What Alpaca Feed Do You Use?
There have been several Facebook surveys circulating that have piqued my curiosity. The polls ask respondents to provide opinions and recommendations on various alpaca feed brands. Most of the respondents answered in terms of alpaca preferences, adverse reactions, ease of use, availability, price, storage, consistency of product, ingredients, and guaranteed analysis. These are valid qualifiers that provide useful information. I hesitated to answer the questionnaire because I could not identify the intended qualifiers of such an evaluation. And that led me down this rabbit hole.
I started thinking about polls and their effect on decision making. Generally speaking, a poll asks for respondents' preferences. However, a survey might not be the best method to evaluate the effectiveness of a product. An experimental study is needed to answer the question, "Does the product cause an effect?" Investigative research, aka trial, is a systematic approach in which the researcher manipulates one or more variables, and controls and measures any change in other variables. Once a cause and effect have been established, the next step is to determine the effectiveness between similar products, in this case, between alpaca feed brands.
The goal of administering an alpaca feed supplement is to assist in promoting healthy alpacas that produce some "standard" of fiber. There has been some research into nutrition requirements for South American Camelids (SAC), but no experimental studies into the effectiveness of any supplemental feed program or a comparative study between alpaca feed brands.
One of the most well-versed and respected researchers in the country for ruminant nutrition is Robert J. Saun, DVM, MS, Ph.D. at Penn State University. He has written extensively, and many of his publications are available on the Penn State website. If you have the opportunity to attend one of his lectures, he might be able to answer some of your questions.
Most of us will never participate in experimental studies. However, it is essential to learn how to review experimental studies for methodology and significance so that we may make better decisions.
Testimonials and surveys provide useful feedback, but they alone should not impact behavior. Clinical trials are needed to evaluate effectiveness. It would make for a worthwhile industry study. Thanks to Facebook users for bringing the topic to the forefront!