A new study conducted by a team of interdisciplinary researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna revealed that alpacas could feel stressed during shearing procedure and their position during the procedure could influence the amount of stress they feel.
The study, published in the journal Veterinary Record, showed that alpacas sheared in a standing position experience less stress than those sheared while restrained on the floor or on a special tilt table.
For the study, the researchers conducted two experiments. The first experiment determined the level of stress caused by each of the restraining order. The researchers identified shearing by itself as a separate stress factor during this experiment. In the second experiment, the researchers sheared the alpacas using one of the methods
In order to measure the stress levels of the alpacas during the experiments, the researchers used clinical parameters, including respiratory rate, heart rate and temperature. They also analyzed cortisol levels on the feces and saliva of the alpaca.
During the first experiment, the researchers observed no significant change in clinical parameters when they restrained the animals without shearing. When the researchers shown the alpacas while in restraint, there was significant spike in the clinical parameters, except for temperature that remained unchanged throughout the experiment.
“At first glance, it appears difficult to compare or associate the two experiments,” said first author Thomas Wittek of the University Clinic for Ruminants, in a press release. “But we can assume that just the sound of the shearing machine and the duration of the restraint cause stress for the animals. This means that you can practically add the values.”
Analysis of the cortisol levels showed that the animals experienced stress despite no significant change in their clinical parameters during the first experiment. Regardless of the restraining method, the cortisol levels of the alpacas increased when their wools were shorn. However, a more significant increase in cortisol levels was observed when the animal was shorn while restrained on the floor.
In terms of the clinical parameters, alpacas can tolerate being shorn in standing position. However, this method can only be used if the animal is calm. Resistance at the beginning of the shearing method could increase the risk of injury for both the alpaca and the handler.