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.

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.

Giving Alpacas A Shower

When you give them a shower aim from the chest down

When you give them a shower aim from the chest down

Alpacas love water – especially on a hot day. My females will stand in line to get their bellies hosed down. Then they wander off and find a cool place to roll, or lie in the mud, or bucket dance in their water pails.

 This regular ritual allows me to give each one a close inspection. I check for the changes in the udder, birth canal opening, body score and personalities. I also look at their toenails and any possible wounds or lesions. Because I control the flow of water, they let me get real close to them with no fear. If need be, I can catch one easily.

If you are going to give them a shower, keep the stream of water aimed at their feet and lower belly. This will prevent water from collecting in the fleece on their back and possibly generating a highly humid condition that could harm them.

Make sure that they always have shade throughout the day. This is especially important for the fully fleeced females in late term when the weather starts to turn warm. Even if you have just shorn your herd – they need access to shade in order to control their body temperature. And in humid parts of the country fans are a must to cool and circulate the air. (Alpaca Farm Girl from Fairhope Alpacas in Alabama shares some of her tips about keeping her alpacas cool over the summer – check out http://bit.ly/YVexP.)

Oh, remember the males! They love to have their bellies hosed too.

One of my “BIG BOYS” will rear up on his back legs – exposing his belly. When he brings his front feet down he does a “quick-step” and loves to splash me with mud as he rears up again. This dance continues as long as I aim the hose at his legs. I keep my distance with him because he also lunges quickly on those back legs towards the source of the water. (Allow time for changing clothes after this shower ritual … if you have a dancer like mine!)

Until next time.

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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