Friday, 30 April 2010

Veterinary Advice to Protect You and Your Herd

Many of you will have heard of Dr Gina Bromage MA, VetMB, DVM, MRCVS through the BAS TB Awareness Meetings. She is highly respected in the camelid industry with over 10 years experience and also the author of ‘Llamas and Alpacas A Guide to Management.'

Gina’s advice in the current situation is:

“ Minimise infection with herd health practices. We can begin immediately.

Mixing of live animals for shows and matings has to stop until we have a reliable ante mortem test."

At no time has Gina said that there is an ‘acceptable’ risk in showing despite being quoted as such in some recent advertising for halter shows.

TB is a zoonotic disease, which means it is transmissible from animals to humans and vice versa. This is why it is a notifiable disease. The cure for humans is lengthy and they can carry and transmit the disease whilst displaying no noticeable symptoms. The main means of humans contracting the disease is inhaling close to the infected patient, and remember just how far they can spit. If you do want to cuddle and stroke your animals you need to be as sure as possible they are Tb free.

If any of your alpacas die they must be Post Mortemed as they may have been displaying no recognisable outward signs of TB even if they have it.

The best way to protect your animals is to manage a ‘closed herd’.

You Have TB in your Herd – WHAT'S NEXT?

Dianne Summers offers help and some practical advice on dealing with TB

As soon as you suffer your first loss to TB, your entire herd is at risk. There are immediate measures you can take to reduce the risk of spread amongst your own herd/neighbouring livestock. Having lost one, there is a strong chance another of this group is infected.


1. Consider the group from which you suffered your first loss as potentially infected.

2. Do not move any of this group out nor move any of your other groups in with this group.

3. Ensure there is no nose-to-nose contact/spitting distance between your other groups/neighbouring livestock. If you cannot move this group to an isolation field you must install perimeter fencing/secondary fencing, including gateways, with at least a 10-foot gap.

4.Foot dips must be used when entering and leaving this field. DEFRA recommends FAM 30 (which kills TB) available from most farming suppliers – not only as a foot dip but for disinfecting stables, equipment,etc.

5.Use separate cleaning equipment for this field – never use it on other fields unless it has been disinfected. If you use a poo hoover, scrub the wheels down before entering other fields. The same applies to any tractors, etc, that have been in this field.

6.Clean water troughs daily. Make sure troughs are a minimum of 3 feet off the ground or in reach of cria.

7.Use as many hay racks a possible to eliminate any fighting/spitting over hay.

8.No hand feeding. You will pass potentially infected saliva from one to the other, let alone yourself.

9.Wear protective clothing and remove it before handling any of your other groups of animals.

10.Wear disposable gloves when handling this group, especially if you are handling the face/mouth area. Remember this is a zoonosis – it can pass to humans, so therefore keep children away and minimise the contact.

11.Try to feed in individual buckets and do not let animals go from bucket to bucket (see photograph). If you cannot do this due to the size of the group, allow plenty of feeding troughs and clean them out after feeding and tip upside down.

12.Monitor your herd daily and often closely. If any of this group or your other groups show any signs/symptoms, REMOVE THEM from this group immediately along with a mate for company, and seek veterinary advice. Do not return this animal to the group until you are certain it does not have TB or it has recovered from the illness. Often they show very subtle signs – get to know your herd. Monitor weight – breathing – feeding habits – lethargy – coughing – stiffness in getting up and kushing down – overall demeanour or any change in their normal behaviour.

13.Notify people if you have sold any of your herd to them or have had matings, etc, with this group as Animal Health/DEFRA may be in contact with them.

14.Animal Health/DEFRA will visit you and ask for all your movement records, so have them ready for your visit. They will discuss the procedures with you. Ask them for a copy of the current policy and procedures and get everything in writing.

15.Also Health Protection Agency (HPA) will contact you to discuss the risks to you and your family/staff and they may arrange X-rays and/or BCG skin tests on those in contact with your herd if they feel it necessary.

16.Your first skin test will be carried out either straightaway or 90 days after your first loss. If TB was evident on post-mortem it is strongly advisable that you request your first skin test is carried out as soon as possible rather than waiting 90 days. It is better to remove reactors as soon as possible. A lot can happen in 90 days.

17.You will need a small pen, approximately 4 feet wide by 5 feet deep or a crush. If you make a crush, ensure there is space for the Animal Health vet to get to the armpit If you can handle your animals, the procedure is not too stressful on your herd and you can simply halter the animal and hold it as you do when you carry out injections. However, if you can’t then you will need a crush, not only for your own safety but for that of your animals. You can ask your vet to sedate any animal you feel will be too difficult but you will have to pay for that. There are many homeopathy treatments that are very useful, eg, AAA/Valerian for stress – useful not only for your herd but for yourself.

