* Herd pens should be separated three metres apart, if possible, with animals penned by county. If the Show Organiser deems it necessary, animals that have been bTB tested should be penned together and kept separate from those herds that have not been tested.
* There should be no collecting ring; the alpacas should enter and exit the show ring via single one-way circular routes.
* The show ring should be as large as possible to allow for the maximum separation of show animals.
* There should be no fans of any type for reasons of bio security and electrical safety
* Alpacas should only be permitted to leave their designated pens to enter the show ring for judging or exiting the showground. There should be no 'airing of the fleece' in outside areas.
Hard on the heels of this most sensible list, came an alpaca show in the SW, from where this pic was snapped. Pens 3m apart to prevent inter herd contact? No fans?
(see later Contributor Update for more on this)
We have given alpacas a considerable airing on this site, as unfortunately for them, they are particularly susceptible to tuberculosis. They also have the ability to become infectious very quickly, to spread the disease between themselves and the potential to transmit to TB to their owners or other mammals.
Unfortunately, even squeezed down to practically zero, the intradermal skin test is not a good indicator of TB exposure in alpacas, and Defra have recently pulled the financial rug on one promising supplementary blood test. The reason given for this was 'lack of funding'. But the cynical amongst us would point out that the "don't look, won't find" culture thrives in the upper echelons of Defra. Particularly as we understand that the BAS has offered to underwrite the costs of validating blood tests on behalf of their members. In a different pot, and slightly off topic, Defra are sitting on £420 million (yes that is correct - lots of noughts) underspend after over estimating take up on some Environmental schemes, and last week's national media reported the department spent (sorry - no link) £7000 per week (£3.5 million in the year) moving furniture around its many departments.
We do not overestimate the importance of clearing reservoirs of TB - wherever they may be. That is the ethos of the site. So to see irresponsibility on the part of some camelid owners is - disappointing. Particularly as from a very small section of owners who have banded together to form a TB support group, come the news of 144 confirmed alpaca deaths from TB during 2009. The group now report a doubling of TB incidence to 68 in the first three months of 2010.
We look forward to seeing these figures accurately reflected on Defra's 'Other species' TB stats, in due course.
This picture is of an alpaca trachea, heavily infected with open TB lesions right up to his throat. He had passed a couple of skin tests.
When questioned about infectivity of this animal: "would he have been infectious when he coughed or spat?" .....
... veterinary advice was that he was "grossly infectious" with every breath he exhaled.
And with no outward symptoms of disease, and having passed skin tests, this animal could have been amongst those in the pens, pictured above.
Right next to other groups - no 3m gap - and with his exhaled air having the benefit of electronic spread.
There are times when words really do fail us.
We have had contact from several alpaca owners who attended the SW show. These are some of their comments on the biosecurity arrangements in evidence.
One breeder was 'interested to see how the new organiser would implement the BAS biosecurity guidelines', and being a BAS supported show, had expected to see efforts made to protect alpacas from disease.
What a disgrace. Just about every guideline was breached.
* There was nowhere near 3m between pens.
* Most pens had fans running, some as many as 3 fans per pen.
* There was a holding area, and alpacas were nose to nose.
* People were walking their alpacas around airing them outside...
* and allowing them to kiss noses with other alpacas.
This comment noted that there was 'a disinfectant pad to walk over'. That was the only measure he could see. And this breeder concluded that it would be unwise to bring his animals to a show.
A second breeder was equally unimpressed, commenting that on his arrival:
* We saw people walking their alpacas outside.The comment continued on the use of fans:
* We could have walked in without being challenged..
* and there were no disinfectant footbaths or pads at the front of the building.
* There was nobody to ensure that animals were walked over pads either on their way to the show ring.
*Animals were kept separated by one pen in the showhalls but this would be ineffective as they were in close proximity to each other in other areas..
We were shocked at just how many fans there were. We counted at least 11 before we gave up and there were only 23 breeders in attendance; we have made a note of exactly who was using fans.
This writer of this communication questioned whether the organisers of this show had received the BAS Guidelines. And he ended with the comment on this apparent lack of biosecurity awareness:
This is particularly horrifying as it was the South West Show and we all are now aware that this is the area of the country at greatest risk from TB"