After the Drought

Posted by Stephen Mulholland April 22, 2013 1 Comment 2165 views

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The summer of 2013 saw a historic drought grip the whole of the North Island, and parts of the South Island. Autumn rains finally broke the drought. When rain falls it can be a cause for celebration, but after a prolonged dry period it also creates risks for grazing stock. There are things you have to look out for in your llamas and alpacas to protect their health and welfare.

(1) A sudden surge of parasites. While the warm, dry weather will have desiccated and killed many parasite eggs, the arrival of moisture will induce most of the remaining eggs to hatch. This will result in a sudden surge of infective larvae. With most pastures having been grazed very low, your animals are likely to ingest a large quantity of these parasites. This problem is exacerbated because many of the animals may be under stress due to lack of feed, and this can lower their natural resistance to infection. Monitor your stock closely for any signs of trouble. Be especially wary for signs of haemonchus contortus (Barbers Pole worm), as those blood drinkers can very quickly fatally drain a camelid.

(2) Facial Eczema (FE). This disease is caused by toxic compounds in fungal spores that damage the liver. FE is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in alpaca. The fungus grows in dead leaf litter in moist conditions. Drought-affected paddocks tend to have lots of dead plant material, and the rain can raise moisture levels enough for a surge of the FE-causing fungus. You need to have a FE management program. Even if your farm has not had FE before, under these rather exceptional circumstances you will need to have a second look and make sure your stock are safe. The first symptom of FE is too-often death. Many FE management strategies require action before the spores start growing, so you shouldn’t delay. Feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns: stephen@camelidhealth.org.

(3) Pasture rot. A mentioned above, moisture + dead grass = fungus. This fungus is rotting away the dead material. Where before the dry grass provided some feed value (roughly equivalent to low to moderate quality hay), as it breaks down and rots away the nutritive value plummets. The paddock may not look different, but there will be much less effective feed out there for your camelids. Be ready to increase supplementary feeding until new growth has a chance to come though.

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