Researchers have found significant variations in how alpacas are cared for in the UK, leading to calls for gold standard protocols of alpaca husbandry to be established.
A survey of alpaca owners found that the dose and frequency of vitamin D supplements varied significantly between holdings.
There were also differences in clostridial vaccination, with large variations in the location of injections. The study also found that nearly a quarter of alpaca owners did not discard open vaccine bottles within the recommended time frame.
These findings have led the research team at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) to call for further research to establish gold standard protocols for alpaca vitamin D supplementation and vaccination.
The survey, which received responses from 116 alpaca holdings across the UK, also revealed that 100 per cent of those surveyed sheared and foot trimmed their alpacas.
The number of alpacas being kept in the UK has risen rapidly over the past few decades, growing from around 145 alpacas in 1992 to an estimated 60,000 alpacas in 2023.
Beth Reilly, teaching fellow in small ruminant health and flock management at the RVC, said: “Alpaca owners do vaccinate their alpacas against clostridial diseases; however it is clear further research is needed to establish an evidence-based gold standard vaccination protocol for this species.
“There is evidence that very varying degrees of vitamin D supplementation is occurring on UK alpaca holdings, and we strongly encourage alpaca owners and vets to openly discuss vitamin D supplementation in their animals.”
Recently graduated veterinary surgeon Abby Middleton, who led the research, added: “The survey itself highlights the advantages of vets and owners working together and it was great to see the willingness of alpaca owners to invest time into research surveys such as this.”
The full study has been published in Vet Record.
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