Alpaca owners called to participate in research  

Alpaca owners across England are being asked to take part in a study that aims to find out if modern alpacas are becoming brachycephalic. 

Alpaca owners across England are being asked to partake in a study that aims to find out if modern alpacas are becoming brachycephalic. 

This non-invasive research will specifically investigate head shape and facial fleece density and could potentially play an important role in informing the health and welfare of future generations of alpaca, the researchers said. 

Farm vet Dr Ami Sawran, from Westpoint Farm Vets and VetPartners, is leading the project, assisted by Phillippa Hampson, BVSc Undergraduate University of Bristol, Dr Liz Paul, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol, and Dr Jenny Stavisky, VetPartners clinical research manager. 

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Helping advance knowledge and understanding 

Dr Sawran, who holds a certificate in advanced camelid practice from the University of Liverpool and is the first and currently only RCVS-recognised Advanced Practitioner in Camelid Practice, said:  “The UK alpaca industry has always strived for excellence and the continuing improvement of its breeding stock, with the British Alpaca Society releasing a breed standard in April 2021 outlining both positive and negative traits. 

“However, farm veterinary practitioners continue to report cases of rickets, dental disease, improper halter positioning that could impinge on nasal cartilage, eye injuries, and other conditions, that could potentially be linked to a shortened snout. 

“Our study, inviting as many alpaca owners as possible to take part, will help advance knowledge and understanding of the current landscape in regard to potential brachycephalic traits seen in alpacas.” 

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Research for health and welfare of future generations 

The researchers added that by carrying out this project, they can evaluate whether there is a current shift towards a certain appearance; for example, how an alpaca head looks, and whether such attributes may influence future generations’ health and welfare, as well as share learnings with BAS and alpaca breeders. 

Qualitative data is being collected from anonymous participants in the form of a short email questionnaire regarding information about your animal and its use.  

A side view and front-on photographs of each animal plus facial measurements will also be required at an on-farm visit conducted by one of the researchers.  

To take part The first round of data collection will end in August 2024, however, there is scope to continue to expand the dataset after this point. Data will be securely stored by the University of Bristol. 

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