Hot on the heels of the cat blood typing and dog blood donation event held last October at Pride Veterinary Centre, Scarsdale Vets has now brought together a group of Derbyshire alpaca owners for Scarsdale Vets’ first ever alpaca blood donation event, aiming to ensure that animals who donated can provide plasma for their own herd, offering a real life-line to baby alpacas, known as cria, if needed.
This unusual alpaca event attracted the attention of BBC Countryfile who were keen to find out more about the thinking behind the venture, and presenter Matt Baker took part in the filming for a programme which will be broadcast this weekend, on Sunday 25th February.
The alpaca blood donation event took place on Friday 9th February at Scarsdale Vets’ Farm & Equine unit at Markeaton and brought together a group of four alpaca famers from Derbyshire and some of their animals which were eligible to give blood. In total, six alpacas took part in this event. Each owner had been fully briefed ahead of the event, as it is important to get the right animals, as not all are suitable.
The event was run by Scarsdale Vets’ Fay Pooley, who is a farm vet by profession and is currently working towards a Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice (CertAVP) specialising in camelids.
Fay Pooley explains: “Having spoken to a number of our alpaca-owning clients we had the idea of bringing together a small group of animals to help us build up a supply of plasma. The reason it is important to have a good supply of plasma is that baby alpacas, also known as cria, are born without antibodies which can leave them open to serious infections in the first few days of life.
“Immunity in a baby alpaca is usually passed on from its mother through the first milk (known as colostrum), but if the newborn doesn’t drink enough in the first twelve hours of life, they won’t receive enough antibodies to ensure a healthy immune system. The best way to correct this is by giving plasma intravenously, which will support their immune system until they are old enough to produce their own antibodies. This is an important way to support herd owners in maintaining healthy animals and we are really pleased to have had such a good turn out from local alpaca farmers.”
The blood collected was then sent to Pet Blood Bank UK, the only charity in the country that provides a blood bank service to all veterinary practitioners in the UK. At their processing centre in Loughborough, the blood will be turned into plasma and frozen for future use. When needed, plasma must only be used within the herd the plasma was collected from, to avoid any potential transfer of disease.
Wendy Barnett, Founder of Pet Blood Bank UK said: “We are proud to be able to support the veterinary profession with our blood service. One unit of donated alpaca blood goes a long way, to help save the life of a cria.”
Ingrid Ruston, from Amber Valley Alpacas in Derbyshire who took part with her alpacas said: “We are really delighted to be involved in Scarsdale’s blood donation event. The health of our herd is so important to our business and it was also good to meet other breeders and collectively develop a way to support our animals in the future.”
Tune into BBC Countryfile on Sunday 25th February at 18:30 on BBC One to find out more, and tweet along using @BBCCountryfile, @ScarsdaleFarm & @PetBloodBankUK.