Wednesday, December 09, 2009

One man's story .....

Today, we share the diary of one small alpaca herd, hit by bTB earlier this year.

The owner will remain anonymous - for the time being - but his location is within a midlands bTB hotspot, where over half (55 per cent) of badgers captured during BROs in the decade prior to 1997, proved positive for bTB.

The property has massive badger activity and was once home to over 50 alpacas. The herd (punta) comprised mainly females and 10 males with nothing purchased in for over a year, but animals sold. bTB was confirmed in September this year, but three months prior to this the owner had treated a male with Orchiditis. This animal failed to respond to treatment, and died. The carcass was collected by the local hunt. No samples were taken. (This male is not included in figures of losses from the herd)

September 2009
During routine husbandry, a female was found to be underweight. Veterinary advice was sought, and this female and another were treated with antibiotics, and had blood screens for various other disease - all of which proved negative. One female died and a PM carried was out on farm. The vet recognised TB lesions and took the carcass to VLA Luddington for further investigation.
TB confirmed on PM. This female had a 5 week old cria.

The herd was put under official TB restriction by AH and the owner informed the British Alpaca society (BAS) of confirmed bTB.

October 2009
The cria from the first female loss is now 7 weeks old and very ill. She had died by the time the vet arrived to euthanize: vet euthanized another female, which was showing slight weight loss but was frothing at the mouth. Postmortems showed lung and liver abscesses respectively. The adult female suffered a ruptured lung abscess. Samples sent for culture.
Oct 5th 2009. First skin test on herd.
Oct 7th 2009 One female aborted.
Oct 8th 2009 Skin test results read: one positive Female. All other animals clear.
Although showing no symptoms, the skin test positive female was culled and was positive on postmortem. She has a 4 month old male cria.

October 14th. Vet called to examine two females which were negative on the skin test reading the previous week. This AHO told the owner that in her opinion these two alpaca were reactors as there is a swelling on the bovine injection site 6 days after the 'official ' 72 hour reading. ( This was not the same AHO who read the skin test on Oct 9th : protocol for alpaca skin tests indicates the reading should be at 'severe interpretation'; i.e a 2mm rise only for camelids.)

Oct 16th 2009
A male alpaca was suddenly taken very ill. He was unable to get up and appeared in pain. He had no weight loss, and at the time of death (euthansed) weighed 92 kg. He was put down by AHO and taken to VLA Luddington.

October 21st.
AHO suggest euthanasia for the two females seen on 14th October, and recommend 'monitoring' the herd, by weighing them on a regular basis and reporting any weight loss to AHO. The owner notices another female is coughing and reports this to AHO.

October 27th. Rapid Stat Pak blood test carried out on four animals. The owner has agreed (verbally) to slaughter if they are positive. No paperwork issued. All the bloods are positive.

November 2009
AHO culled the four blood test positives. All had TB confirmed on postmortem.
As TB has been confirmed in all the animals euthanized by local AHO, the owner is now offered a blood test on his entire herd - or what remains of it..
November 17th /18th 2009. Remaining 44 alpacas blood tested with Rapid Stat Pak and Gamma Interferon IG .

12 females failed both blood tests.(inc one 4 month cria)

14 fell into what the AH Officer called a 'Grey area' - in other words failed one blood test but passed the other.
Owner advised to isolate these animals, and watch for symptoms.

14 Tested negative on both tests

4 animals failed to give a sample suitable for gammaIFN screen..

Nov 25th: All 12 animals which were positive to both tests, plus one other showing symptoms were culled.(2 were taken to VLA Luddington the other 11 were PMd at a slaughter house by vets.) All showed lesions of TB.

LOSSES TO DATE : 22 alpacas. Spoligotype is confirmed as VLA 17, which is the strain of TB indigenous to the area. It is found in badgers and tested, slaughtered reactor cattle. AHO visits to discuss the 14 animals which fell into ‘grey’ areas of the blood tests, and the 4 which had given samples not suitable for screening.
To date, the owner has had no contact from the Health Protection Agencies, to offer screening for human contacts of these animals and is advised by AHO to contact her GP.
November 28th: HPA visit and are arranging for X Rays.