18.You must isolate any reactors as it may take up to 10 days before Animal Health can arrange for removal. Those that fall into the 'watch' category must also be isolated. 'Watch' is simply those that have had a reaction but not met the current 2 mm measurement for a positive. You will be offered either euthanasia by injection or captive bolt. This will be carried out on-farm.

19.The animal/s will be removed afterwards and taken to the VLA for post mortem, also paid for by DEFRA.

20.If you do not cull your positives, you will not be allowed to undergo any further testing or receive compensation. You will therefore be under restriction until that animal either dies or you cull.

21.Once you have culled your reactor/s or if you suffer any further losses in your herd, the 90-day process begins all over again – so you have a test 90 days after your loss and then another test 90 days after that, providing no further losses have occurred.

22.You may be offered alternative under-trial blood tests. Consider these carefully before agreeing as you will be required to cull ALL positives. Speak to others in the Tb Support Group who have had blood tests done. The new Gamma Interferon is proving very promising indeed and is successful at helping remove infected alpacas from the herd. The Tb Support Group has data on both blood tests. Once again, get everything in writing

23.If your entire herd tests negative, do not think your herd is in the clear. A negative skin test does not mean your animals do not have TB. Continue to monitor as above.

24.If/when you become clear and restrictions are removed, it is highly recommended that you do not sell/show/move your herd anywhere for a minimum of 12 months because of the inaccuracy of the skin test and the risk of infecting other herds. Continue to use all the previous biosecurity measures throughout the quarantine period.

25.Finally – DO NOT go through this on your own. Contact Dianne Summers who not only has first hand experience of TB in her own herd but also heads the Camelid TB Support Group where fellow TB sufferers are in touch with each other and can share advice, symptoms and opinions and someone is always at the end of the phone 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The support is also emotional support, which you will need. Contact Dianne on 01209 822422 or 07949 511316. All data you provide will be treated as strictly private and confidential and will not even be passed on to the other members of the TB support group unless you are happy for this to be done. Dianne also has a direct line of communication with DEFRA/AH/VLA and can help with any problems you may be experiencing.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

bTB Test Volunteers Needed Urgently

You do not have to be a BAS member to take part in this trial.

bTB Test Volunteers Needed

As you know, we have some areas of the country where bTB is endemic in the wildlife and cattle populations. It is in these areas where the majority of infected alpaca herds reside at present. Those areas are defined by the red 12 month, and yellow 24 month cattle testing areas on the map that you can find here: If you live outside the 12 and 24 month areas, we need your help.

The VLA have developed a new blood test for bTB which has been used on several infected herds already. It shows great promise, and they have proposed that once validated it could become available to be used as a screening test (along side the skin test) to identify bTB infected alpacas. That would mean that we could test alpacas going to a show, or a stud male with reasonable accuracy - something we cannot do at present.

I will give you a representative example. Recently an infected herd had 62 alpacas tested. The skin test found 2 positives. The currently available rapid test found 1 more. The new gamma interferon test found 16 more - all of which had visible lesions on PM. With just the skin test 60 bTB infected alpacas would have tested clear.

To validate the test, the VLA require BLOOD SAMPLES from 300 alpacas from supposed 'clean' herds that live in 36 or 48 month areas. The blood will be taken on farm by a VLA vet, and sent to be tested at the VLA laboratory at Weybridge. As all currently available blood tests will be validated at this point, there is a chance that a false positive could occur. In that event, the alpaca in question would be culled and post mortemed. Unless bTB was cultured (in which case you would surely want to know) your herd would NOT be put under restrictions. This is the same procedure by which the VLA have validated other tests.

Whatever we as owners think about how important alpacas are, in the scheme of things it is remarkable that the VLA are giving us so much of their time and resources. This opportunity won't last for long though, and we are under pressure to let them have details of the alpacas for testing. So far we have had only a handful of volunteers and we need more. Please don't rely on someone else to come forward on your behalf - this is vital and it's probably now or never.

My own herd is in a 48 month area, and we are putting 15 alpacas forward. Please consider doing the same.

Best wishes

Mike Birch
BAS Chairman

Case History 4

Again this is published with the kind permission of Dianne Summers.

Dianne runs a Tb support group for those unfortunate enough to contract it in to their herd. This is a completely confidential group. She also runs a Tb update group for those that want to kept in touch with the latest news. Dianne was awarded the National Felipe Benevides Trophy at the BAS AGM for her work on Tb in Alpacas. This is awarded to people for extraordinary work to benefit welfare of camelids for no financial gain. A link to her Yahoo Alpaca and Llama Welfare Discussion Group is included in the links at the side of this blog.

Dianne has put a video on YouTube of the cough that one of her Tb infected animals had click here

Dianne makes it clear that if you see your animal cough like this it does not mean it definitely has Tb but recommends that you act on it right away. If she had seen this video 12 months previously she would have isolated her animal along with a companion and could possibly have saved more of her alpacas. This cough is different to the usual cough that may occur when they have eaten too quickly or a piece of hay has tickled their throat.

Raphael was actually stressed when this video was being made as Dianne was being taught how to use a stethoscope on him and he got into a bit of a strop, hence the high breathing rate.

This video was sent to the owners of Tb infected herds and those that had coughing as a symptom all confirmed that this was the exact same cough that their animals displayed.

They do not cough continually so if you do not live close to your animals you could quite easily miss it. Raphael and his companions only used to cough like this 3 or 4 times a day.

It is better to err on the side of caution because if it is Tb then they are passing it on to other alpacas they come into contact with, and possibly onto you and your family.

Case History 3


This is a PM film of an alapaca that was given up as a dangerous contact in a herd with a Tb breakdown.

When Dianne had an alpaca develop a cough it was isolated, and then had to make the horrendous decision on which other animal to put with him as a companion. None of us envy that position.

When the animal with the cough did not get better after treatment Dianne made the decision to euthanise and Animal Health allowed the companion to be given up as a dangerous contact. He couldn't be put back with the rest, it is remarkable that this film is of the companion and NOT the alpaca with the cough. These lesions in his throat were highly infectious and he must have been spreading Tb with every breath. He weighed 97kg on PM and was showing no symptoms whatsoever.

If he had not been chosen as a companion he may well have been in the field infecting the rest of the herd and may never have developed symptoms.

This alpaca could have been in the next pen to you at a show or in with your agisted alpacas for mating.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Case History 2

This is a brief history of the devastation caused by BTb in one herd given with the kind permission of the owner.

Sept 17th 2009 Had female euthenized and Post Mortem examination revealed BTb.

Sept 18th - Oct 4th 2009 Lost 2 more females, one a 7 week old cria, both confirmed BTb, even the cria had lesions on its lungs.

Oct 5th 2009 Entire herd of 47 alpacas skin tested for BTb.

Oct 8th 2009 Skin test results showed only one alpaca positive for BTb but showing no clinical signs.

Oct 13th Positive female alpaca culled and confirmed riddled with BTb on PM.

Oct 13th - Nov 18th She lost 5 more animals to BTb yet all had passed the skin test.

Nov 18th DEFRA blood tested remaining herd they used Rapid Stat Pak and Gamma Interferon IG test. Both these tests are under trial.

Nov 24th Results received - 12 of the animals failed BOTH blood tests and were therefore classed as positives.

15 failed only one of the tests and fell into what they class as a grey area.

The remaining alpacas tested negative to both.

Nov 25th All 12 that failed BOTH blood tests were culled on her farm along with one that fell into the grey area but was displaying symptoms of illness. All were removed and PM'd
That same evening DEFRA contacted the owner and confirmed that all 13 were riddled with BTb.


Alpacas can be infected and display no outward symptoms.

This case has shown a 94% false negative result using the skin test, also in this case using BOTH blood tests showed 100% accuracy.

Using the skin test to confirm that alpacas are free from BTb for sales, showing, matings etc could possibly be said to be deceitful, or possibly even malicious, especially in the light of the information that has been made available to all BAS members.

BTb seems to be particularly virulent in alpacas as shown by a 7 week old cria showing lesions on its lungs.

Case History 1



Sorry to start with these shocking images but it is important to see the damage Tb does, as you read on you will see these pictures are of an animal that tested negative to the skin test TWICE. The cheese-like substance is BTb.

This case history has been reproduced with the kind permission of the owner.

The above animal displayed no outward symptoms of Tb, he weighed 83kg on PM, but luckily the owner knew that the skin test is unreliable. She had the animal X-rayed which showed up lesions, this animal was therefore highly infectious so she agreed to it being culled.

This is a common finding - no outward signs but highly infectious. This disease can easily be passed on via shows, on-farm matings etc. and yet to date there is no reliable test.