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Animal Health Initiatives
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Animal Health Initiatives

A specific objective of The Theriogenology Foundation is to increase awareness of animal
reproductive diseases at domestic and international levels. Providing veterinary knowledge
and leadership for disease prevention and control is of global importance and benefits
the socio-economic health of the worlds population. We will continue to collaborate with public
health and animal health experts to address food security, animal health and productivity
and leverage funds toward this objective. 



ALPACAS AND LLAMAS - 10 things you should know

Dr. Stephen R. Purdy

1.       Alpacas and llamas are raised in South America for their wool, meat and hides.  They typically are bred yearly starting at 2 for females and 3 for males.  Wool is the primary cash product. The wild relatives of alpacas and llamas, vicunas and guanacos respectively, are protected by the government in South America and strong efforts are underway to preserve them.

2.       In other countries such as the US, Australia, and Canada the primary use for alpacas is for breeding and show animals.  Wool is a secondary product with very little meat production at this time.  Llamas are used primarily as guard and pet animals outside of South America.

3.       It is critical that reproduction be efficient to ensure the highest rate of offspring production.  This results in the greatest amount of wool production and also allows more low producing animals to be sold for meat where the local economy relies on both.

4.       At times show considerations have outweighed emphasizing reproductive effectiveness for both males and females.  It is critical to the long term strength of these species that owners breed for this important characteristic.

5.       Relatively little reproduction research has been conducted with the camelid species anywhere.  There is important work to be done investigating both male and female fertility issues.  Proper breeding management results in 90%+ birthing rates in alpacas and llamas.  This is in contrast to the 30 to 50% rates found in most impoverished rural economies.

6.       As with other species it is critical to focus on selection for high fertility and to identify and select against breeding animals with low fertility.  This is not currently being done on a widespread basis in many parts of South America due to the lack of animal identification and production records.
7.       This is due to illiteracy issues, lack of money for adequate fencing and identification tags, and the extremely difficult daily life of the farmers in those areas.
8.       Males are also often pastured with too many females resulting in low birthing rates.    A high degree of inbreeding due to lack of money to purchase new genetic lines also adversely affects fertility and wool and meat production.

9.       Research is ongoing in assisted reproductive techniques such as embryo transfer and artificial insemination.  AI has low success rates in camelids due to unreliable methods of collection and high variability in ejaculates among males and in the same male.
10.   These techniques may prove valuable in the future but at the present time they are too labor intensive and cost ineffective to be useful to farmers in poor countries where reproductive success is critical to farmers’ livelihoods.
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