Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sand Colic

Before we even got our alpacas, we had visited a farm that warned us about sand colic. This is familiar to horse farmers. What happens is that the animal (usually a horse) will ingest too much sand and it will muck up their intestines causing colic (sore belly). Horses have died from this. A farm we visited reported that they had an alpaca die from it also. They were really mad at themselves for letting it happen, because they own horses and knew all about it. They just didn't realize it could happen to an alpaca. We live in very sandy soil (as you can see from my farm pictures, we have so much sand we can't get good grass to grow). Every time I see the alpacas try and eat grain that has spilled on the ground I worry about sand colic. We have our scroungers, who go around after gain time and pick up every morsel (notably Victoria and Spot). They must get some sand when they try and pick up that piece of grain off the ground.

We were told that using Sand Clear, like they do on horses, is a great preventative. Sand Clear is sold in most farm stores (tractor supply and such). It comes in a tub:

Inside it looks like pellet grain:

We used it a few times. It was early on in our farm career, I don't remember specifically if the animals ate it well or not. I also don't remember the dosage that we used (like with all things, for alpacas it isn't on the label, everything is off label). What I do remember is that it is supposed to be given for 7 consecutive days, every month. So that means one week a month you are giving this sand clear. It can get really expensive if used this way. Also, it isn't tested on pregnant animals, on the tub it suggests not using it on any pregnant animal. Well, then what do I do for the pregnant ones?

I have also read about using Metamucil, which has the same main ingredient, psyllium husk. Essentially it is fiber that goes through the digestive tract, collecting the sand to pull it out the other end (I know, gross). We had some (generic version) on hand so I tried this method last year.

In the future I would not buy the orange flavor kind, because I think the scent is unfamiliar to the alpacas. They sniff it quite a bit and walk away a few times before they will eat their grain with it. I believe there is an "original" one that isn't flavored and that would be better, I think. I'm also a little leery of the sugar free, because that means it has aspartame (it's listed on the label). That is something I avoided when I was pregnant, so I'm not thrilled to give that to my pregnant alpacas. But in this very small amount, I'm sure it's safe. But I do think there is a version without it, which I'd prefer to use.

Dosage (that I've read) is 1 table spoon per alpaca (this is all off label, as is just about everything with alpacas). I tried putting it on their grain dry, but that did not go over at all. The alpacas wouldn't touch their grain. And the dry powder Metamucil blew all over the place, creating a mess of sorts. So I decided to mix it with water. I mix equal water and Metamucil (here I had 7 table spoons of Metamucil mixed with 7 table spoons of water, for 7 alpacas):

Then I crumble that into the grain bowls (the mixture works to about a heaping tbs per bowl per alpaca):

Sometimes they don't eat much of it. In those cases, I gather up the bowls, and pass it out again the same for their next grain meal. Eventually they eat it. I think ours have finally gotten used to it, because when I put it out this past weekend, they ate their grain just fine. They did sniff and walk around a bit before eating, but they did eat all their grain in the end.

The nice thing about this method is that you can use it as often as you want. If you have really sandy soil, you could do this once a week. If you have hardly any sand, maybe once a month, or twice a season. Whatever works for your farm. Personally I don't use it during the winter when there is snow cover. They don't get into the sand then anyway. This was our first spring dose. Last year I did it about once a month, though given how sandy it is here, I may do it more this year. I'm planning to do it once a week and see how that works.

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