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February 4, 2009

University of Melbourne Veterinary Student learns about Alpacas

For 2 weeks this January, Marianne VanDoorn, a vet student from Melbourne University, came to our farm to get some hands-on learning about alpacas. Although alpacas are very popular in Australia, there are not many farms willing to have vet students poking around their alpaca operations.

During the course of her 2 weeks, she had the opportunity to handle all 157 of our alpacas and learn a little about alpaca behavior and their unique personalities. She said, "I thought alpacas were probably similar to sheep, not very smart or personable. I was so surprised how interactive they are! They're more like cats!"

Here are several pictures of Marianne working with a couple of "special needs" alpacas. This is Bailey. He suddenly became crippled and unable to easily get up or down or walk. He has been moved to a private pen where his big stud buddies can't jump on him. He has been receiving a daily dose of Banamine for pain and yogurt for coating his stomachs.

Bailey gets some yogurt
Bailey gets some yogurt
Got Milk?
Got Milk?

This a fall bottle baby named Aya. Her maiden mom's milk did not arrive when she did and we have been supplementing her with warm milk bottles ever since. She's now starting to eat grain, but loves that one last bottle everyday.

Besides weighing, learning to body score and trim nails, Marianne also learned how to approach an alpaca to make them feel comfortable. She realized, "Reading their behavior was fun. It was interesting how my body language affected them. I feel every vet should be aware of how they approach and handle animals. It makes a big difference!"

Marianne also had the opportunity to shadow a new veterinarian who has been out of school less than one year. She watched her draw blood from the crias as she explained the technique. This blood was to be used to test their DNA for registration and also verify they are bovine virus free. It also gave her an opportunity to learn a little of what life is like after you've earned that degree and are out on farm calls.

Though studying in Australia, Marianne is from Poolesville and came home for their "Summer" holiday. That's right! In fact, they are having a heat wave of over 100' back in Melbourne. After she completes her 2nd year of lectures and class work, Marianne begins work with various breeders, clinics and the vet hospital at University of Melbourne. We wish her all the best and look forward to seeing her again on her next visit home. Sunny hates to see her leave
Sunny hates to see her leave