the last few days, Alpaca.com® has received many hundreds
of messages concerning the Mad Cow and Foot and Mouth Diseases
and their possible impact on alpacas and alpaca farms. This
accelerated after publication last week of the picture of
the little red-haired girl carrying her lamb to the truck
for shipment, destruction and autopsy to determine if the
animal had contracted Foot and Mouth Disease. We imagine
that every alpaca owner in the country immediately pictured
a cria being held by one of their loved ones with the same
tormented look of despair and desperation in their eyes.
We at Alpaca.com® take our community responsibility
very seriously, so we contacted some outstanding camelid
veterinarians and put your questions to them.
thanks are extended to David Anderson, DVM (Ohio State University
College of Veterinary Medicine); Cheryl Tillman, DVM (Tillman
Llamas and Alpacas); Anthony Stachowski, DVM (Stachowski
Alpacas); Gail Campbell, DVM (Ameripaca Alpaca Breeding
Co.) and Michelle Kopcha, DVM (head of the large animal
division of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary
HOW SUSCEPTIBLE TO MAD COW DISEASE IS THE ALPACA?
Cow disease is fatal to cattle and can be transmitted
to humans. This viral infection is called "Scrapies"
in sheep. Dr. Kopcha notes that the first diagnosed case
of Scrapies in the U.S. was in Michigan in 1947 and that
the disease in sheep has recurred sporadically in isolated
instances since that time. None of our vets knew of any
cases where camelids have contracted Mad Cow or Scrapies.
IF MAD COW DISEASE IS SPREAD PRIMARILY THROUGH CONTAMINATED
FEED, HOW SAFE IS THE FEED WE GIVE OUR ALPACAS?
USDA and other Federal agencies have extremely strict
guidelines for feed manufactures to follow. The US does
not allow any feed containing ruminant by -products to
enter the country. Dr. Anderson points out that violation
of these guidelines can lead to the manufacturing plant
being shut down completely by the government and severe
financial penalties assessed against the owners.
vet panel was uniform in their assurance that our alpaca
feed is safe and free of any serious contaminants.
HOW SAFE IS THE U.S. ALPACA HERD IN THE FACE OF THE MAD
the vets concurred that the U.S. alpaca herd should be
safe for now and into the foreseeable future.
4. HOW BIG A PROBLEM IS THE Foot
and Mouth DISEASE?
Kopcha stated that the first Foot and Mouth outbreak in
the U.S. occurred in California in 1929. None of the vets
knew of any recorded cases currently in the U.S.
disease, however, is endemic in South America, Africa
and now in Europe. Dr.Stachowski noted optimistically
that alpacas share common grazing ground with cattle in
South America and that he knows of no documented cases
of alpacas catching the disease from these cattle.
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE SHEEP HERD IN VERMONT THAT WAS
RECENTLY SUSPECTED OF BEING INFECTED WITH Foot and Mouth
was an imported herd of sheep that has been held in quarantine
for several years. Dr. Kopcha believes that the seizure
of the herd should have been done much earlier. Dr. Anderson
points out that we will not know if the herd had the disease
until all the postmortem tests are completed. This could
take several more weeks. Alpaca.com® will monitor
this and keep you informed.
WERE THE ORIGINAL IMPORTED ALPACAS FROM SOUTH AMERICA FREE
Stachowski, Tillman and Campbell were all involved in
the early importation of alpacas into this country and
each cites the stringent quality controls implemented
by the various South American governments and by the importers
themselves, many of whom are veterinarians. Every animal
was subjected to extended testing, quarantine, and observation
to make sure that there was no disease present. The importers
were also monitored carefully, with strictly enforced
changes of clothing to prevent inadvertent transmission
of disease from one location to the other. All the veterinarians
on the panel were in agreement that the original imported
alpacas were disease free, fit, and beautiful specimens.
