Activities with alpacas
Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using alpacas in schools.
Alpacas – introduction to activities
As required by the Animal Research Act, the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee have prepared a list of approved activities. These activities are those that may need to be carried out in the school setting and have been deemed appropriate, when carried out by a person with the appropriate skill and experience and educationally justified.
The activities have been organised into categories 1-5. The category reflects the potential impact on the animal and requires a greater justification and expertise of those carrying out the activity. Visit Categories of activities for further explanation.
Taking non-invasive measurements from alpacas.
Alpacas – non–invasive measurement
|1. Body weight
2. Body condition
|4. Body proportions
|5. Pulse or bloodflow
|7. Skin temperature
|8. Age by dentition
|9. Scrotum and testicles (palpation)
In order to weigh alpacas they will need to be walked through the race and into the crush. Routine weighing is generally done to:
- monitor growth rates
- match nutrition required with nutrition supplied
- provide data for analysis and planning.
Crias (newborn to 6 months) can be weighed using a cria cradle (sling and fish scales).
Collecting samples from alpacas
Alpacas – collection of samples
|3. Faeces & urine (non-invasive)
|4. Faeces (invasive)
|6. Measurement of body temperature (invasive)
Faeces can be easily collected from a dung pile. To ensure that the faeces come from a particular animal, a large cloth or feed bag can be placed over the dung pile and the animal will defecate on top of, or very close to it. Students should wear gloves and follow proper hygiene procedures.
Collection of urine would rarely need to be carried out. If it is deemed necessary, a bucket placed over the dung pile may be a useful technique to collect the sample. Ensure that students wear gloves and follow strict hygiene procedures.
Alpaca husbandry practices
Alpacas – husbandry
Alpacas must be suitably identified applicable to the production system and current regulations.
|4. Ear marking/tagging of livestock
|6. Hoof paring: sheep, goats & alpacas
|9. Shearing of alpacas & llamas
Routine husbandry activities for alpacas include:
- internal parasite control
- external parasite control
- identification (microchipping, ear tagging)
- hoof trimming
- teeth trimming (this is to be done by an experienced person only)
It is essential that appropriate facilities and equipment be used for these practices.
Castration can only be carried out by a veterinarian.
A veterinarian should be consulted in reference to trimming alpaca’s teeth. Alpacas only have incisor teeth in the lower jaw and bite their food against a pad in the upper jaw. They have both upper and lower molars.
Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation regarding teeth trimming, which often leads to cruelty. Alpaca teeth must only be trimmed when necessary. Frequency of teeth trimming depends upon the food that the alpaca eats. Animals with a very high fibre diet with access to branches and tougher grass species will need less frequent teeth trimming as opposed to alpacas fed primarily on concentrates and chaff.
Regardless of whether an alpaca is being used for fleece production, routine shearing must occur each spring. This prevents the alpacas from becoming too hot and suffering heat stress in the summer periods. Alpacas are shorn using an alternative method to both sheep and goats. An experienced alpaca shearer should always be employed to perform this task.
Alpacas are restrained by being stretched out on the floor or low table and having their legs tied to wooden spacers. A handler holds the head of the animal. When one side of the animal has been shorn, the animal is flipped over and the other side is shorn. It is essential that a handler holds the alpaca’s head throughout the entire process as there is serious risk of neck injury if the alpaca is to struggle.
Alpaca shearing requires experience and expertise and should never be performed entirely by inexperienced handlers as it can result in injury to both animal and handler.
Alpacas toenails require regular trimming otherwise they become long, deformed and uncomfortable for the alpaca. Dry, rocky paddocks will result in less frequent need for trimming, while wet, soft ground will result in more frequent hoof trimming being required. Seasonal changes should be taken into consideration as the alpacas will need more regular trimming during wetter months.
Registered alpacas are identified with a brass ear tag in the left ear for males and right ear for females. An additional plastic ear tag can be placed in the opposite ear.
The alpaca and llama industry have identified that the introduction of a national identification and traceability scheme is integral to the future development of the industry.
