The OSU llama teaching herd provided good animal-handling experience for DVM students who attended this summer’s Camelid Medicine course. The teaching herd llamas are bigger than average because they serve as blood donors for the hospital. They are also on the older side and pretty clever. In order to practice hoof trimming and dental care, and administer innoculations, students first had to catch and restrain the wily camelids. It was a big change from dogs and cats.
“They are so fluffy, you just want to hug them, but they won’t have it,” says Kristen Hull, a fourth-year student from Mississippi State.
Hull grew up in the midwest and has experience with small ruminants and horses, but not llamas. “I plan to go back to Indiana to do mixed practice and we have a decent amount of camelids there. Not a lot of vets see them, so I thought the class would be pretty helpful and make me more marketable,” says Hull.
Nineteen students from across the United State and Canada signed up for the two-week class taught by Dr. Chris Cebra. Hull heard about the class through word of mouth. “I have a classmate who learned about it from a blog and he told me about it,” she says. Hull contacted Cebra and was pleasantly surprised by his response. “It was really easy to sign up for this class. I just emailed Dr. Cebra; no hoops to jump through, just come to the class. They even helped me figure out housing. Twenty people asked me if I wanted to stay with them; it was really nice.”
In addition to lectures on nutrition, anatomy, disease, and other basics, the class got plenty of hands-on experience. They helped castrate 25 camelids, participated in a necropsy, and visited an alpaca farm. The field trip to Wings and A Prayer farm in Amity, Oregon was the high point for many students.
“My favorite thing was going out to a local farm and getting to work on their animals,” says Keri Clarkson, Class of 2014. “We were able to do pregnancy check ultrasounds, trim fighting teeth, do physical exams, collect fecal samples, and tour the facilities.”
They also learned about running a camelid business and how to provide nutrition beyond pasture grazing. “They are growing barley fodder which was interesting,” says Hull. “It’s a way to grow feed without dirt; they feed the sprouts as an additional protein source.”
Clarkson also plans to work in a mixed animal practice and hopes to volunteer at an alpaca/llama rescue so she can continue to work with camelids. “I loved this course!” she says.