Alpaca Plasma

After having an extremely bad season with Alpacas having birthing problems which resulted in the loss of several Cria I thought I would let you know how we plan to avoid these losses next season.

Alpaca Plasma is obtained by collecting 750 grams of blood from a Male Alpaca, getting it spun down into it’s different components, one of which is the Plasma and then freezing it and keeping it in the bottom of your chest freezer until needed.

The Male animals used to collect this Plasma should be Big and Strong and have been around for a while. An animal that has been on a number different properties over it’s life is ideal for this purpose as he will have a wider selection of antibodies.

The Plasma contains all the antibodies and immunoglobulins that an “At Risk Cria” will need if they are to have any hope of survival at all if they fall into this category.

What this basically means is if you have an “At Risk Cria” which might look totally fine a few hours after birth, but it fits inside your “At Risk” category then you should give him or her the Plasma.

I had heard and knew of Alpaca Plasma, but did not know when to use it, I actually did have some in the Freezer from last season but again did not know when to use it.

What constitutes an “At Risk" Cria?

The following criteria is what I will be using from now on when deciding whether to use the Plasma on a new born Cria or not.

  1. Any Cria that has to be Vet assisted to be born and the Vet has his or her hands inside the Female for longer than 15 minutes.
  2. Every Cria that has to be delivered by a Vet using a Caesarean method due to any reason and including a Twisted Uterus.
  3. All Cria born to an “At Risk” Dam or a Problem Breeder. This is a female that has had problems in the past with a Cria Dying in the first three days of life, or has had problems raising a Cria in the early stages of it’s life.
  4. Old Females nearing the end of their breeding lives and that are in a lower than normal body condition.
  5. All Premature Cria, as well as any weak Cria.
  6. Any Cold or Slow to Stand Cria.

In a nut shell, if you have a Cria that is an “At Risk Cria” and you don’t want to take the risk that all will be fine, then you should get your Vet to give it a dose of Plasma as soon as it is born, even before it has had it’d first drink of Colostrum.

The problem up until now is actually getting the Blood spun down to obtain the Plasma. This has had to be done in a Human Hospital where you are not supposed to have any “Animal Blood”. Geoff from Manawatu Vets in Fielding have just picked up a Centrifuge so that we will now be able to produce our Plasma when ever required. You are able to take the blood off of a male every two months if required.

This could yet be the biggest and most valuable use many of the older wethers in New Zealand. Their blood could save the lives of many Cria in the coming years. Once Manawatu Vets have their new Centrifuge they will have Alpaca Plasma for sale. The price at this stage could be from $75.00 to $150.00 per dose, which is a very small price to pay for saving any “At Risk Cria”.

The method on how to administer the Plasma Intraperitoneal requires that a Vet carry out this task. Any Alpaca Owner who has a Vet who wants to know to carry out this procedure can contact Geoff Neal at Manawatu Vets.

Below is some of the more Technical Information of why and how the Plasma works in saving the lives of “At Risk Cria”. This information was send to me in an Email by my Vet, Geoff Neal of Manawatu Vets:

Bradford Smith DVM (USA) had an article that said that of all the alpaca and llama births that he has dealt with in practice and at the university 1 in 20 births will be a significant dystocia or problem birth requiring intervention in order to deliver the cria.

Another of his articles on immunoglobulins said that up to 10% of cria born have poor or inadequate colostrum absorption in the first 24hours after birth. A stressed, cold, or premature cria has a gut absorption of immunoglobulins (IgG antibodies) less than 10% of a normal cria. Normal cria absorbs 26% of IgG from Colostrum, prem, sick or stressed Crias absorbs 2%!!!

The reason for giving intraperitoneal (into the abdominal cavity) plasma is that it causes a dramatic rise in the blood IgG levels over a very short period of time with minimal side effects and these IgG levels stay raised for about 21 days after administration (after then the cria starts making its own antibodies).

Pat Long DVM (Oregon State Uni, USA) said in a paper that the usual death rate in cria was 10% (very ironic that it is the same value that Smith had as having inadequate colostrum absorption). In 90% of these death cases the cause was septicaemia and an inability of the cria to fight normal infections.

Steven Purdy DVM (Registered alpaca specialist, Vermont, USA) said that the failure of an alpaca cria to obtain adequate IgG from the dams colostrum arose because of one of three things:

  1. Inadequate consumption(weak/slow cria, stroppy female, mastitis) Inadequate absorption across the gastric mucosa (delay in feeding - absorption decreases for every hour post birth to basically zero by 24hours, or abnormal gut physiology - stress, foetal distress during delivery)
  2. Inadequate IgG production by the dam (poor body condition, concurrent diseases, genetic inferiority)

The administration of one unit of alpaca plasma to an at risk cria will raise its IgG levels from 200 to >800mg/dl within one hour. The minimum needed for adequate health is 500mg/dl.

(DVM = Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, USA equivalent to BVSc in NZ.)