Alpaca Nutrition News                                  August 2008

So you just bought (or are planning to buy) a new alpaca

When planning to move a newly purchased alpaca, there are a few things to remember:

1. Moving alpacas from one farm to another is a MAJOR stress

Many things change when an animal is moved from one farm to another. Most mammals see change as a threat, therefore, their bodies prepares for action. This may lead to energy redirection and the consequential death of beneficial rumen microorganisms. Microbe death can also occur because stressed animals usually do not eat. Either way, protective organisms starve to death.

Although you may get your new alpaca home safe and sound, these changes may only become obvious weeks or even months after the actual move. This is because it may take that long for opportunistic pathogens, which supplant the dead beneficials, to proliferate. Keep in mind that it takes a minimum of forty minutes for one bacteria to become two. There are literally billions of microbes in the rumen. The presence of pathogens may manifest as diarrhea or constipation or a sudden inexplicable loss of appetite. That in itself can trigger either of the first two symptoms.

Post-moving disasters can be avoided.

If the move is long-distance or international, prepare your new alpaca by asking the original owner to treat with a concentrated probiotic such as MSE paste or drench for at least a week prior to shipping. Then continue to treat for at least a week once the animal has arrived. Be aware of any changes in appetite or elimination. If diarrhea develops, feed Scour-aid.

If the move is more local, treat at least once before the move, and at least once after the move. Longer treatment will be necessary if the animal develops any of the above symptoms.

In either case, quarantine is strongly recommended once the new alpaca has reached your farm. A month is usually long enough for any illnesses to manifest.

2. Unless the animal to be moved comes from a farm very close by, expect to GRADUALLY transition the diet from old to new

It takes at least two weeks for the rumen microflora to reorganize and proliferate after a diet change. The best way to keep a new alpaca healthy during this transition is to bring two weeks worth or forage and supplement from the originating farm with the new animal. This will allow the new owner to gradually decrease the old feed and slowly introduce the new feed. This process should take a minimum of two weeks.

Stress + diet change can = disaster. The preventive use of concentrated probiotics and slow diet change will keep your beautiful new alpaca(s) safe and healthy. This is especially true of pregnant females. If a pregnant female is moved to a new farm, the stress of the journey and all the changes may cause her to abort or the fetus to die/be reabsorbed.

Protect your investment with MSE.

MSE paste, drench, and Scour-aid can be purchased at Please write nutritionist Lark Burnham ( if you have any questions or comments.


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