December 2009
AHO suggested they take the 'grey area' animals in pairs, starting with those who are either showing signs of illness, or have failed the Gamma IFN blood test.

They begin with 8 animals who had failed the GammaIFN test. All were positive for Tb on PM.

Losses to date 30 - all confirmed TB.
AHO ask to take the entire herd as owner has now lost over half the animals.

This small herd has 22 alpaca left out of 52 animals.
All but one had passed the intradermal skin test in early October.
A male sold from the farm in July has died and PM has confirmed TB. Despite the owner and BAS providing AH with contacts in October – a trace on this sale had not been followed up.
Dec 6th Owner has agreed to let AH take another 5 animals.

The remaining animals testing negative on both blood tests, will be monitired by AHO at 2, 4 and 6 monthly intervals.
The 4 alpaca which gave samples not capable of screen, will be retested.

Losses to date: 30, with 5 booked to go.
To be continued.


Anonymous said...
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Matthew said...

Comment deleted - spam.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, with the majority of Alpaca owners being more voiciferous than the "average" farmer, somebody up there in Defra will listen to the concerns of everybody that is currently suffering with this dreadful disease. Why wait for a Government change to kick start what inevitably needs to happen - a cull of infected badgers. The Welsh have taken the lead so let's have the Political guts to follow them. Waiting to see what happens in Wales first, before agreeing to an English cull, is a folly and an absolute waste of valuable time. The NFU, CLA, British Alpaca Society et al, all need to lobby the Minister to get things moving quickly. Let's also have Defra & Warwick University release the assay in order to use PCR technology in the fight against TB. The public would surely support a cull of proven infected badgers/badger setts if the technology was available to use ?

Anonymous said... friend in Cornwall, an Alpaca owner who has already lost many of her Alpacas to TB, has taken the bull by the horns and had a private company, owned and run by former Defra wildlife employees, to survey her farm and recommend what needs to be done to minimise the impact of TB and how to reduce badger access to her farm. By all accounts, it was very successful and a service that others may wish to adopt. I don't yet know the Company name, but I am sure that with some enquiries, it could be found and made aware to others in the same situation ? Having had a relative employed in the wildlife Unit, I know that many of them have the skills to be able to usefully & practically advise farmers & alpaca owners on the risks they face and the actions they can take to avoid getting this diseases into their herds. It sounded most useful to me. Some homework on your part may enlighten others as to their name and the services the intent to provide ?

Matthew said...

Welcome to both Anon posters.

To Anon @ 11.42, yes we agree.
40,000 dead cattle in 2008, with a Defra predicted increase of around 20% with no new 'dynamics' to control TB has failed to move them one inch. Despite the cost. So although we are as devastated as the alpaca owners themselves at this progression of the disease, we are not surprised. It was inevitable. And you are quite correct, in that Defra have a thumb screw hold on cattle farmers via a tranche of rules and regulations, which means 'do as you're told' - or face the consequences.
No such cats cradle of legislation ties in alpaca owners, so feel free to shout long and hard.

Anon @ 11.51
The name of this company is Field Services South West.
It was started by Paul Caruana and another ex WLU operative, and offers advice on badger activity on or around farms with TB problems. Tagged on to this (we understand) is advice on basic bio security both for wildlife interface, and between animals within a herd.
Paul offered a stunning critique of the ISG's RBCT (Badger Dispersal Trial) to the Efra committee which we posted in March 2006 :

The web address for this team is:

..... and there should be a contact link there.

Another initiative to assess from where TB 'problems' are coming, involves vets and AHO testing results and we covered that in November 2009, here:

Vets should, by now have had a chance to see Chris Chapmans' film, and be aware of the potential for this grouping.

Matthew said...

We've put a new posting up, with the details of this company, as it may be missed in the 'comment' section.

Dianne Summers said...

This herd in question is in my TB Support Group and the 5 to go - have been culled - all had TB on PM. So losses to date 35 - just 15 left.
Another of my group has lost 11 in 4 weeks and another lost 14 since November this year.
Another lost 23 since September.
My own loss of 8 is nothing in comparison to theirs. Having said that 8 out of 14 is more than half my herd.
Please attend the TB meetings starting on the 14th Feb in Bristol. contact me for further details Camelids TB Support Group