Nutrient requirements of South American camelids: A factorial approach

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69 Scopus citations


Literature describing digestive physiology and defining specific nutrient requirements for llamas and alpacas was reviewed. Using data from studies defining maintenance energy and protein requirements, llamas and alpacas have lower energy and protein requirements compared to other ruminants; however, they have a greater protein requirement per unit of energy. This is consistent with observed differences in urea and glucose metabolism between camelids and other ruminants suggesting a reliance on protein catabolism to maintain blood glucose concentrations. Evidence suggests llamas and alpacas may have a greater requirement for Vitamin D, but no other evidence of significant differences in requirements between camelids and other ruminants. There are limited data defining other nutrient requirements or differences in requirements based on physiologic state for llamas and alpacas. In spite of limited data, a factorial approach to estimate nutritional requirements of llamas and alpacas was described. Defined maintenance energy and protein requirements were extrapolated to other physiologic states using beef cattle, sheep and goat data as templates. Models were developed to predict energy, protein, mineral and vitamin requirements for growth, pregnancy and lactation. Model development was based on determining beef cattle and sheep nutrient requirements on an amount per kg of body weight and assuming no inherent metabolic differences among species. An averaged value was calculated and used as a basis for defining requirements for llamas and alpacas. Amount per kg body weight requirements were converted to a recommended dietary nutrient density basis using an observed lower dry matter intake per unit body weight. Factorially derived models were in better agreement with North American feeding recommendations compared to predicted requirements using current North American-based requirement models. North American-based requirement equations over predicted energy and protein, resulting in required dietary nutrient densities in excess of practical feeding practices. The proposed factorial models need to be critically validated, but provides a starting point for discussion in advancing the study and application of llama and alpaca nutrient requirements. There are tremendous gaps in our knowledge of llama and alpaca requirements, requiring further basic research especially in the areas of neonatal and fetal growth and composition, lactational performance and mineral bioavailability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-186
Number of pages22
JournalSmall Ruminant Research
Issue number2-3 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Feb 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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