Wednesday 4 August 2010

Camelid IgG testing in practice.

Thank you for all your comments on the photo blog. I thought that I would do a more serious posting today, just incase I have given the impression that I just lie in the paddock all was just a lucky 15 minutes Mark!

I thought it may be useful to share some thoughts on the IgG testing kit that we purchased earlier this year.
Some of you may recall that in an earlier blog I discussed the loss of a 4-day old cria from last year. We had waited 24 hours for camelid specific IgG results and then when we did find the result to be low, we did not have the required plasma to hand. We vowed never to be in that same position again.

Hence, this year we ensured that we had plentiful supplies of plasma, donated by our own boys and in the freezer ready for the birthing season. We also purchased a DVM rapid Test kit (for testing specific IgG levels) a centrifuge (for spinning the blood to obtain serum for testing) and camelid plasma reagent (required for the test). The test gives a camelid specific result within 30 minutes and is obviously much more accurate than a general serum protein level (also obtained relatively quickly)

When we purchased the kit it was suggested by our vet that that in order to monitor for failure of passive transfer (FPT) that we should test levels of IgG on all of our cria at 48-hours of age. We however, always envisaged that it would only be a tool to monitor levels of those predisposed to FPT e.g. premature or difficult births. For very sick cria we obviously wouldn't wait for results. It is really the ones that you are just not sure about where it is especially useful.

Our plan was to bottle feed plasma if necessary (or tube feed if the cria was weak) within the first 6 hours and up to 24 hours of age. However in practice we have found bottle fed plasma (even when mixed with powdered colostrum to improve the taste) does not appear to be especially palatable, whereas cow’s colostrum is taken readily.

Here lies the problem; if we give cows colostrum the camelid specific test results become meaningless. This morning I have been in contact with Light Livestock Equipment (our supplier) to ask their advice. It appears that the best solution would be to purchase some bovine reagent for testing levels, either in conjunction with camelid levels, or if the majority of the intake in the first 12 hours has been cow’s colostrum then to conduct the bovine test alone. Normal levels are different but these are easily converted as they have explained.

At the moment I have not been able to find a UK supplier of the bovine reagent. Shipping costs from the USA are expensive as refrigerated transportation is required (if anyone knows of a cheaper option please let me know!). Classical MileEnd Alpacas now stock the camelid reagent.

Thankfully we have only had to give a plasma transfusion to one of our cria this year. Explorer’s IgG levels were <100mg/dl (minimum level for adequate passive transfer considered to be 800mg/dl) putting him at high risk that any introduction to infection could have been fatal for him.

Plasma was given intravenously at a rate of 25mls/Kg BW. After an initial I.V. dose of flunixin meglumine (Finadyne) in case of an inflammatory reaction, the plasma was transfused slowly via a catheter inserted into the jugular vein. This was given in conjunction with a course of prophylactic antibiotics.

In conclusion; Has it been a good investment? We have actually only used the kit on one occasion so far (kit cost around £1000 complete with reagent). However, I do believe that without the facilities to test his levels quickly and administer the plasma at the appropriate time, Explorer would quite likely not be with us now. Therefore, would we make the investment again: 100% yes. Absolutely! I adore the grumpy boy with the garlic breath (please may he continue to thrive).

It looks like it has stopped raining. Time for a lie in the paddock with the camera and hopefully a more interesting blog next time!


  1. 'A grumpy boy with garlic breath', excellent! Something I have been described as on numerous occasions!
    As for the rest of it, sorry, didn't understand a word!

  2. Excellent....informative blog ! ladies..really, are the superior....of the species...I understood..every word !.....the investment was well worth it !...just look at Explorer !!....he's enough to put a smile on anyones face !!.......Jayne

  3. Very interesting, Barbara - and worth the expense. My poor Matchless needed all that!

  4. wooosh! was that the sound of it all going over my head? but seriously, that's part of the point of blogging: sharing useful information with your fellow breeders - great stuff Barbara - I picked up some scrumpy cider at the North Devon Show today so it will make more sense in a minute!

  5. Hi Barbara, you should copy that to the Alpaca Magazine editors, I'm sure they would use it. Very interesting, I hadn't realised just how at risk Explorer was.