Kate Brookes  – 29 March 2021

29 March 2021     British Alpaca Society     BAS Board

As I sit here writing this, with the sun streaming in the window, I’m wishing my life away, well about two weeks of it anyway. That’s how long it is until the first cria is due on the farm. We mate from the start of May until early July, meaning our cria are expected from Mid April until the end of June.

My knowledge says this is the best thing to do, so that the richest, fastest growing grass is available for the heavily pregnant mums-to-be and then for the early weeks of lactation. I know that cria arriving in mid or late march are likely to need much more owner support and the risks are higher if bad weather arrives in late March. But my cria envy is there, as the first UK cria start being born and the willpower it takes, not to start matings before May, is really considerable.

My other problem is also one of patience. Every slight sign of possible labour (from around 320 days gestation onwards) I am sure is the real thing. That girl lying on her side must be in labour. My cries of “ooh look she’s got some udder, it must be coming soon” go on for weeks and weeks. Am I the only one?

I hope you all have a happy, healthy, fulfilling cria birthing season.

Crikey I can’t believe how quickly this year is passing, Summer seemed so far away last time I wrote my last blog Most of us are in the midst of the busiest time of year, birthing and doing matings for next years cria and Im sure we have had a our fair share of ups and downs I’ve waited 375 days for my most recent arrival, yet had another arrive after 320 days both fit and well, just different sizes !!

Yet it is the arrival of Patience , born at text book 340 days, in the middle of the day, to an experienced mother that has caused me the most issues She was called Patience because she certainly tried my Patience for the first few days of her life She had no idea how to feed from her mum, kept getting stuck behind the hedges and found the wall more appealing to feed from than her mum who tried everything to persuade her to feed She was given over a litre of Bovine colostrum , then powdered Colostrum replacer which she took readily from the bottle, yet, bang on 24 hours after she was born, she crashed, flat out and unresponsive I strongly suspected she had sepsis, her membranes were turning purple and her temperature was low Off we trotted (well actually raced !!) to the vets clutching Patience and a freezer bag of Plasma Her igg levels were very low and her bloods indicated an infection, so plasma was administered, halfway through her transfusion, Patience decided she felt better and tried to run out of the surgery and , with the help of antibiotics and plenty of TLC she is now a normal 3 week old cria who feeds off her mum (and poaches off anyone who will let her) Plasma saved her life When a cria is born it only has a few hours to absorb the antibodies from its mothers milk which is what helps the cria to develop an immune system, protecting it from infection , when that doesn’t happen, as it did with Patience, we can boost the immune system by giving plasma and in many cases it saves the crias life It is important that breeders know that powdered colostrum supplements do not contain antibodies, they are designed to give the cria energy to feed, colostrum replacers do contain antibodies and can certainly improve a crias chances, fresh goats colostrum is also helpful as long as you know where it has come from but in an emergency life threatening situation , a bag of Plasma can and does save lives Most experienced breeders keep a supply of plasma for these circumstances, in my opinion it should be part of every breeders birthing kit Once collected it keeps for up to 5 years in the freezer My own vets and several other practices have offered plasma drives so that breeders can collect plasma from their own herd at a discounted rate for the impending breeding season, yet most have been cancelled because of low uptakes How can we tell breeders what a potential life saver Plasma can be?

Breeders spend large sums of money on stud fees and spend almost a year waiting for their cria to arrive only to lose them because they have failed to get sufficient antibodies from their mothers, time after time we see people on social media asking for Plasma for a vulnerable cria The irony of Patience is that I had no Plasma in my freezer, my vets Plasma Drive having had to be cancelled because of low numbers and having last year given away my last 2 bags to owners whose animals needed it, it was only the kindness of a friend who had given up breeding and given me her supply that saved Patiences life , that kindness has also saved the life of a friends cria. We cannot purchase Plasma as it is a blood product so can’t be sold so we need to collect from our own herd and we can’t depend on others to give it to us and risk losing one of their animals because they have run out For me Plasma should be collected in the same way we harvest hay, we would never go in to winter without having arranged food for our animals, why do we go into the breeding season without Plasma ??

Heres hoping for a successful breeding season for us all and lots of cute cria pics for Duncans photo competition

Crikey when I wrote my last blog it seemed to be ages before Spring, when it was time for my next contribution, but time has flown by and here we are.  Lighter evenings, sunny days, and the promise of new life everywhere.

Those of you who attended the AGM at my house will know, from the veterinary talk, that I have a habit of having weird and wonderful issues with my animals. So, I thought I’d share with you the story of Ganache.  Now, Ganache is a relatively young female who has always been robust and healthy. One day I noticed her doing a very good impression of Wurzel Gummidge, hay stuck in her mouth, that she appeared to be struggling to chew.

Over the next few days this continued in much the same vein, hay getting stuck and me pulling it out, to the extent that she would stand and wait for me to do it!   She was still eating hard food but then she started to get grass stuck in her teeth, so I called the vet.  She had her back teeth rasped as they were a bit sharp, and her gums looked sore.  After a day or two normality resumed.

Then it started again so vet was called, and teeth checked with a tiny sharp bit being removed.

The third time it happened the vet could find no sharpness to her teeth and it was decided to x-ray her before referring her to Liverpool as she was now losing weight and struggling to feed her cria who was also losing weight.

On every occasion the vet visited she had a full clinical exam. It was arranged for 2 vets to come to x-ray so that she could be safely sedated and monitored throughout the process, however during the clinical exam the vet noticed her third eyelid was very pale, in fact it was white, 3 days previously it had been pink, so the vet immediately took blood, and I ran a faecal.  Imagine our horror when she had a pcv of 8 and a Strongyle count of over 3000 epg.  She was dangerously anaemic.

This animal had never been ill, stopped eating or been at all slow, she was to all intents and purposes normal except for the (non) chewing hay issue.   She was immediately wormed and given weekly doses of iron and within days was chewing her hay properly and has never looked back.

Incidentally, her previous egg count 6 weeks earlier had been clear.   I thank my lucky stars that we decided to x-ray that day otherwise the chances are she would have died.

The vet thinks the inability to chew was purely weakness from the parasite burden.

Nothing is ever as it seems in my world.”