Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Keepin' Cool

By Terry Miller, Snowshoe Farm Alpacas

It seemed as though it would never arrive this year, but summer is finally here! Even though Vermont's temps are usually comfortable for alpacas, we do, on occasion, get those hot and humid days that do not agree with alpacas and llamas. It pays to be prepared to keep your camelids cool.

Shearing, of course, is the first item on the agenda. It's wise to schedule your shearing date well before hot weather arrives. Mid-April to mid-June is generally shearing season in Vermont.

Shade is the next item you should provide for your alpacas. In this part of the country, most of us have barns or shelters for our critters to keep out the elements, so finding shade is usually not a problem. We have overhangs on both long sides of our main barn. The areas under the overhangs provide shade, yet are open to the breeze. They are very popular places for the alpacas to hang out most of the year. Trees in the pasture can also provide a shady refuge.

Cool, clean water should always be available — for drinking, of course, but also for cooling off. Most alpacas also enjoy a pool or sprinkler. We like to use the simple brass ring sprinklers (the plastic version does not stand up well to being stepped on by alpacas). These sprinklers have no sharp edges or moving parts to harm the alpacas that tend to cush on them. Turning on the sprinklers for 10-15 mins at a time throughout the day allows the alpacas to cool off and keeps them out in the pasture grazing when they might otherwise seek out the shade of the barn.

Fans can be a big help, especially on those humid days when the air is sluggish. Large fans that sit or hand at ground level work well to put a breeze where it most helps – the legs and bellies of the alpacas.

Avoid the stress of handling your more skittish alpacas during a heat wave. A relaxed herd will be cooler and more comfortable and will get through extremes of weather with fewer problems.

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