Ten Tips to Happy Alpacas

Alpacas can adapt to the heat of our summer days as long as they have cooler nights to recover. When nighttime temperatures stay in the upper eighties, this tends to create an accumulated effect and gives reason to take special precautions to avoid heat stress.

Alpacas Love Water

Another point to keep in mind pertains to high humidity when coupled with high temperatures. When you combine the temperature and the percentage of humidity you get a “heat index value.” A value over 120 degrees can be extremely stressful and gives grounds for taking additional safety measures.

For happy alpacas keep these ten tips in mind.

1)    Always shear your alpacas as a first line of defense in hot weather. We set up our shearing day with our shearer a year in advance and make a fun event out of the day. If you only have a few alpacas, then consider joining your herd with another established herd. Many alpaca farms set-up cooperative shearing days with other local farms.

2)    Always provide plenty of cool water to drink throughout the day. We put extra water buckets out along the fence line in the shade during the hottest months of the summer. Keep them full of fresh water and remove the algae which may grow in the buckets. If you use automatic waterers be sure to keep them free of accumulated “gunk!”

3)    Always provide a shady area for them to rest. Even though they may choose to lie in the full sun and “sunbathe” they will move into the shade to cool off part of the day. Keep some of their food source in the shade as well if you can.

4)    Provide a large industrialized fan & misters in the areas where they congregate when the temperatures rise. If you have a swamp cooler, you may notice how they cush right in front of the cool air source.

5)    Provide free choice mineral salts in small feeders around the hay source. We use Stillwater Minerals brand of the Lama-Min 104. This is specially formulated for alpacas. www.StillwaterMinerals.com

6)    Discuss with your vet or other breeders the type of electrolytes to add to their water source. We use a “Cherry” flavored powder that we add to every-other water bucket. That way they can self choose if they wish to drink it or not. Some people mix a Gatorade Powder with water to a strength of ¼ the recommended amount on the label. Be sure to mix a fresh batch every day as it spoils quickly.

7)    Do not breed your males in the heat of the day, they could become overheated and go temporarily sterile. If you choose to breed during the summer months, then breed early or later in the day.

8)    If you have new born cria, be sure to monitor the cria’s nursing behavior.  They can easily become dehydrated during the warmest part of the day. Observe how often they nurse and get underneath their mom. The rule of thumb is every hour to two is normal. Every half-hour is suspect for poor milk production and every 10 – 15 minutes means there is probably something wrong and you need to intervene to determine how serious. As the cria gets older, they will start to eat hay and may be nursing less often. Just observe the routine and check out anything that appears unusual.

9)    Provide extra hosing of their legs & bellies with cool water. My girls come running to my hose when I announce “Shower time Girls”… shower time!” Just keep the water accumulation off their backs where it could create an increased humid condition and raise their heat stress level.

10)    If you must transport or keep the alpacas in an enclosed area, be sure to provide air circulation. Some transporters run air conditioned units in the big trailers, others just have open windows.

So in conclusion, I hope these tips helped you think about the ways you can keep your alpacas comfortable during the hottest part of the summer day. Please feel free to share these tips with your fellow alpaca breeders. I also invite you to post your tips to the comment section of our:  www.ProfitingWithAlpacas.com

Here’s to you and your alpacas enjoying a wonderful summer.

What Color is Your Alpaca?

Alpacas of Anza ValleyFor Alpaca Enthusiasts that are new to the business, would you like to know some of the lingo? I remember when I was new and I felt like breeders were speaking a different language. They kept using abbreviations and making assumptions that I understood what they meant. In the beginning I didn’t even know where to go to get a translation. This was especially evident when someone was describing an alpaca’s color. So here is a list of the 16 natural fiber colors represented by the Alpaca Registry (ARI) used on the ARI certificate that shows the pedigree of each registered alpaca. These colors are the standard abbreviations used for suris and huacayas, and when placing alpacas in all the show classes.

 

ARI Natural Fiber Colors & Chart Codes LSG Light Silver Grey
W White LB Light Brown MSG Medium Silver Grey
B Beige MB Medium Brown DSG Dark Silver Grey
LF Light Fawn DB Dark Brown LRG Light Rose Grey
MF Medium Fawn BB Bay Black MRG Medium Rose Grey
DF Dark Fawn TB True Black DRG Dark Rose Grey

Registration Tips

When you register your new alpaca make sure that you follow the guidelines that ARI provides for selecting the best color match. It is best to order a Color Chart from the ARI website: www.AlpacaRegistry.com. Here’s a quote from ARI on the way to use the color chart. “When identifying the color of an alpaca’s fleece, take a clip of fiber as close to the skin as possible. Match the cut end to the closest color on the fiber chart. If the color matches a shade, record this match. If you find the color is darker than one shade but lighter than the next, it should always be categorized with the darker shade.”

