Monday, June 29, 2009

More on camelids

We wrote last year of the problems facing the owners of llamas and alpacas, when they succumb to spillover TB. And this has been reinforced by the owner of a small Cornish herd, who has lost 4 alpacas to TB. Dianne Summers entered the following comment below our September 2008 posting.

Since Sept 2008 I have lost 4 alpacas to TB. Last Friday I put down two of my boys who were coughing and despite having negative skin tests 6 weeks earlier, they were both confirmed with Tb.[at post mortem] I did get the research lab to conduct the 'stat - pak rapid test' on the two animals which were put down and the result was a strong positive.
The skin test is useless [on alpacas].
I am in touch with 7 other Tb affected alpaca owners and gathering data - time lines symptoms etc. Many had it brought into their farms through matings etc.

The problem with tuberculosis and anything other than 'bovines', is that government statute does not cover right of entry, testing or control of the disease in any form whatsoever, without the consent of the owner. Miss. Summers has behaved extremely responsibly in offering her alpacas for testing and volunteering them for slaughter. This is not mandatory, even when traces are done on purchased camelids, who show TB spoligotypes inconsistent with the herd owning them at the time of slaughter. She has also pioneered testing of a new and different blood test, the 'stat-pak rapid test' (about which, we must find more) - to confirm ante mortem TB, when the skin test, which is ineffective on camelids, fails.

Many local AHOs are struggling to control this disease in their sentinel, tested cattle, without having the proverbial door slammed in their face by irresponsible camelid owners, who would rather breed, sell and show their animals, (wouldn't we all?) than face up to the unpalatable fact that they have traded, diseased stock. And in doing so, have spread tuberculosis to other herds in other parts of the country. AHOs are aware of the dangers to human health and to other camelids as a result of the habit which these animals have, of spitting. They also show little or no signs of the disease - but spread it readily through breath saliva and spit. Dianne points out:
This is why the popular and highly attended show circuit and on- farm matings are a potential swamp of disease. Also we [camelid owners] do not have to keep any animal movement records. A colleague took one of his females to an alpaca breeder for mating. She came back, but died 188 days later. The pm showed tuberculosis and samples showed that the spoligotype strain type was NOT his farm but the same as the breeders. This breeder refused to test and threatened him with a law suit. My colleague has now lost 9 of his 13 females to TB.
So, we have a burgeoning industry in selling these delightful animals far and wide, offering on-farm matings, with no records of either health status or movements, no responsibility to trace contacts or source if tuberculosis is found, and the owners' 'right' to refuse entry if tracings are carried out? Marvellous. Absolutely bloody marvellous. And Defra? Our Ministry of (some) Animal's Health?

Unfortunately those tending Defra's London window box have yet to catch up with the potential problems infected camelids could pose, and together with the Alpaca Society, are throwing this one into the long grass - along with any semblance of infected reservoir control.

It is left to responsible farmers like Dianne Summers to try and raise awareness of the possibility of TB within the camelid population, so that other owners and breeders are not faced with the problems which she has had. She ends her comment:

This is a serious issue and we need to be open and communicate with each other. I am also trying to set up a support network for all those affected. Please get in touch and any information will be confidential. Dianne Summers 01209 822422
We are grateful for the opportunity to widen the debate for her.


Anonymous said...

The powers of entry are different in Wales.

Matthew said...

Anon. 11.40
As in ? Does the Welsh Assembly have different statutes from England? Movement records - are they statutory? Could you elaborate on your comment a little please. It may help responsible camelid owners in England turn the heat up a little on Defra.

Interestingly, local vets tell us that camelids are covered by FMD legislation, and Blue tongue zones, being affected by both. But for TB, although these animals are highly susceptible and grossly infectious when they do get it, no statute exisits to trace, track or deal with the disease, other than the honesty and good will of the owner.

Dianne said...

Yes Wales do have powers of entry
on camelid farms.
AHOs in England do not. They didn't even have any right to test my animals but I agreed because I want this disease out of my farm.
I have to be fair and say my own AH Officer has been wonderful and They have dealt with me and my 4 cases with kindness and understanding. Responsible camelid owners are doing the right thing - the irresponsible ones refusing to test are not and they continue selling and matings even after they have refused testing as a direct contact. They even threaten law suits if they even mention their names.