Quechua Benefit Listens: July Veterinary Listening Tour
In the highland communities of Peru, alpacas far outnumber the people who live there. In the Colca Valley, Chalhuanca sits at about 14,000’ and is home to 1,200 people and 19,000 alpacas. Outside of Puno, three towns make up the Picotani district at 15,000’: Picotani, Cambria, and Toma. Cumulatively, these towns have around 2,000 residents and 70,000 alpacas. In these communities, alpacas account for nearly all a family’s annual income. Yet, the majority have not seen a veterinarian in over eight years.
Quechua Benefit learned this in January as we conducted our first listening tour in our service areas to understand issues and concerns directly from the people we work with. Every community we visited stated veterinary issues as a top economic concern. Earlier this month, Quechua Benefit brought a team of QB staff, renowned alpaca farmers in the U.S., and Camelid veterinarians from both the U.S. and Peru to conduct another listening tour specific to the communities’ veterinary needs.
The common major themes and concerns we found were:
- The sale of alpaca meat produced 40-65% of the family’s income, with the remainder being from fiber sales.
- Sarcocystis, a parasitic infection, ruins the meat of older animals and affects sales.
- Enterotoxaemia was reported to cause 20-50% of the cria to die annually.
The sale of alpaca meat is a major source of income for all the alpaca breeders we talk to. Depending on the community, the family earned 40-65% of their income from this source. Sarcocystis is a parasitic infection that ruins the meat. It is transmitted to alpacas through carnivores, mostly dogs. Every community reported this as a problem that cut their family income from 10 to 25%. This was the biggest area of concern we found. We are currently investigating a potential solution of vaccination for both alpaca and the dogs. We are researching the effectiveness, cost, and practicality of this possible solution.
Currently, alpaca meat is sold on the informal market. There is a new demand for certified meat (like USDA/SENASA) to be sold on the formal market. Certified meat commands a 30-50% higher price for the breeders. Chalhuanca has an active facility to produce meat to the informal markets. Quechua Benefit and the mayor of Chalhuanca is investigating what it will take to upgrade the facilities to be SENASA certified. This certification could significantly increase a breeder’s income, especially if Sarcocystis can be reduced or eliminated.
Enterotoxaemia kills about 20-50% of the baby alpaca (cria) each year. The exact number is difficult to determine as the disease is often confused with other causes such as pneumonia. There is a vaccine for enterotoxaemia that has proven to dramatically reduce cria mortality rates in Nunoa (another Quechua Benefit serves near Puno). The vaccine costs about $1 for the 3 required doses between the moms and babies. The biggest success was the interest from the communities in getting this vaccine and their expressed willingness to pay for it.
We are thankful to the communities to have confidence in us and to hear their issues and concerns. We are excited to work with them in the future and hopefully find solutions that have a lasting impact on their ability to move out of poverty.