Final Work for June 2018 Nunoa Project Veterinary Team in Peru

Nuñoa Project   
By: Stephen R. Purdy, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of Nuñoa Project

Photo Caption: Coordination with Llama Pack Project, Urubamba, Sacred Valley of the Incas

Quishuarani Community

This is a well-developed community, with good road access, electricity, and involvement in the tourism trade along the Inca Trail. It takes about 3 hours to drive there from Urubamba into the mountains on a very windy road with spectacular views and exciting drop offs to the valleys far below. There are good facilities for bunk room lodging and cooking at the community center.

The basis for the work here was to identify llama females for breeding to elite males to increase the average size of herd animals over time, and to improve conformation of llamas for packing use. Nunoa Project visited this community in the past to evaluate other herds and initiate the farmers’ involvement with Llama Pack Project. The team started ear tagging the selected herders’ breeding females to track production which is new for this area. All herds are small, but some families own quite a few castrated males used for transporting potatoes to town and for meat.

Beside the far too common high levels of cria mortality, the most relevant health problem in this valley is infection with liver flukes. All owners report it, are aware of it, and to some extent try to address the issue by treating animals with flukicide medications. Interestingly, they do not manage their pastures in relation to the presence of flukes and avoid the wet areas at higher risk of infection.

Five herds were evaluated over two days.

Herd 1: A high prevalence of small ears. Fairly good body condition score (BCS) and pregnancy rate. High incidence of cria mortality reported, predominantly at 1 to 2 weeks of age.

Herd 2: An aging herd, with a very low BCS, most likely due to low nutritional levels, but the role of fluke infection and subsequent liver disease in this valley is not to be underestimated. It needs to be addressed.

Herd 3: Over a 1 hour trek up into the mountains from the community buildings to get to this remote but very beautiful location. The team arrived in the afternoon, and so the visit was brief. Also the owner not quite convinced of the benefits of the activity. She would not let the team handle the perceived pregnant animals for verification for fear of resulting abortion. This is a common misconception among new farmers we encounter. However, the herd consisted of very good sized animals, in good condition, so it is hoped that the family will get further involved in the project. Also the team noted good herd management. For example, the owner had built quarantine/hospital corrals for housing and treating sick animals. This serves as an example for other farmers to emulate.

Herd 4: Five animals at BCS 1 lowered the mean score of the herd, which otherwise was satisfactory. These five animals are likely affected by chronic liver fluke infections. The owner is aware of the issue, and tries to address it by the use of oral medications. The team discussed pasture management in relation to weather season and the life cycle of flukes. The logical practice would to be graze lowlands in the dry season and higher pasture during the wet season, avoiding wet vegetation which harbors the snails carrying the fluke infection.

Herd 5: Consisted of several castrated males. The herd females had a very low pregnancy rate. The likely explanation for this was the death of the alpha macho, which had been replaced by a young, 3 year old, reportedly of small size. The team explained that there would be a significant delay before the herd would produce crias and suggested, if at all possible, that the owner should borrow or lease a mature male from someone else.

These herds are examples of what our teams encounter in all of the alpaca and llama work we do. The problems are not usually complicated and we usually find that we can help make significant herd improvements with simple management changes. Our efforts are directed at understanding the farmers’ problems, and proposing practical solutions. We find that we need to reinforce these management strategies with repeated contact s and as in our US work, education is key to improvement. We also are providing a real service to the women of Peru specifically as our veterinary teams are primarily made up of females.

This is the face of international veterinary medicine. Young women in Peru are exposed to our team members making a difference in the lives of the Peruvian people. They are international ambassadors and examples of the power of women to enact positive change. More than half of our international teams have been trained in our US programs. The knowledge we have gained in Peru and the US is applicable in both countries. There is no shortage of work to do, or team members to perform it. Our limitations are primarily financial. We have the expertise to make real changes in the lives of these farmers and their families. Please help us to continue to make a difference through a generous, tax deductible contribution to the Nunoa Project.

Learn more about Nunoa Project here.