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Body condition scoring alpacas

September 14, 2021

Body condition scoring is the means we use to assess & describe the body condition of alpacas through the use of a ten-point scale. Variations in alpaca body condition can directly impact the health and reproductive performance of both individual animals and herds.

As sudden losses in condition across herds and in individuals can be an indicator of underlying disease, it’s important to make regular checks, to ensure that your feeding regime is correct and to help anticipate potential problems caused by parasites.

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Body condition scoring takes a bit of practice, and our team will be happy to walk you through the process on our next visit. The scoring process basically involves gauging the level of fat cover over specific areas of the alpaca. It is important to actually touch the animal when you assess the body condition as visual assessment alone is often misleading, especially when animals have a full fleece.

A body condition score is normally based on a scale of 1-10 where a score of 5 indicates the animal is of average condition, which is good. A score of 10 indicates the animal is obese and has had too much to eat while a score of 1 or 2 indicates the animal has suffered a loss of muscle mass that is extremely concerning.

A quick guide to how to body condition score an alpaca

Put the base of the palm of your hand on the animal’s backbone half way between the neck and the tail. In this position, laying your fingers down the animal’s side, you should find your hand straight and at a 45-degree angle to score the animal at a perfect 5.

If the angle of your hand is more than 45 degrees and or the shape of your hand is slightly dished, then score 2-4. If the backbone is really protruding like a dull knife edge score a 1 and call us immediately. If your hand sits at less than a 45-degree angle, and the shape of your hand is slightly bent outwards, you should score 6-10, indicating your animal may be overweight.

You should also check over the last few ribs, which you should be able to feel. If there is a lot of covering over the ribs, the animal is likely to be overweight. If the ribs are very obvious and you can fit your fingers between them then the animal is below the ideal body condition score.

If you’d like a much more detailed method for scoring your alpaca, then this excellent video by Camelid Veterinary Services this video offers a much more detailed explanation. Source: Camelid Veterinary Services

How often should you body condition score your alpaca?

Body Scoring should be done on a regular basis, we recommend at least every month. However more important than the precise timing of your scoring is the fact that you must chart the results to allow you to effectively manage your animal’s health.

Regular weighing is useful but, like recording the body condition, an animal’s weight is not a helpful indication of health unless you have charted weights on a regular basis. The point is that for body condition and weight, trends are more useful than isolated numbers.

Also, it doesn’t really matter what numbers you personally assess for body scoring are, so long as you get used to charting each animal on the same relative basis. You can let us know the results when we next visit, or call us if you’re seeing an unexplained change in the direction of the body condition scores you’re recording.

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