Alpacas are NOT ruminants

These information sheets are provided for your interest. They should not replace veterinary advice from your veterinary surgeon.

Whilst every effort is taken to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information provided, your specific circumstances must be discussed before advice can be given.

There are lots of differences between the farm ruminants and South American camelids, most importantly in their digestion. These differences are summarised in the table below:

 RuminantsSouth American camelids
Digestive system0 0 3 3 is the dental formula
3 1 3 3
Foregut fermentation in rumen, with repeated mastication following regurgitation
4 compartments (rumen, reticulum, omasum, abomasum), with the rumen being susceptible to bloat
1 1 1-2 3 is the dental formula
3 1 1-2 3
Foregut fermentation in C1, with repeated mastication following regurgitation
3 compartments (C1, C2, C3), with C1 being resistant to bloat
BloodRed blood cells round and measure up to 10µm
Lymphocyte is most common white blood cell
Red blood cells elliptical and measure up to 6.5 µm
Neutrophil is the most common white blood cell
FeetHoof grows from coronary band and sole surface
2nd and 3rd phalanges are vertical
A soft toe pad with toenails
2nd and 3rd phalanges are horizontal
ReproductionSpontaneous ovulation at set time in oestrus cycle
Copulation occurs with the female in a standing position and ejaculation is short and rapid
Placentation is cotyledonary
No cartilagenous projection on tip of penis
Induced ovulation so no set oestrus cycle
Copulation occurs with the female in a prone (sternal recumbency) position and ejaculation is prolonged
Placentation is diffuse
Cartilagenous projection on tip of penis
Respiratory systemShort soft palate allows nasal or oral breathingElongated soft palate requires primarily nasal breathing
Urinary systemKidney smooth or lobed
No suburethral diverticulum
Dorsal urethral recess in some species
Kidney smooth and elliptical
Suburethral diverticulum in females at external urethral orifice
Dorsal urethral recess in males at junction of pelvic and penile urethra

Camelids are susceptible to a number of ruminant diseases:

  • minimal susceptibility to tuberculosis, although it is a highly pathological condition in alpacas
  • no known susceptibility to bovine brucellosis
  • mild susceptibility to foot-and-mouth disease
  • gastrointestinal nematodes are infestatious to camelids and ruminants