Method of castration in alpacas

University of Western Australia

  • Project code: PRJ-009469

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Saturday, June 28, 2014

  • Project completion date: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

  • National Priority: ALP-Alpaca


Castration is an important component of the on-farm management of male alpacas in Australia because it decreases aggression towards conspecifics and humans, and improves the economic value of the flock since wethers can be sold as guard animals.
Castration of farmed animals is a welfare concern for organisations such as the RSPCA. New animal welfare standards are being developed for sheep (discussion paper released in 03/2013). It is likely that standards will be written in the near future for regulating the castration of alpacas. A range of methods has been developed for sheep, such as excision of the testis or constriction of the testicular blood flow using rubber rings. The age at castration is also capped. Pain management strategies are strongly encouraged and might be compulsory in the near future. The same methods of castration and pain management could be enforced on the alpaca industry. Rather than the alpaca industry being faced with standards being transposed from sheep to alpacas without understanding if it is appropriate, we aim to compare and understand the welfare outcomes of the different methods of castration available to the industry. The different methods have never been compared regarding their economical impact, their practical aspects or their impact on animal welfare. This project aims at obtaining scientific data to help to develop the best strategy for castration of alpacas that enhances both productivity and welfare. The results of this study should provide the scientific basis of the next set of standards for the castration of alpacas.



Research Organisation

University of Western Australia

Objective Summary

The objective of this project is to test three different factors know to affect the impact on animal welfare and the cost of castration:

Test two different strategies to castrate alpacas: excision of the testis or constriction of testicular blood flow.

Test the feasibility and the impact of those two procedures when they are performed at 3 different ages (5-7, 10-12 and 18-24 months).

Test the efficiency of two pain management strategies – short term and long acting drug cocktails. In addition, a group of alpacas castrated by constriction without pain management will be used as a control.

For each of the combinations, the welfare impact will be assessed using behavioural indicators such as time spent walking, lying, ease to stand and to lay down, gait, vocalisation, body posture and physiological indicators such as changes in body temperature, and blood concentrations of cortisol and endorphins.
An economic analysis will be conducted taking into account the cost of drugs, surgical cost and time to manage the animal pre and post castration procedures.

Production of a factsheet to be circulated to producers.