If your alpaca has more than one color present on the body, head or legs, there is a place on the registration for you to note that. When checking the color for the body, use the side in the midsection portion about 4 – 6 inches below the midline.

Color Checkers at a Show

Of course, for the show, the Color Checker will use the chart next to the skin with the fleece still attached. Sometimes the color checker will come up with a different color than the one on the ARI certificate. If you question that decision, you have an opportunity to be seen by a judge before they start the show. The judge will always have the final say. Just ask the checker when that will be done and arrange to have a neutral party take your alpaca to the judge.

Just thought that you’d like to know some of the insider info…

Alpacas in Small Spaces…

 Alpacas in Small Spaces – Are They Too Crowded?
In this photo, you can see that all are eating together peacefully... for a short time.

In this photo, you can see that all are eating together peacefully... for a short time.

As I write this we are experiencing the 4th consistent day of rain and preparing for SNOW. This fact alone may not be newsworthy; however, we live in southern California! What I’m observing with my alpaca females applies whether you live in moderate or extreme climatic regions. It applies whether you raise your alpacas on pasture or in a dry lot environment. At times you may have to change their eating conditions, make other arrangements and possibly crowd them in for a short time. Now the question is: how do you know if they are too crowded?

The simple answer… I listen! That’s right; I observe and listen from a distance to figure that out. What I’ve observed boils down to … if they’re crowded they’ll do a lot of quibbling, a lot of spitting and posturing over who’s going to get to the feeder first and stake their claim. 

I count on enough space so that every single alpaca can be at the feeders all at once, without feeling crowded.  Best advise – just keep adding feeders, creating multiple feeding stations until you achieve that. And when the rains came and they all wanted to be inside at once… that’s what we chose to do. Normally these 12 wander among 3-4 other feeding stations… and they come and go at their will.

If you find yourself questioning the crowding issue in small spaces, then just spread out the feeders so that every alpaca could eat all they want simultaneously. You might consider creating special feeding areas for the cria – if they get squeezed out from the adults. Alpacas are extremely adaptable and that is why they make a great livestock business. You can start out small and expand as your needs arise. Your alpacas will let you know if they have outgrown the feeding arrangements!

 

Alpacas Are Green!!

Thoughts from Cindy Harris of Alpacas at Windy Hill as shared in Aug. 2009  green alpaca

When I think of green and alpacas, it usually conjures up either some idyllic image of rolling pastures and lazy days under the shade tree, OR the less lovely thought of partially digested hay and rumen dripping down the side of my face for some unintentional offense I committed while in the vet barn.

HOWEVER……… this time I was pondering the many ways in which alpacas are ideally suited to living an Earth Friendly life. Honestly– it’s nothing to spit at!

Did you know, for instance, that alpacas don’t have to be slaughtered to have value in this country? Who ever heard of livestock that didn’t have to be slaughtered? But actually, especially during this time of growing our national herd, the longer an alpaca is around, the better! That’s an alpaca fleece every year, as well as a cria from every female that lives another year. We’d be cutting our noses off to spite our faces if we slaughtered them right now—we just don’t have enough alpacas!

Alpacas only have a small impact on Mother Earth. They are quiet, and consume far less food and water, pound for pound, than other common livestock breeds. They are modified ruminants, having 3 stomachs, and are very efficient users of their food! Their pellet-like manure makes perfect ph-balanced natural fertilizer. Even at Windy Hill, with 400 alpacas, people are amazed that they can’t smell anything but hay.

Alpacas are also kind to the ground they walk on. Being camelids, their feet consist of two soft oval pads and toenails rather than a hard hoof, so even in wet conditions pastures are not trampled and bogged. Alpacas have no upper incisor teeth, although they do have efficient grinders in the back. Because they cut grass and hay with their bottom incisors against a hard palate, they make sure that pastures will last longer and grow better.

Clothes made from the prime alpaca fleece are mostly hypoallergenic because there’s no lanolin and the yarn is very smooth and soft. We can use ALL the grades of alpaca fleece. Even the coarser grades of fleece, usually from the legs, belly, and neck, are great for coats, socks, blankets, rugs, and upholstery. Scraps from the shearing room floor can be used to insulate outdoor pipes and make composting!

Alpacas are THE environmentally friendly livestock! Alpaca fleece surpasses all the synthetics, and sheep’s wool, too. It’s:

Sustainable—there is an ever-growing American herd on the horizon

Natural—not synthetic and absolutely biodegradable

Renewable—every year there is a fresh and growing supply of alpaca fleece

Durable—archeologists have found intact remains of Incan alpaca textiles

Organic—there is no need for the use of chemicals in raising alpacas or processing their fleece

Recyclable—many an alpaca baby blanket has been handed down through generations of children, its final destination the compost heap to help grow new pasture for the next generation of alpacas!

Alpacas are really the Livestock of the 21st Century!

If you have a thought about this blog… please share. Cindy and I will be happy to receive your comments.