Alpaca nutrition news

February 2010


Show savvy


This article isn t about showmanship. Nor is it about winning more ribbons. Rather, it s about bringing home alpacas that stay healthy after the show.


There is a practice among alpaca producers to wean animals shortly before a show. Please be aware that weaning is one of, if not the most, stressful event in a mammal s life. The effects of this stress may not be visible to producers until several months after the fact.


This is because stress kills beneficial rumen microorganisms. Their absence allows opportunistic pathogens to proliferate. It also leaves an animal more vulnerable to pathogens that are only present in smaller, usually non-threatening numbers. Proliferation may take as long as two months. By this time, many newly-weaned crias have been to a show.


Showing is almost as stressful as weaning. The animal is exposed to strange sights, smells, people, animals, and sometimes food. They are also exposed to new pathogens. If they have been recently weaned, the double stress can severely overwhelm the vulnerable immune system.


IF weaning prior to a show is necessary, there are steps the producers can take to avoid disaster.


  • Use a concentrated (paste or drench) probiotic such as MSE (5 10 cc/day) at weaning and for about a week afterwards. This will help the animal weather the effects this stress. Either product can be continued longer if the animal has not returned to pre-weaning appetite and vigor.

  • A few days before a show, give 5 to 10 cc per day of the same concentrated probiotic. Repeat for the next day and throughout the show. Continue for one to two weeks afterwards. Observe behavior, appetite, and stools and continue longer if any of these are suspicious.

  • At the show, keep your animals separate from others as much as possible. Try to prevent nose to nose contact. The stall can be sprayed or wiped with a disinfectant. Bring own feed if possible.

  • Once home again, quarantine for at least two weeks, and preferably a month. Observe behavior, appetite, and stools. Feed quarantined animals last and change clothing if contacting other animals afterwards.

  • Add MSE Dry microbial concentrate (daily formula) to feed before, during, and after the show.

Be aware of any changes that occur in show animals for as long as two or three months. It may take this long for opportunistic pathogens to become numerous enough for symptoms to become obvious. Quarantine may prevent transmission of these microbes to other animals in the herd.

Don t let weaning + showing = disaster, use prevention and be aware of animals that have recently been to a show. It is very easy to disassociate these events because so much time may have passed, but they may indeed be connected.


All MSE products are available at Please contact ruminant nutritionist Lark Burnham ( if you have any questions or concerns.




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