Education and Support for Farmers, Students and Veterinarians in the US and Peru

Nuñoa Project 
By: Dr. Steve Purdy
Photo: Courtesy of Nuñoa Project  

Our 2017 and 2018 llama work included visits to work with 30 llama farmers about 3 hours’ drive into the mountains from Urubamba in the Department of Cusco. We are working with Llama Pack Project (www.llamapackproject.com) from Urubamba to make initial veterinary contacts with llama farmers along the Inca Trail. The overall goal of the llama project is to assist the farm families there to increase their family income by using their llamas for packing.
The herd evaluations we perform included assessing animal stature and body condition score (BCS) for suitability for packing and overall nutritional status. Approximately 25% of animals are males with good enough body condition and size to be used as pack animals now. Most herds do not have enough food and/or water exposure for the animals they have based on low BCS. This is particularly evident during the dry season in June each year. The farmers receive training on this, so they can perform their own BCS evaluations and react accordingly.

In addition, we perform ultrasound pregnancy exams on females in the herds to assess fertility of both breeding males and females and the efficacy of the breeding management plans of individual farmers. Overall the fertility of the llama herds we see is good (70 to 80% pregnancy rate). Some herds have low pregnancy rates which usually are related to the males they are using or breeding management strategies which can be improved. We also evaluate breeding males for farmers. The incidence of infectious diseases in llamas is low based on comments of the farmers. Problems of significance in some herds include diarrhea in crias, liver flukes, and lice. Farmers have started tagging breeding females for use with superior males following the system we established with alpaca farmers further south. This allows them to evaluate and improve production.

Our 2017 and 2018 alpaca work involved a return to Pucara and Lampa in the Department of Puno in the southern Andes for four trips after starting our work there in December 2014. There are five communities with which we work on each trip, and we also attempt to see new farmers each time. Overall we have worked with 60 different farmers including new ones in Picotani in July 2017. We also returned to work with farmers in Nunoa in June 2018 where our project started. We perform the same type of herd evaluations as we do for llamas. Some of the farmers with whom we work have been borrowing Nunoa Project’s superior males to improve their herds. Use of superior males and limiting the number of females they are exposed to have resulted in increased pregnancy rates and genetic improvements. We provide training in breeding male selection and evaluation of nutritional status through body condition scoring during each herd evaluation. We work with the farmers to address any production problems they may have. These include malnutrition, infectious diseases, poor fertility in males and females, abortion, and cria and adult deaths. Our goal is to identify potential causative factors and offer possible solutions. As always, we share information with the farmers and without fail also learn new things from them on each trip.

Slow but steady progress continues with the farmers with whom we work. Farmers are very enthusiastic about continuing to work with us to improve their herds. We visited additional alpaca and llama farmers in June 2018 in response to requests for herd evaluations and farmer educational programs.

Learn more about Nuñoa Project here.