BVCS Annual Owners Conference 2012

The British Veterinary Camelid Society held its annual conference in Newbury over the last weekend of October and as a very useful add-on incorporated a whole day’s talks and presentations for the camelid owner.

Vets Jane Vaughan, Claire Whitehead and Karin Mueller presented seven illustrated and hugely informative talks to an audience of 40 British alpaca and llama owners.

Jane Vaughan performs commercial embryo collection and transfer in alpacas throughout Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. and had flown in especially for the conference. She took the audience through the reproductive physiology of the camelid, and outlined issues surrounding ‘difficult breeders’. Hearing an expert talk on these matters is so enlightening. I had wondered why two of my original five breeding programme females had never become pregnant, and I now conclude the timings of supervised matings were wrong.

Similarly, paddock matings may sound like they are the ‘natural’ and easy approach to breeding camelids, but when males and females are in the same paddock continuously, male libido may decline within a week.

An especially fascinating talk was that on the subject of artificial breeding of camelids. Tremendous work has been done in this field and anything that lessens the chances of spread of disease – the phrase ‘drive-by matings’ springs to mind – by the use of artificial insemination will be a good thing.

The current President of the BVCS, Claire Whitehead established the first referral service catering specifically for camelids alongside other farm animals in the UK at the Royal Veterinary College. Claire gave two presentations – all the camelid owners in the audience were breeders – and her talk on the care of the cria was immensely helpful.

Cambridge-based Karin Mueller works as a consultant in camelid medicine. Karin presented on a matter that will be of interest to a growing number of BLS members – the care of the aging llama. Start to prepare for the aging llama from around the age of 12 – 15 years old. Monitor body condition monthly, check teeth and be aware the older llama will absorb nutrients less well, so be prepared to offer some protein-rich feed.

Claire left us all feeling itchy and had 40 camelid owners gently scratching as she showed a series of images of skin conditions – mange, mites, lice and other lovelies. She demonstrated that often with careful treatment, and by not cutting corners, thorough treatment can really pay dividends with the llama suffering from mites.

It was enlightening that 39 of 40 breeders (I was the one, now remedied) had already supplemented their camelids with Vitamin D this autumn as it has been such a wet and dull summer. Cria can easily be treated with an oral paste, but in this wettest of years, many breeders are supplementing their entire herd.

It is hoped that the 1
st annual BVCS Owners’ Conference will be the first of many and that it will become an annual event.

A fuller report will appear in the next issue of Llama Link, the magazine exclusively for members of the British Llama Society.

Robert Dewer
Golden Valley Llamas
(Member No. 890)

With thanks to Axel Bührmann, orazal, lucianvenutian, Veronique Debord, quinn.anya for creative commons use of pictures