Colostrum Isn't the Only Answer
Maxine Kinne

It is always a good practice to keep frozen colostrum on hand for emergency use. I freeze it in 4-ounce baby bottles, marked with the doe's name, date of collection and parity number (the number of times she has kidded). This information is important because the colostrum from older does contains more antibodies - they have been exposed to more diseases and developed antibodies to fight them. 

Being vaccinated appropriately before kidding allows the doe to liberally make good antibodies in the colostrum for the kids. Colostrum substitutes, either commercial products or home-made recipes, do not contain antibodies. And antibody protection is the most important reason why newborns need colostrum.

What can you do if you get stuck without colostrum in an emergency? Say, for instance, that a doe produced little or none or she dies. (It is possible to milk the colostrum out of a dead doe - I did it once.) 

We had a llama who never produced enough colostrum, and its quality was poor. She always delivered early, before antibodies were present in what little colostrum she produced. My veterinarian suggested giving her premature babies blood plasma, the part of the blood which contains the antibodies. She brought the equipment, took 500 ml of blood from the mother and I let it sit undisturbed n the refrigerator until the clear plasma portion separated (overnight). She returned the next day to give it intravenously to the valuable baby. We did IgG (antibody) tests on the baby's blood before and after giving the plasma to monitor her condition. She had no antibodies before the transfusion, but afterward she had plenty. It worked like a charm.

Giving the plasma intravenously (IV) was necessary because the gut of a newborn begins to close two hours after birth. By the time we could administer plasma, the baby's gut would not have absorbed any antibodies, so we needed to deliver the antibodies directly into her blood stream. Antibodies are large molecules, and the newborn gut can only absorb them from the stomach into the blood for up to 24 hours following birth. The optimum antibody absorption time is 2 hours, then the ability to absorb antibodies delines rapidly.

Some of the plasma was left over. The vet said to freeze it for oral use, just like colostrum, if we had future llama baby who needed it. Plasma can be given orally if it is given soon after birth, on the same timing principles as colostrum. Plasma only needs to be given intravenously if the animal is approaching or over 24 hours old.

Unlike colostrum, plasma should not be heat treated to neutralize CAE antibodies. Doing so might destroy good antibodies. Only disease-free animals should be plasma donors because it is possible to introduce disease this way to a newborn. Any disease-free goat can be used as a plasma donor, not just the mother.

When blood and plasma donors are used for the antibodies they can contribute, they must have been vaccinated to have the highest possible antibody levels. Vaccination history will make a big difference in your choice of donors.

In whole blood transfusions, a goat can receive blood from any other goat only once. If a second blood transfusion is necessary, blood typing and cross-matching are necessary to avoid serious complications or death. This is only true of transfusions, and does not apply to oral administration of plasma.

If you come up short on colostrum, plasma may be the answer to a prayer.

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