shortest daylight day and super cold

ALPACAS IN ALBERTA’S WINTER WEATHER

It’s December 31, the last day of 2021. The sun rises late in the morning and hugs the southern horizon. The thermometer reads -30 degrees C (21 below zero F). As the sun rises, the door is opened to the barn for the male alpacas. Steam escapes from their overnight quarters as the animals stretch their legs and soak in the sun’s radiant energy. They file down the hill and gather around several hay bales to continue eating.

Most of the day and a good portion of the night for an alpaca is spent eating, resting and chewing. They eat slowly and take tiny bites. Eat some more, rest and chew some more, etc. etc. Winters are like that. No need to run through the pasture since there is only snow for now.

Alpacas were bred as a herd animal in Peru and Chile to ultimately graze on the Altiplano. Climate in the thin dry air regularly dips below freezing and snow is possible most any night. How does winter in Alberta compare to winter on the Altiplano in South America? -10 degrees C is the coldest nighttime temp for the Altiplano, but central Alberta can dip to -40 on occasion. That’s why we watch the temperatures closely, and move the animals into insulated barns filled with straw, hay and water for any night colder than -16.

When the sun comes up, though, the boys are ready to move out. Radiant energy from the sun (vitamin D!) is important for their health. The barn is always open for them to wander back and forth on these chilly days, but maybe the hay tastes better outside.

Once the sun goes down on these chilly winter days, they are back in the barn of their own accord. Another winter’s day of eating done and time to dream about green grass in the days to come.

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