When cria (newborn alpaca) ‘Star’ was born, all went well until her mum ‘Angel’ became sick only a few hours after giving birth and stopped letting Star feed. That is when breeder Paula was relieved that she had some plasma on-hand in the freezer that could be given to Star by Sarah Woollatt, one of the FAP veterinary surgeons, to ensure Star had sufficient immunity against any diseases she may face in the first week of her life.
Camelids are born with a naïve immune system, so whilst this gets up to speed it’s essential crias consume 10% of their body weight in colostrum (first milk) from the dam. The colostrum contains antibodies which are so essential if a cria is to survive. Without colostrum the only alternative is a plasma transfusion.
Star was born about midday in the middle of June to mum Angel via an unassisted birth. Breeder Paula was relieved and delighted to see mum and baby bonding soon after birth and Star was seen to be up and feeding that afternoon. However, by 5pm mum Angel had not passed her placenta (afterbirth) and was becoming dull and refusing to let Star feed. At this point Paula called out our vet Sarah Woollatt who treated Angel for the retained placenta. Despite having been seen to be suckling earlier, it was agreed by owner and vet that the colostrum consumed was insufficient to protect Star.
Sarah was then able to take a blood sample from Star to check for failure of passive transfer (insufficient immunity from the colostrum), which showed Star to have a borderline result. Star had not passed her meconium (the first brown faeces), again evidence of insufficient colostrum intake. Since Paula had arranged for plasma to be collected from her alpacas earlier in the year, she had ample supplies in her freezer and so it was decided that in this case prevention would be better than cure. Sarah transfused Star with a dose of plasma to improve her immunity levels in the hope of preventing the cria becoming sick further down the line. After treatment mum Angel passed her placenta, recovered well, and once again let Star suckle. Since then, mum and baby have not looked back.
Having plasma already harvested and at the ready allowed Paula to decide to pre-emptively supplement Star’s immunity when it was likely that she would suffer failure of passive transfer rather than have an anxious wait to see if she was going to get sick and then start fighting an up-hill battle.
This was not the first time that one of Paula’s cria have needed a plasma transfusion but in the past the plasma has not always been so easily at hand. “It’s so mentally reassuring to know that it’s just in the freezer if you need it” says Paula. Our vet Sarah agrees “the arrival of crias is always a stressful time, so to be prepared for all eventualities by having plasma readily available really gave Paula one less thing to worry about, and ensured we could provide Star with the best care.’
If you would like to find out more about our Plasma collection and processing service, including prices please visit our website at:https://www.langfordvets.co.uk/farm/camelid-plasma-collection/
Thanks to Paula of ‘Winsaula alpacas’ for the pictures.