Nunoa Project’s Peruvian Work

Nunoa Project    
Photo: Courtesy of Nunoa Project 
Photo Caption: Student volunteers Laura Pepin, Brittany Lister, and Vanessa Silvia evaluate a breeding male with Dr. Purdy. 

Nunoa Project Veterinary Goals in Peru:
~ Veterinary assistance to farmers to improve production through herd evaluations and education
~ Expose students and veterinarians to the challenges and rewards of working in international agriculture
~ Make a positive difference in the lives of Peruvian farm families and veterinary students and veterinarians

Nunoa Project History in Peru:
~ 11 years of twice annual veterinary team visits
~ Three, 3 month veterinary team placements in the Andes
~ Veterinary teams work directly with alpaca and llama farmers solving problems presented to us
~ Management and reproduction advice and training seminars
~ Approximately 100 student and veterinarian volunteers from the US, Peru, Argentina, Canada, New Zealand, the
UK, and Germany have participated and been trained.

Our most recent trip:
In July of 2017 I traveled with a nine member group of pre-veterinary and veterinary students and a Peruvian veterinarian to remote areas of Peru. The mission was to evaluate herds of local llama and alpaca farmers and identify changes that would improve their production. The people of the altiplano rely on camelids to survive and even small improvements in the health and fertility of their herds have the potential to be a huge benefit to these rural families.

Llama Work in Huacahuasi, Department of Cusco
The July 2017 trip included work with 10 llama farmers in Huacahuasi, about 3 hours’ drive into the mountains from Urubamba, near Cusco. The scenery there is beautiful and the community is along the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu so on occasion the team saw groups of tourists with pack horses and mules carrying their gear.

The team was working with the Llama Pack Project from Urubamba to make initial veterinary contacts with farmers located along the Inca Trail. The overall goal of their project is to assist the farm families to increase their income by using their llamas for packing with a secondary goal of generating income by providing meals to travelers and/or selling their beautiful hand woven crafts and clothing. Packing was the traditional use for llamas in the Andes but they have been replaced over time by packing companies using equines. Equines have been very destructive to the trails used by the local people for travel and have also contaminated the land and water with feces and urine as they work. The environmental impact of llamas is much less due to their more discrete defecation and urination habits.

The llama herd evaluations included looking at animal stature and body condition in regard to suitability for packing and overall nutritional status. In addition, ultrasound pregnancy exams were performed on llamas and alpacas to assess the efficacy of the breeding management plans of individual farmers; overall fertility results were good.

Nunoa Project will continue to work with the Llama Pack Project to get more families to join this project, with 5 new families added during the July 2017 visit. The farmers overall were very interested in getting their llamas into productive work. Some farmers were a bit shy about working with the team but this is common in the Andes and these were all new herds. We will be visiting additional farmers in another community later this month.

Alpaca Work in Pucara, Lampa & Picotani, Department of Puno
The Nunoa Project has been working for three years with farmers in the Pucara/Lampa area and this year added a new location, Picotani, located further north and east in the Department of Puno. In Picotani we partnered with the US nonprofit, Quechua Benefit, which has many humanitarian projects in Peru.

The eight Pucara and Lampa herds which were evaluated varied in animal quality and nutritional and reproductive status as in past years. Most were very good but some could use better nutrition. This is difficult in July because it is cold and dry with poor pasture until rainy season starts in November. At one location in Pucara, Mario Idme and his wife Bonita Gomez had the highest pregnancy rate I have ever seen in Peru (or the US for that matter) in their small herd at 96%. The farmers continue to improve their herds and they are increasingly aware of changes they can make to improve production as a result of our work.

Pucara and Lampa Summary:
1. Body condition scores of animals were low in some locations and it was suggested that animals get more access to pasture and water.
2. Pregnancy rates were what is normally seen for most farmers in the altiplano at 70 to 80%. One farmer achieved a 96% rate with an uncomplicated breeding management program. He will teach this program to other farmers in the area.
3. Three farmers were interested in having Nunoa Project help them to select new breeding males in December 2017 during the next work trip. It is planned for this December.
4. Enterotoxemia was not a major concern in the area in the earlier 2017 birthing season.
5. Further training on reproduction record keeping to identify fertility of females and males would be useful for
farmers who wish to employ it.
6. Cria mortality rates were normal for the altiplano, usually at approximately 10%.
7. Training on breeding behavior of breeding males and females might be of use to some farmers.
8. Most farmers are very enthusiastic about continuing to work to improve their herds.

The alpaca work in Picotani was Nunoa Project’s first visit to the area. Over three days we visited three different parts of the region: Toma, Cambria, and Picotani proper. The team worked with 7 alpaca herds total. The people in this area have had no veterinary assistance for at least 8 years. The most common problems included lack of sufficient water and pasture resulting in poor body condition, and low pregnancy rate in one herd. The last herd we evaluated was doing very well, with top quality fiber animals in good condition. The herd of vicuna which Picotani has stewardship over numbers at approximately 10,000 animals. You can see their small groups as you drive along the road to visit the farmers’ alpaca herds.

The people in Picotani are very anxious to have help with alpaca herd improvement and there is quite a lot which can be done for them. Our team could have worked with other farmers had the time not been limited and we are certainly are interested in going back there in the future if asked. As in other areas of the altiplano the basis for Nunoa Project’s work is animal evaluation, problem solving, and education. We also learn from the Peruvian farmers on every visit.

Picotani Summary:
1. Low body condition scores were common in multiple herds. This is indicative of a nutritional (pasture and/or water) or genetic problem.
2. The area has a water problem which needs to be addressed. Options to consider would be drilling wells and/or using some type of water reservoirs to collect rain water.
3. Farmers want their herds evaluated- several were turned down due to time and distance constraints.
4. Training is needed in these areas: (1) body condition score evaluation, (2) breeding management, including
evaluation of breeding males; and (3) adult and cria health and alpaca diseases- all farmers could receive a
Nunoa Project disease picture book for reference.
5. Enterotoxemia vaccination could reduce or eliminate cria mortality on farms where there is a problem. The
farmers need a training program for this and consistent guidance from outside experts to get it started and
keep it going correctly.
6. Nunoa Project personnel are experienced working in the altiplano and can continue to evaluate herds, identify
problems of individual breeders, and work to solve those problems.
7. Nunoa Project can also provide the needed training with seminars, hands on demonstrations, and written
materials. The training and animal evaluations should eventually be turned over to local community technicians.

Review of the Peruvian Work
We are very enthusiastic about the positive changes we have made, the new farmers we have met and what we can do in the future. I am always saddened when the Nunoa Project volunteers go their separate ways but also feel that I have made another set of lifelong friends who have experienced the challenges and rewards of working in the Peruvian altiplano. Many thanks to the veterinary and pre-veterinary students who participated on this and previous trips and to my Peruvian veterinary colleague, Gerardo Diaz, whose input is critical to the success of the Nunoa Project’s work. It is a pleasure to be able to work with these volunteers and the Peruvian people.
During the November-December trip in 2 weeks we will again work with llama farmers in the Sacred Valley and also alpaca farmers in Pucara and Lampa. We will also be working with some new alpaca farming communities about an hour to the north. We will hold a breeding male selection training workshop for several Pucara and Lampa farmers. This was requested by them and is a direct result of our emphasis on improving production in their herds. Three farmers have stepped up as obvious leaders in the communities and will be helping other farmers in the future. Our work is paying off.

Learn more about Nunoa Project here.