Thursday, February 28, 2008

Moving On

First, we cancelled the 2 shows we were going to go to this spring. Since we can't show Remington we only had Sommerfield to show. Maddie is old enough now, but has not had the necessary blood work for registry, and that cannot be done in time for the spring shows. We did not feel it worth taking just Sommerfield. Though we do plan to attend the Indiana show in early April. Victoria's first cria, Contessa, and Kateri's first cria, Princess, will be shown by South Haven Alpacas. We are very excited to see how they do!

The other thing we will do now is move Snowstorm, Sommerfield and Maddie into the small shelter (the "boy" barn). Many farms do separate the maiden females from the maternity ones. Sancha is due mid-April and I think Sancha would like some distance from the younger girls. Sommerfield appears very attached to her mom. She follows her around, and has tried to nurse. Sancha will spit her off though. Maddie at times follows Sancha around too, like she's her surogate mother. I can already see Sommerfield being a milk snatcher. And I worry if Sancha's cria is not strong from the start those 2 girls could push it around. So why risk that chance? We have the space to separate the 2 younger girls, where they will share a fence with the older girls so they are not so far away. We plan to make that change this weekend. Friday the vet comes for a visit so we were waiting until that is over. I will be gone for 2 weeks and it would be easier for J if the pregnant girls were together apart from the others so he can do a quick morning feeding of just the pregnant ones. We have openned up the fence to the new barn and pasture. I have been feeding the girls in that area, and I started a poop pile (I took a small scoop from the other pile and put it where I wanted it in the new area ;) ). I think this will be a fairly easy transition, but we will wait and see for sure.

We will be getting Maddie's blood drawn when the vet is here so that we can finalize her registation. We really want to show her, and while we would have loved to do so this spring, fall will have to do.


The predominent theory on what happened with Remington came from the previous owners in discussion with the vet who did the necropsy at Michigan State. The theory is that Remington at one point had an open wound on him. This is a likely senario given he had just been moved to a different farm, and being the new male he was low man in the pecking order. Males do fight and he could have gotten a wound. If he then rolled in infected feces, then the coccidia could have gotten into the wound, entered the blood stream and then the abdominal cavity. While this is not a common thing to happen (open wound and infected feces and happen to roll in it) it is plausible.

However it came about I can only imagine how painful it must have been for him to be so infected. It points to how stoic these animals really are and how important it is know your alpacas and to watch for any unusual behavior. Since he was not on our farm yet I cannot look back and try to pick out unusual behavior. I do not know if in retrospect there were signs. It is scary how this could happen and makes me more cautious with watching the behaviors of the ones on our farm.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


We have the preliminary report from Michigan State University. The short version is that Remington was too sick to travel. He reportedly had abcesses in his lung and liver and mesentery (the covering of the intestines). In addition to fluid in his abdominal cavity. He tested positive to Coccidial Oocysts. The type of coccidia appeared to be Eimeria Puneonesis. They took additional tissue for culture, those results are not available yet.

I did some research on Coccidail Oocysts. More information can be found at:
It is a single cell organism that works similar to worms but is not a worm. The cell takes home in the intestines where it releases sporozoites and multiplies in the intestinal cells. This then causes intestinal problems in the animal including diarrhea and possibly bloody stool. Often small animals become dehydrated. It is passes through fecal matter from an infected animal.

There are several different strains of Coccidia. The report indicates this one to be Eimeria punoensis. I could not find much information on the web about this strain in alpacas specifically. Though I did find an older post on alpaca nation regarding this:

“The type of coccidia alpacas get is eimeria. There are different strains of eimeria, stiedai, stizostedioni, punoensis, macusaniensis and a bunch of others.
E-mac is used because none of us can spell eimeria macusaniensis.
If a vet told any client that their alpaca had eimeria punoensis the owner would be certain it was fatal, so the vet will say coccidia.”

I tried to post a scanned version of the nescrospy report here but it was not the right kind of file to upload here (I am not computer literate enough, sorry!). I can type in part of the report. Though I will warn you it is medical in nature and I had to have J translate a lot of it for me (so much for all those anatomy classes I took).

