show
string for about a month, preferably in another building and downwind and
feed/handle them last each day. This prevents accidental exposure of other
animals by clothing/skin contamination. Leave the show string in quarantine
for a month to permit any illnesses to appear.
Control flies with use of diatomaceous
earth (DE) on manure piles and in pens.
Other methods of prevention include
footbaths that contain disinfectant and changing clothes after feeding or
handling the quarantined animals.
Antibiotics are not effective against
viruses and may damage the protective barrier in the gastrointestinal tract. MSE
paste or drench boosts the immune system and can protect against secondary
infection. If an animal gets sick, despite following the above recommendations,
the illness should be less severe and the animal should recover faster.
Viruses and bacteria can adapt to new
species and conditions much faster than mammals due to their very short
turn-over time. This can be as short as 40 minutes, or 36 generations in one 24
hour period. Mutation is a natural result of DNA/RNA division and replication.
Even if a mutation occurs once in a hundred generations, that is a mere two to
three days. Plenty of time to find a way around any obstacles. Do not
underestimate bacteria and viruses.
Probiotics contain live microorganisms
that replicate at the same rate. They also employ some ingenious methods to beat
out the competition. Using probiotics to combat bacterial and viral infection is
like fighting fire with fire.
It is unlikely that the alpaca industry
will remain unscathed by diseases similar to those that attack other species.
Good prevention practices are not customized to any particular disease. By
following the simple guidelines listed above, producers can avoid future
epidemics, or reduce the effects, even while attending shows.
MSE paste and drench may be purchased at
www.naturs-way.com. Questions or
comments can be sent to Lark Burnham, Ruminant nutritionist: