Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Silent Killer

As a follow up to the last post of the same title please visit the bovine tb blog posting and read the interesting comments particularly those of the vet.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Badgerproof Fencing

Rob has given us permission to post this for those who do not get the BAS magazine.

Badger-Proof Fencing
By Rob Rawlins at Wellground Alpaca Stud in Wiltshire.

It was the British Alpaca Society that provided me with the inspiration for this latest farm improvement project. Like most alpaca breeders, there are a lot of improvements that I wanted to do on our alpaca farm. However, having attended the first of the BAS TB Awareness meetings held at Bristol in January 2010, only one project was really needed on our farm. Having listened to an excellent presentation, I was determined to do everything I could to prevent our alpacas from contracting bovine tuberculosis.

We had already decided to operate our alpaca farm as a ‘closed herd’ in the foreseeable future, a decision that has proved to be very fruitful as awareness of bTB was rising in the industry. We had decided not to show our alpacas at halter shows in 2010, and not to travel our herdsires for mobile matings. All these decisions would help prevent the herd contracting bTB from alpaca to alpaca contact. We have a strict biosecurity regime in place involving disinfectant matting, footwear baths and visitor precautions.

However, we needed to ensure that we did not infect the herd from the wildlife vector. This is a far more complicated task. On my return from the BAS awareness meeting, I started to research badger-proof fencing for our farm. There appeared to be two solutions, firstly electric fencing. This needed to be specialised for the purpose, although this could be installed on our farm, the layout would make such a system high maintenance due to our hedgerows causing short-circuit issues close to the ground during the hedge growing season. The electric fencing solution would work for some breeders, but we wanted something more permanent, something low maintenance and long lasting. We decided to install permanent specifically manufactured badger-proof netting.

I know that some people think that installing badger proof fencing is over the top. I know some people thought it was a reaction of panic to a situation that didn’t call for such radical action. Not so actually, we were probably sitting on a time bomb of bTB. We have local badger setts. The badgers were coming onto our land and walking amongst our alpacas every night. They would use our paddocks as latrines and would dig up areas each night looking for worms under the alpaca dung piles. But this was nothing new, they had been doing this every night for the last 10 years we have been breeding alpacas on our land. Our local badgers were clean of bTB, they had to be or surely we would have contracted the disease long ago.

The issue that made us realise our worrying position, was finding out that less than 10 miles away a cattle herd had gone down with bTB, contracted from a local badger sett. Bovine TB was getting closer to home in the wildlife vector and was starting to be a direct threat to our alpacas. It was time for some serious action.

We employed the services of an expert in this field, Antony Griffiths of AJG Fencing Contractors. Not only is Antony a fencing expert, his parents own Toad Hall Alpacas in Worcestershire. He had a sympathetic understanding of our position and how the threat should be approached in relation to alpacas. Antony is a great believer in quality fencing products. In his opinion only Tornado’s specific badger-proof fencing would be good enough to do the job properly. Tornado fencing is made in the UK; it is made of high tensile steel and very good quality. That’s what we decided to use. To complement this quality fencing material, we needed to address the access for wildlife at gateways to our land. New meshed galvanised gates were purchased and fitted above concrete thresholds. At more inaccessible points around our land rather than concreting, railway sleepers were dug under the gateways to prevent badgers from entering under the gates.

The fencing process involved using a mini-digger to dig a trench around our entire perimeter. The old post and rail fencing was removed and the new fencing was erected with the badger-proof netting travelling down into the trench. To get the most effective use if this netting, the wire needed to travel down 450mm below ground level and then turn out away from the land being protected for at least 200mm. Having installed the fencing this way, it left a finished fence height of 4ft. The trench was back filled covering the netting underground, leaving a tidy finished appearance. That was not good enough for us or Antony though. We are very aware that badgers are capable of climbing fencing. To finish the job effectively, on the outside of the fence at the top Antony fitted an electrified single run of wire, connected to a mains operated Electric Shepherd energiser. On the inside at the top of the fence was another non-electrified single run of wire to protect the alpacas from getting shocked by the outer wire.

We thought that our new fencing would be a secure solution. However we did not allow for the tenacity of the badger. Never underestimate the single minded approach they have of maintaining control of their patch. It took the badgers one night to get in to our land. Just one night!. The only weak spot in the fencing was at one of the stud paddock field shelters. Due to the layout of that part of the paddock, fencing behind the shelter was impossible. Antony had to fence up to each side of the shelter, rather than behind it. That night the badgers burrowed under the shelter and into our land. Although annoying, this was simply remedied by manually finishing the back of this shelter with badger-proof netting. This has now resulted in our farm being a badger free zone.

However, it’s not just badgers that are now kept out. Foxes also cannot enter our land. Twice during this last winter, we had dogs enter our land and one actually bit one of our herdsires, the other attacked one of our bantams. No dogs can gain access to our land any longer. In fact even rabbits cannot get in through the tiny holes in the netting. About three days after the installation process, we found a young rabbit had been fenced inside our land. He tried for days to get out of our fencing and back to his warren but he couldn’t get out.

Badger-proof fencing is not a cheap solution, we are fortunate that our land is not too large, it made the project achievable for us. The feeling of reassurance it gives cannot be measured. I know we cannot prevent avian TB or rodent TB entering our land. But we have been able to prevent the wildlife that can carry Bovine TB from entering our property. For us it was quite simply a no brainer.

Any alpaca breeders interested in this solution for eradicating badgers from their land are very welcome to visit our farm and see how this project has been completed. Contact Rob or Les at Wellground Alpaca Stud on 01380 830431.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

TB Update in BAS mag

You may not all receive the BAS magazine so here is the article that Dianne Summers had published.

TB Update – A growing problem

Prior to Jan 1st 2008 there were only 3 reported cases of TB in camelids in the British Isles and one in the Republic of Ireland.

When I myself came down to Tb in my herd in Sept 08 there was virtually no information available anywhere on the subject of Tb in camelids.

In June 09 at a meeting organized by Bas – I met 5 other Bas members
Also under restriction to tB. It was at this point I formed the tb Support Group. So in June last year the tb Support group consisted of just 6 people – one year later it now has 28. 18 of which are currently under restriction and 10 been through testing and now clear.

The support group gathers data on loses - skin test results – blood tests results – side effects – watch group etc and this data has helped others make decisions in how they manage their herds and deal with tb but also the data has made members aware of the situation and how serious it is.

I am pleased that my name and the TB Support Group is now added onto the AH/DEFRA letter of consent to test. The letter of consent is the document given to new herds that have the misfortune to come down to TB. A document they must sign when they agree to test. I am thankful to AH/DEFRA for this and proves not only that we are working together but also they recognize the TB Support Group as invaluable help for fellow camelid sufferers. The Support group has a direct line of communication with DEFRA/AH HQ and any problems that arise can be dealt with swiftly and this is a line of communication we appreciate.

Ricardo de La Rua-Domenech of the bovine tuberculosis programme from DEFRA kindly informed me that as of the end of May 2010 there are approx 30 alpaca herds currently under restriction and that we have had 8 new breakdowns so far in 2010. 3 of the 8 new breakdowns in 2010 have be linked epidemiology through alpaca movements or purchase.

THE Following DATA IS FROM 18 HERDS THAT ARE currently under restriction and IN CONTACT WITH THE TB SUPPORT GROUP. I have no data on the other 12 currently under restriction.

Up to Dec 31st 2009 those in contact with the TB support group lost 144 alpacas/llamas confirmed TB. This works out roughly 12 a month. From that 144 we had 12 skin test positives 7 of which were from one herd.

In the first 4 months of 2010 from 1st Jan - 30th April 2010 members in contact with the TB support group have lost:

94 alpacas.
9 of which were skin test positives
48 were Rapid/Gamma blood test positives All of which passed the skin test.
37 sudden death or euthanized due to clinical signs

94 losses in 4 months = 23.5 per month so double the quarterly ratio of last year.

Again this is only from data provided from herds in contact with the TB support group.

We all know the skin test isn't removing infected animals from the herds with the exception of a low number of skin test positives but the blood tests are. This is why the gamma interferon validation project on Tb free areas is vital and we have now reached our target of 300 required and we have a lot to thank BAS Mike Birch for his constant hard work and the herds who have kindly offered up their alpacas for testing - the alpaca industry have an awful lot to thank you both for. Once/If validated we may be on our way to a reliable ante mortem test but this of course depends on the findings from the trials. Lets all keep our fingers crossed. It is working well on herds with breakdowns but it needs to work well on those not in a breakdown. We all know specificity v sensitivity and the importance of both.

From Nov 2009 - March 31st the Gamma Interferon blood test has been used on 4 herds in the TB Support Group and has picked up 50 TB infected alpacas from 155 alpacas tested in just 4 months on 4 herds. All these passed the skin test.

3 other herds in the TB support group have had both the rapid and gamma blood tests done on their entire herds in May so their data and results are not included in this update. However the Gamma is picking up far more infected alpacas than the rapid.

We all have to thank the kind members of the TB Support Group who have submitted their data to me. Thanks to them we have this data and thanks to them this data has driven the gamma validation project along.

We need to be able to come out of restriction and trade with confidence – we cannot do that on the skin test alone – the data in this letter proves that.

We all need to be responsible – we all need to do our homework. We all need to take this issue seriously.
The new bAs Code of conduct and bio security guidelines and self declaration forms need to be used. They are there to protect you.
All are available on the bAs website.