Gross Description
The body of a 2.5 year old, 65.5 kg, intact, male, Alpaca of adequate nutritional and hydration states was examined. Autolysis was minimal to mild. The lungs were bilaterally and diffusely dark red to purple, wet and heavy. The left lung lobe had areas of linear, pale, tan, mottling throughout. The right lung lobe appeared most affected, with long dense strands of fibrin over the pleural surface. Also, multiple firm nodules were palpated throughout the parenchyma of the left lobe. On cut sections, the nodules had a dense pale tan fibrous capsule contained clotted blood, necrotic debris, and purulent material. These changes were not observed in the lesser affected left lung lobe. The mediastinal lymph node was markedly enlarged. The abdominal cavity contained approximately 1 liter of hazy, watery, red tinged, fluid. The liver had approximately 10-20, variably sized, transparent, fluctuant, and pedunculated structures that were attached to the capsular surface. On cut section, the structures contained dark brown to green necrotic debris and small amounts of pale yellow to white granular purulent material. The mesentery contained approximately 5-10 random, dark brown to black nodules, surrounded by dense fibrous tissue and filled with purulent material (similar to that observed in the lung and on the capsular surface of the liver). There were no other significant gross findings observed.

Gross Diagnosis
Lung: Severe (unilateral) fibrinous pleuritis with multifocal chronic pulmonary abcess formation
Liver: Severe chronic diffuse capsulitis with multifocal abcess formation
Mesentery: Chronic multifocal mesentery abscess formation
Mediastinal lymph node: lymphadenomegaly

The lung changes observed were severe and chronic and predominantly isolated to the right lung lobe. These findings (including the liver and mesentery) are most suggestive of a systemic bacteremia/septicemic process with multi organ seeding and subsequent abscess formation. These lesions, combined with the stress of transport, may account for this animal's sudden death. Histopathology and additional laboratory tests are currently in progress. The findings will be reported in a forthcoming final report as soon as results are available.

My own comments:
While some of that report sounds pretty bad, keep in mind that alpacas are very stoic animals. They do not let on that they are ill, until it is really bad. In nature they are very vulnerable because they have few defenses (run or spit is about all they can do, they can stomp small animals). To show a predator that they are weak or ill would be a huge weakness, so their natural instinct is to hide any illness or weakness. Remington was not at our farm so I do not know what signs he may or may not have been showing.

I also want to point out that this report points to a chronic problem. Remington had not been agisted at the farm he was at for very long. It is possible that he was infected before arriving there. Had they kept up on regular veterinary care, the extent of the coccidia in Remington was likely too advanced to be treated by regular dosing. It is hard to know when this started, when he was infected, and even if the coccidia was what caused the multi organ problems. The tissue cultures may show additional information to help sort it out.

We did call the farm we were purchasing Remington from to let them know the results of the report. And we have notified the farm where Remington was being agisted at because of concern that other alpacas could have been infected. One positive is that Remington never did touch ground at our farm. Given his condition, had he survived the transport he could have infected the rest of our herd.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rest in Peace

With heavy heart I post the surprising death of Remington. I had only met him two times. The first time when we decided that we wanted to purchase him. The second time was to transport him to our farm. He appeared fine when we loaded him in the trailer, and was ok when we checked on him mid trip. But when we arrived at our farm, he was dead.

We were so looking forward to showing him this spring (we already had him signed up in two different shows). We had built a barn specifically with him in mind. We were planning to bred him to Victoria this summer. All these things we had prepared for him with anticipation of his arrival at our farm. While we didn't know him well, we were excited to have him at our farm, and are devastated at his loss. He will be greatly missed, and never forgotten.

J has taken the remains to Michigan State University for a necropsy (autopsy). There are so many questions as to how this could have happened,we need some answers. Whatever the reason, at the very least we can use this as a learning experience. For now we are just taking each moment by moment as we try to feel our way through this surprising loss.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Finger Puppets

I knit some finger puppet alpacas out of alpaca yarn (sorry the picture is blurry):

I bought this alpaca yarn. Once we have yarn from our own alpacas I will make the puppets out of that. I plan to give these away to kids who visit the farm.

Boy's barn

Our current project has been putting up a shelter for Remington, which Snowstorm will share with him. We opted to use a kit, the Liberty shed from Lowes. We decided that was the best option for something that we could put up in the winter, is moveable, and could be put up rather quickly. Right now we really want to get Remington to our farm. We plan to show him this spring and need to work on halter training.

Front view:

Back view:

Closer up in back:

As you can see the girls barn is much bigger, but it also has more storage area (for hay and straw and feed, in addition to a med station).

This shed will be plenty big for Snowstorm and Remington and can hold additional males should we have some born this year.


Here is a picture of the trailer that we purchased to haul the alpacas. Isn't it cute! J put in vents so that they have air movement. I need to get a picture of the inside of it yet. We transported Sancha, Sommerfield and Maddie with plenty of room to spare. I do not think we will have a problem with it being too small. We likely could fit in all 7 of our alpacas.

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