Alpaca Health: Raising healthy, happy animals.

As an owner or breeder understanding alpaca health is a crucial component of animal husbandry and should be one of your mait concerns. It is vitally important that you learn to recognise what is normal healthy behaviour and apperance in your alpacas and what is not. A daily inspection, including a hands-on assessment, i.e. body-scoring, is an invaluable assessment tool. This is easiest to do around feeding time, either in the morning or evening.

Body scoring is an excellent method of determining the overall health of an animal and can be done quickly and easily. While holding the animal (or if the animal is very comfortable with your presence, simply standing at their side) place your hand flat on their back approximately 15cm (6") behind the withers with the palm of your hand on the spine with your thumb on the ribs to one side of the spine and your fingers to the other side. Press down firmly enough so that you are able to feel the spine and ribs underneath the fleece.

If the spine is protuding into your hand and the skin between the spine and the ribs is concave the animal is too thin. If your thumb and fingers are close to parallel to each other and nearly vertical then the animal is excessively thin.

In a healthy animal, at its optimal weight, your hand should lay comfortably and be able to feel a smooth line of the flesh from the spine to the ribs (neither concave nor convex). Your thumb and fingers should form a comfortable "V" in this position.

If your hand is open wide and the flesh bulges up between the spine and ribs, then the animal is overweight. If your hand is flat and horizontal then the animal is obese.