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.

Happy Alpaca Valentine’s Day

WOW! What a response to our Happy Alpaca Valentine’s Day video! By popular demand we’ve decided to make it available again…

One of the many things I love about this incredible business is the expressions of joy on the faces of people when they interact with the alpacas. We open our ranch to visitors quite often. When families bring their kids (of all ages) we like to have the camera near-by. So that the kids get to see themselves enjoying the alpacas. Don and I chose to create a photo collage video of a few of the cute moments of “love with the alpacas.”

We created this video for all to enjoy throughout the year. So if you are an animal lover of any sort… we dedicate this to you. If you can’t physically be with your four-legged friends, than perhaps this short video will put a smile on your face.

Click on the video to play and be sure that you have your speakers turned up too.

Feel free to share this site with your friends. And if you are an alpaca enthusiast feel free to post your comments. We’d love to read what you think.

Sending you lots of Hugs & Humms not just for this month of “LOVE”, but all year long!

Julie & Don Roy

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 Quite Intelligent

As a species alpacas are more like cats than dogs and quite Intelligent.Anzanita 3 hours old

 

When people meet alpacas for the first time – they observe gentle, curious animals with big doe-like eyes looking back at them. An initial question usually turns to their type of personality. My usual answer is that alpacas are more like cats than dogs.

 

Let me explain ten reasons why:

 

  1. An alpaca will stand just outside your reach – until they get to know you.
  2. An alpaca is curious about anything in the immediate surrounding – and will sniff it cautiously.
  3. Alpacas learn their names and will come when you call them – or may not.
  4. Alpacas like treats and can get comfortable eating out of your hand – their tricks are a bit limited.
  5. Alpacas will run away if they get spooked – only to stop and turn around to see what it was that spooked them.
  6. Alpacas are very intelligent and choose to return to the poop pile – usually in the same place – much like a cat uses a litter box. (My dogs have never made a pile and choose to use the whole back yard.)
  7. Alpacas do not play fetch – like a dog. Instead they nibble with their split upper lip on the edges of “things”…
  8. An alpaca female is very protective of her cria the first few days – then lets it explore the surroundings openly – probably glad for the break.
  9. Alpacas take “cat naps” through out the day and night.
  10. Alpacas hum to communicate much like a cat “meows”. It can be very quiet and comforting or…very persistent and annoying.

What are your experiences of “alpaca personality?” I invite you to give me your comments.

Unique Alpaca Personalities

In a herd, certain alpacas will take the dominant lead while others may remain submissive. This seems to be the case with the females and the males. On the other hand, my experience is that when I get an alpaca alone… each one may exhibit entirely different personalities.

deadball

 

Many alpaca owners are drawn to the variety of behaviors that their alpacas display. A newbie may be surprised to learn that individual alpacas can be trained like horses, or dogs, or other pets if you take the time with them. 

 

For example:

  1. You can teach them to stand still while you put on a halter and lead. And teach them to lift their foot for toenail trimming.
  2. They will walk along side you on a lead once you teach them the basic skill. This is necessary if you wish to show them before a judge.
  3. With just a few lessons, you can teach them to jump into a van, horse trailer or modified auto.
  4. They can learn their name and come when you call them …especially when rewarded with a treat.
  5. At pellet feeding time… all I have to say is “TREATS” and point to the various catch pens. The ones that are fed in the assorted enclosures, stop, look at me, look at where I’m pointing and then run into the catch pens usually before I repeat “TREATS the third time.
  6. Some enjoy having their neck scratched – or side of their face. Some enjoy giving you kisses.
  7. If you get too friendly with one… he/she may become a bit of a pest and not respect your personal space or authority. (The ones that we bottle fed for a few weeks or more became so friendly that they would bite at my hat, untie my shoe laces, remove my gloves from my pocket and sometimes lunge at me if I didn’t get the food bowls down fast enough.) This is a behavior that needs to be addressed. It may be necessary to discipline the alpaca to prevent the unwanted behavior from persisting.

To get your respect back – try disciplining with a light tap on the nose with something soft like a Frisbee. If you do this at the first sign of unwanted behavior, usually it only takes 2 – 3 times before they get the picture and stop.

 

These are just a few of my experiences with their intelligence. What are your experiences of “unique alpaca personality?” I invite you to give me your comments.

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