Lastly if you are not in the Tb Support group then please contact us – we need to work together. Don’t go through it alone. The Support group not only provides emotional support but valuable information which you will need. We also need your data.

To keep up to date with the current Tb Situation I highly recommend you regularly look on the following blogs.
www.tbinalpacas.blogspot.com and www.bovinetb.blogspot.com

Dianne Summers Camelid TB Support Group summersdianne@yahoo.com 01209 822422

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Silent Killer

We have been sent 2 videos by one of the members of the Camelid TB Support Group. We have permission to use them.

To view the videos you should go to the bovine tb blog

Here is what the owner would like to say.

The purpose of this video is not to break your heart (and it will) but to show you how perfectly healthy an alpaca can look and yet be riddled with TB having PASSED a skin test.

The first clip was taken an hour before he was put down. He was in his pen - alone waiting to be culled. He wasn't showing ANY signs of ANY illness let alone TB. He had PASSED the skin test TWICE but FAILED the blood test. No outward signs at all.

This wee alpaca was culled one hour after the footage was taken.

This wee alpaca had TB lesions throughout his entire organs.

Sadly those of us that are in the TB Support group - who have culled reactors to the blood tests - this is sadly an all too familiar sight but for others - it should open your eyes to the silent killer known as TB.

I hope you may now all see why I continually state that you cannot rely on the skin test alone to detect TB infected alpacas and the reason why we cannot trade with any confidence if we come out of restriction having only used the skin test and supports both my advice and that of BVCS vet Gina Bromage to not consider selling - showing - moving alpacas around for a minimum of one year maybe 2 - maybe longer - on the back of a negative skin test.

I get phone calls constantly from owners and potential owners of alpacas stating that they have been told that a negative skin test is a guarantee that the alpaca or llama is TB free. I wish that was the case. As the video clip clearly shows - it isn't.

Does this alpaca look to you as if he is dying or is ill? Does he look like he has TB. You decide.

Remember when you read my updates on numbers culled because of blood tests - all blood test reactors have PASSED the skin test. Again this supports the importance of the blood tests and the current research into the gamma interferon validation project and the hope of a reliable ante-mortem test.

I thank the kind member of the TB Support Group who sent me these clips. The reason is simple - it is to educate others.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Minimising Disease Transmission During Shearing

Helen at Alpaca Power has asked us to pass on this information she has put together which should be considered alongside the infomation from Gina Bromage.

Shearing is not something most of look forward to but is it necessary and we owe it to our alpacas to do it well. Spread of disease should be on every owners mind and this includes between alpacas on the same holding. Below is a list of simple and effective guidelines which can be adopted to prevent the passing on of diseases from outside and within your herd.

Do not be afraid to ask your shearer to provide clean and disinfected equipment.

Before you start

It is strongly recommended that all alpacas due to be shorn are kept indoors overnight in a well ventilated barn/shelter with hay and water, even if there is no chance of them getting wet. Alpacas will eliminate urine and faeces overnight ensuring:

shearing mats stay dry;
there is much less discomfort (and therefore stress) for the alpacas;
much less contamination of fleeces;
minimises risk of spread of disease via urine;
ensures a much more pleasant working environment for all

Agree with the shearer to disinfect all ropes, mats and equipment on arrival. A responsible shearer will have no problem with this. Even better would be to have your own mats and ropes.

Any animals within the herd who are underweight, have active skin lesions or get very stressed or give cause for concern should be isolated and sheared last.

If shearing other herds on your holding then it is important for your biosecurity to shear all your own alpacas first then clean and disinfect all equipment before and after any visiting herds. All waste should be incinerated afterwards.

Each shearing area should have its own supplies; disinfectant, brush, paper towel, bin bags etc.

During shearing

Any spillages (urine, gastric contents, faeces, blood) should be cleaned up with disposable paper towel immediately and put into a bin. Hands should be washed with soap and water before the next animal in handled.

Always wash hands between handling mouths to examine teeth.

After shearing

Pressure wash down concrete and then disinfect or clean and rest grass areas.
Offer to wash your shearer and clean and disinfect his equipment before it goes back into his car.

All areas should be cleaned with detergent first and then disinfected. It is very important to use correct concentrations and contact times in order for the products to work effectively.

Stress busting recommendations for your alpacas

Offer a hay net while they wait.
Let them watch what is happening.
Be organised and have the animal on the ground for the least amount of time.
Don’t leave an animal unattended while it is tied out.
Handle the animals calmly and respectfully and keep noise to a minimum.
Keep animals in their small groups until the last one is shorn and then let them out together.
Cria should always stay within sight of the dam.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Shearing Bio-security

Gina Bromage has asked us to pass on this document regarding bio-security measures during shearing.