Novel methods for sustainable control of gastrointestinal nematodes in llamas and alpacas in the southeastern United States

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2006: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Grant Recipient: Fort Valley State University
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Thomas Terrill
Fort Valley State University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: camelids


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, parasite control


    The graduate student completed several experiments to determine prevalence of anthelmintic resistance, validation of the FAMACHA system, and use of condensed tannin-containing forages to control gastrointestinal nematodes of llamas and alpacas in Georgia. Some anthelmintic resistance was found on all the farms tested, indicating a wide-spread problem. The FAMACHA system for identifying heavily parasitized animals worked well with llamas and alpacas and may be a useful diagnostic tool for these species. Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) reduced egg counts in llamas compared with bermudagrass (control diet), and may have potential as a natural anti-parasitic agent with South American camelids.


    The purpose of this project is to test novel, sustainable parasite control technologies in South American camelids (llamas and alpacas) in the southeastern United States (US). This industry (llama and alpaca production) is an emerging farming sector in the US. Based upon a survey of US camelid producers, infection with gastrointestinal nematodes is a significant concern with a majority of farmers, particularly in the Southeast (Unpublished data). Llamas and alpacas share similar parasites, particularly Haemonchus contortus, with sheep and goats, but much less information is currently available for camelid species. Anthelmintic resistance is reaching epidemic proportions in sheep and goats in the US, and this is likely an emerging problem with camelid species as well. Development and testing of non-chemical, environmentally-friendly control technologies is an important area of research to allow sustained growth of small ruminant and South American camelid industries in the US.

    Several novel parasite control technologies have been successfully tested for use with sheep and goats in the US, but these techniques have not been tested with llamas and alpacas. One of these is the FAMACHA system of anemia detection, which was developed for use in sheep in South Africa. The FAMACHA card contains photos of the lower eyelid conjunctiva of sheep at various stages of anemia, from no anemia (red color) to severely anemic (white color). By comparing the eyelid color of an individual animal to the corresponding color on the FAMACHA card, farmers are able to assess the nematode infection level of that animal, allowing treatment of only the most affected animals in the flock or herd, which greatly slows the development of anthelmintic resistance. The FAMACHA system has been validated for use in sheep and goats in the southeastern US and the US Virgin Islands (Kaplan et al., 2004), but it has not been tested with llamas and alpacas. This system is only valid in regions where the primary infection is due to a blood-feeding parasite such as H. contortus, which is the primary parasite of camelid species in the Southeast. In the proposed work, the FAMACHA system will be validated on at least 15 alpaca and 15 llama farms in the southeastern US (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee).

    Another non-chemical nematode control method that has shown promise is the use of anthelmintic plants. In a series of studies in which goats (Shaik et al., 2004; 2006) and sheep (Lange et al., 2006) were fed hay of the condensed tannin-containing legume sericea lespedeza (SL; Lespedeza cuneata), a consistent reducing effect on FEC and worm burdens and improvement in hematocrit values (PCV) has been reported. This plant is well-adapted to the southern US and grows well on acid, infertile soils. The anthelmintic potential of SL has not been tested with llamas and alpacas. In the proposed project, the anthelmintic effects of two types of hay will be evaluated with llamas and alpacas fed ad libitum on pasture during the fall, when hay is normally fed due to pasture shortage. The treatment forage will be SL hay, which will be compared with bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) hay as a non-tannin control.

    Project objectives:

    1) Validate use of the FAMACHA system of anemia detection with llamas and alpacas on-farm.

    2) Test the efficacy of sericea lespedeza hay against gastrointestinal nematode infection of llamas and alpacas on-farm.

    3) Disseminate results from these studies in scientific and producer-oriented journals and as a published Master’s thesis.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.