Obviously, these highly skilled medical specialists would
have taken every precaution to insure that the animals
they wanted to use as foundation stock for their new industry
were the very best that could be found.
IS IT SAFE TO TAKE ALPACAS TO SHOWS CURRENTLY?
of our panel favor the use of reasonable caution in transporting
and showing your animals in the months ahead. Drs. Tillman,
Stachowski and Campbell plan to continue showing their
alpacas as they have done in the past, but Tillman adds
that she routinely quarantines animals for one week after
returning from a show or when they arrive on her farm
from some other alpaca farm. She also favors the use of
shorter leads during the showing of the animals in order
to maintain stricter control during the movement of the
alpaca between the holding pen and show ring and a more
careful monitoring of the animals while they are in their
Anderson warns against becoming overly paranoid about
possible dangers of showing your alpacas and Dr. Kopcha
states "We should take this concern and use it as
a moment to step back and look seriously at bio-security
issues." She suggests that innovative exhibitors
consider setting up handwashing stands at their pens and
encourage visitors to wash their hands before touching
their animals. What might appear strange the first time
it was done could easily become an industry standard as
people came to understand how much contamination can occur
by the random handling of a series of alpacas in rapid
succession without proper hygiene between contacts.
IF THE ORIGINAL IMPORTS WERE DISEASE-FREE AND OUR FOOD SUPPLY
IS SAFE, THEN HOW WOULD Foot and Mouth DISEASE MOST LIKELY
BE TRANSMITTED TO ALPACAS IN THE U.S. TODAY AND TOMORROW?
Campbell and Stachowski are most concerned about transmission
of the disease from cattle to alpacas, but neither thinks
that this is likely to happen. Tillman, Kopcha and Anderson
feel that human beings are more apt to be the carriers
than some other animal species. They point out that the
disease can be transported on shoes, clothes, saliva and
hands and are most concerned about travelers who visit
areas where the disease is endemic and then return to
the U.S. without discarding the clothes they wore in these
other countries. They believe that the growing popularity
among alpaca farmers of visiting Peru poses a serious
secondary problem if the travelers are not careful and
conscientious about making sure that unwanted contaminants
don't return with them in their suitcases or on the soles
of their shoes.
adds that cautious alpaca farmers would want to consider
limiting the amount of farm visits they schedule and carefully
monitoring their visitors while they are at their farm.
WITH ALL THESE QUESTIONS UNANSWERED, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY
TO TRANSPORT ALPACAS?
Personal transport of your alpacas is probably the most
secure option available to you. If you have a proper vehicle
and the distance to be traveled is not too great, you
might want to consider hauling your alpacas yourself.
This way you are assured that the environment is safe
and the stress on your animals is minimized.
The second best option is to contract with a licensed
alpaca hauler who has the proper trailer to move your
animals with reasonable comfort and safety. Obviously
a smaller load delivered more quickly to your desired
destination is most advisable.
You should avoid moving your alpacas with a hauler who
uses a multipurpose trailer. A trailer that was used to
haul cattle, sheep or pigs a few days earlier poses too
many unnecessary health risks to your alpacas. Stick with
one of the proven alpaca haulers who just transport alpacas
and have the equipment and experience to minimize additional
stress and risks for your animals.
Whenever possible, try to schedule your animals with haulers
that can bring your animals to your desired destination
quickly and safely. Extended road trips with many pickup
and delivery stops along the way might add significantly
to the stress your alpacas experience.
WITH THE THREAT OF Foot and Mouth DISEASE LOOMING ON THE
HORIZON, HOW SAFE IS THE U.S. ALPACA HERD?
the veterinarians on the panel are cautiously optimistic
at this point. Alpaca.com® will continue monitoring
this issue and keep you informed as more information becomes
you have specific questions about Mad Cow or Foot and
Mouth Diseases, you are encouraged to contact your own
veterinarian or your local veterinary school for additional
you have additional questions for Alpaca.com®, e-mail
us and tell us your concerns.