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Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:

Cria Surviving the First Few Days

Rachel Hebditch

Bringing a sick or weak cria through those first few days is clearly nerve-racking. Success though is something that often results from being well prepared. Haydn and Jeffry Farman from Flowerdale Estate Alpacas, in Australia, have found this out from experience.

Anyone new to alpacas, who has observed the birth of a new cria, to subsequently find something is not quite right and the cria is becoming progressively weaker, knows the sinking feeling of helplessness.

However, there is a lot you can do. In a situation where the cria has not yet been accepted by the mother, or been unable to obtain the mother's first milk (colostrum) you will need to consider a drink of warm water and glucose, a colostrum replacer product or even a dose of alpaca plasma.

Haydn and Jeffry Farman who run Flowerdale Estate in Australia, know that feeling and know how important it is to be well prepared. Having been caught out without plasma in an emergency caused them to take steps to never be caught out again.

Last year, with the assistance of their vet, Dr Andrew Hogan, they were referred to the Veterinary Clinical Centre of Melbourne University to explore the idea of setting up an alpaca plasma bank. After investigating the process, and fully understanding all the steps involved, Haydn and Jeffry were keen to proceed.

The first step was to collect whole blood and transport it in special blood packs to the Clinical Centre. A date was set with Dr Hogan and fifteen alpaca wethers were set aside for the donations. The wethers were brought in and Andrew Hogan and his assistant scrubbed up to begin the collection procedure. Each wether in turn, was restrained in a crush. Then a small area on the neck was shaved, and the needle attached to the collection pack was placed directly into the jugular vein.

The collection packs comprised a collection bag and two 'satellite' bags for the separation of plasma from the blood cells. The full collection bag was weighed to ensure it contained approximately 450gm of blood. On completion, the packs were placed on ice, into a car fridge and transported immediately to the laboratory.

The blood packs were processed in a refrigerated centrifuge and the plasma separated off and then split into two doses. Once this was finished it was immediately frozen down to -70'C. The consignment was then transported back to Flowerdale Estate and placed in a freezer.

After all this the Plasma Bank was finally in place to provide its life supporting role. and plasma was available to other breeders. The availability of plasma was promoted through editorials in alpaca newsletters and on their website. Since then several breeders have taken advantage of this life-saving service with great success. Haydn says, "It's really nice to know you have helped someone with difficulties, and even nicer to hear that they have had a success."

Stud Farm and Retreat

Just north of Melbourne, Flowerdale Estate is the earliest farm settlement in the Goulburn Valley. Once a 10,000 acre sheep run, this property has been continuously farmed since 1842. Carol and Jeffry Farman first discovered alpacas on a trip to South America in April 2000. On returning they bought 6 alpacas. Today this has grown to around 100 alpacas with a plan to take the herd to 400 animals within the next 5 years.

An important part of their planning to achieve this goal has been bringing Jeffry's son Haydn and his partner Vanessa on to the farm as full-time managers at the beginning of last year. Like other successful stud farms, Flowerdale Estate is a real family venture.

Blood Spinning Service

Classical MileEnd Alpacas can spin down blood from your alpacas in a refrigerated centrifuge and provide you with stocks of life saving plasma. Contact us for further details.

Rachel Hebditch