Although NLIS is only just starting to regulate the identification and movement of alpacas and llamas in Australia, rules have been written in draft describing the regulations of tagging and movement of alpacas within Australia. Some of these major rules include:
- all alpacas and llamas must be ear tagged with an NLIS tag in the left ear for males and the right ear for females
- alpacas will have a breeder tag (green)and a post breeder tag(pink) for when they move off the property where they were born
- NLIS tags must never be removed until death or slaughter
- additional tags should never be attached
- property identification codes should be stamped on the NLIS ear tag
- in the event of an emergency such as flood or fire, animals may be moved without an NLIS tag with approval from authorities, however in all normal situations animals must be tagged before being moved to a new property or to a sale yard
- properties must be registered with a property identification code (PIC).
Alpaca breeding activities
Alpacas – breeding
|27. Artificial insemination
|28. Semen collection
29. Pregnancy detection
Breeding alpacas, as with any species, involves planning and timing. Hembras are generally sexually mature from 12 to 18 months of age and need to have a healthy body score of condition. Underweight or obese animals will have lower fertility rates.
It is preferable for for crias to be born in early spring or autumn. These seasons generally provide milder conditions with spring having the added bonus of more abundant feed.
Mating may be unsupervised in the paddock or often when planned between selected stock, they are supervised to ensure accurate selection of sire and dam and accuracy in due dates for birthing.
Females must be receptive before they will assume the cush position. The macho will mount over the top of her and thrust his pelvis until intromission is achieved. The hembra’s tail may need to be held out of the way to ensure that the male has achieved penetration and this may need to be checked by the person supervising. The macho’s back will form a curved shaped when penetration has occurred. The loud orgling sound that the machos make is necessary for receptivity and for ovulation to take place.
Artificial insemination (AI) is not generally practiced as the semen is too viscous. Alpacas are dribble ejaculators so this makes semen collection and usage prohibitive.
Another issue with AI is the issue of orgling to induce ovulation. This would mean that you would need a male around fairly consistently orgling, for the female to take the cush position and for ovulation to be triggered.
Embryo transfer is still not commonly used due to cost.
Pregnancy detection in alpacas may be carried out by one of two ways:
- Spitting-off: A male is brought towards the female and the female rejects him by either running away or spitting-off. Newly mated females may give a false positive to this within the first few weeks so it is worthwhile checking again at around six weeks.
- Ultrasound : This is the only way to determine a pregnancy with certainty as sometimes alpacas will give an incorrect false spit-off even though they are not pregnant. This method is carried out at around 60 to 90 days after mating.
Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals.
Alpacas – euthanasia
|Slaughter/euthanasia of stock
Where an animal has become so sick, diseased or injured that recovery is unlikely or undesirable on humane grounds, euthanasia must be arranged with a local veterinarian.
Humane killing of animals must not be demonstrated to, or carried out by, students unless it is required:
- to achieve a curriculum outcome or competency, or
- as part of veterinary clinical management of an animal, under the direction of a veterinarian.
Students are permitted to watch a post-mortem of a euthanased animal provided there is no disease risk posed.
Alpacas may be sold privately, at auction or consigned to an abattoir.
Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.
Keeping clear and accurate records.
Alpacas – record keeping
Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:
- the number of alpacas owned or kept at the school
- identification of individual animals (ear tag number or name)
- the dates and sources of acquisition of each animal
- disposal details and dates for each animal
- complete breeding records
- the dates and types of husbandry practices carried out
- the name, dosage, batch number, expiry date, withholding period and dates of any chemicals administered
- any accident, illness or injury involving school alpacas and the veterinary treatment provided (if required)
- any significant occurrences that adversely affect the welfare of school animals, such as vandalism, dog attack, outbreak of disease etc.
The type and format of the records maintained will vary from school to school and be dependent on the number of animals kept, number of staff involved in maintaining the records and the layout and location of the school farm.
The minimum requirement is a daily diary that is accessible to all staff involved in the care and use of the animals.
Where there are several staff members involved in the care of animals it is essential that there is a mechanism for each staff member to document notes about the general health status of school animals and that these notes are available to all other staff members who may be involved in animal care.