An overview of South American camelid (SAC) practice in the UK in 2013 - Veterinary Practice
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An overview of South American camelid (SAC) practice in the UK in 2013

Graham Duncanson is concerned about the treatment of camelids and reports on new modules now available on camelid medicine and surgery as part of the certificate in advanced veterinary practice

SOUTH American camelids
(SACs) are becoming popular
throughout the UK, particularly in
the south of England. There are an
estimated 40,000 of which the
majority are alpacas.

In 1994, a group of far-sighted
veterinary surgeons formed the British
Veterinary Camelid Society (BCVS) in
response to
the growing
interest in
these animals.
The aim of
the society is
to provide a
central source
information and advice to ensure the
highest standards of clinical care for
all SACs in the UK.

Sadly, there is only one referral
practice offering 24/7 out-of-hours
care for these animals. This Westover
Veterinary Centre, based five miles
north of Norwich; further
information can be obtained on the
large animal website…
or by e-mail to or by
ringing 01603 899930. It is manned by
six veterinary surgeons all of whom
are members of the BCVS and have a
specific interest in SACs.

To promote further study,
VetLearning, a company specialising in
providing further education for
veterinary graduates in work-base
study is providing a learning
opportunity to members of the
RCVS) to obtain a Certificate in
Advanced Veterinary Practice.

This will take the form of a two-
year modular course containing the
RCVS mandatory ‘A’ and ‘B2’
modules, with 3 ‘C’ modules in
camelid medicine and surgery. To
obtain the certificate, candidates will
have to complete a further ‘B’ or ‘C’
module of their choice.

Further information can be
obtained on the VetLearning website or by e-mail to – or ring
01353 723885 for a free consultation.


The BCVS, like Westover, is always
happy to give advice to fellow
professionals. Owners are encouraged
to make contact with their vet or
make use of the Find a Camelid Vet section on the website to help them
find veterinary expertise in their area.

Through the British Llama Society
(BLS) and the British Alpaca Society
(BAS), the BCVS works closely with
camelid owners. Both societies
promote the responsible ownership,
registration and farming of camelids
in the UK.

In addition, Bob Broadbent (one of the founders of the
society) and the author
are on the board of
trustees of British
Camelids Ltd (BCL), a
charity dedicated to the
welfare of camelids,
representation and liaison
with DEFRA on behalf
of all camelids and
research and development
relating to camelid health,
welfare and good
husbandry practice.

In addition, they are concerned
with the promotion of, and education
about, camelids to the general public
in the UK and their website publishes papers
relating to research and development
undertaken on behalf of the charity.
The most important recent piece of
research is on the validation of ante-
mortem TB tests in camelids.

Rescue work

Both the recession and the increase in
numbers has caused a few instances
where camelid owners, particularly
llama owners, are having difficulties
looking after their animals.

These instances are extremely rare
but BCL has ring-fenced a small sum
of money to help in these
circumstances. Naturally this money
will need to be accounted for and
audited in an appropriate manner.

There have been no problems with
guanacos and vicuna but as a result of faulty legislation they
were defined historically
as wild animals. The
BCL lobbied DEFRA
and since October 2007
a Dangerous Wild
Animal Licence is no
longer required to keep
these animals.


Each year BCL provides
sponsorship to two or
three members of the
BVCS to attend the annual
International Camelid Health
Conference held in the USA. This
conference has speakers from many
parts of the world where camelids are
kept, not only from the USA but also
from South America, Europe,
Australia and New Zealand.

The location of the conference
alternates between Oregon and Ohio.
The author attended the conference in
Oregon five years ago and Ann Kent
from Westover attended in 2013.
Each year the sponsored BCL delegates on their
return give talks and
write articles as
stipulated by BCL
and BVCS so that
knowledge from the
conference can be

Each year the
BVCS holds an
annual conference
for members. This
takes the form of
two days of lectures and discussions on relevant camelid
topics. Some years there is an extra
half-day of practical training. Such
practicals have included castration,
reproductive scanning, abdominal
scanning and biopsy techniques. The
2013 conference was on 16th and 17th November.

Duty of care

All practices have a right
to decide which species of
animal they are going to
treat. If practices decide
that they are not going to
treat camelids then all that
is required is for all the
staff to be made aware of
this so that any camelid
enquiry can either be
referred to the BCVS
website or perhaps a better
option is to look up on the
website in advance to find
the nearest veterinary practice willing to see camelids and
then have this name a telephone
available for all the staff. That is
straight forward.

The more problematic situation is
when the practice is happy to carry
out camelid practice but is not
prepared to carry out emergency
surgery, e.g. caesarean sections or

If these practices are within two
hours of us at Westover, then there is
no real problem as the case can be
referred to us. In the rest of the
country the option then is to ring us
and we will talk you through the case
and the possible surgery.

Naturally there are other options
at the veterinary schools. However,
there may not be a referring veterinary
surgeon available 24/7.

It is difficult for the author to
advise practitioners as the RCVS and
the VDS are happy to tell practitioners
what they must not do but sadly give
little in the way of guidance on what
they should do.


The best advice must be to join the
BCVS and to enrol on the camelid
certificate. Failing that, ring a friend,
e.g. 01603 899930 for Westover or
07836 282330 for the author.

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