What are the Alpacas Up To?
It’s early spring at Love’s Grace Farms, and the alpacas are still feasting on hay and are close in to the barns in case the weather goes downhill. It’s the time of year when it can snow any day, and on the days that it doesn’t snow, it’s really muddy.
It’s great weather, though, if you’re an alpaca. Most days are above freezing and nights dip just a few degrees below freezing. Since their fiber is so long now, they are quite comfortable in these cool temps, and they prefer to stay outside.
What is Cushing?
A favorite position for an alpaca is sitting with their legs tucked underneath. This sitting position is called ‘cushing’. The alpaca’s belly is in contact with the straw, and the animal can stay warm, even in the coldest weather. Its underside is protected and, of course, the rest of its body is kept warm by the insulating fiber. The alpaca may cush for most of the night, especially if a hay bale is close enough to feed on by just stretching its neck. After a fresh snow, they leave behind oval imprints as they arise from their night’s cush to stretch their legs and find a new spot for eating.
Their Favorite ‘dead look’!
On sunny spring days they will often cush and then roll onto their sides and stretch their necks straight out on the ground. The alpaca looks like it is dead, but it is actually just absorbing the sun’s radiant energy. When we were new alpaca owners, this position often threw us into thinking that the alpaca had suddenly died. Even now, when we know better, we will still call or whistle which causes the alpaca to look up, and allows our hearts to settle down again.
As the snow drifts melt away to expose the cold muddy ground, the alpacas can be seen grazing just at the snow’s edge. What looks like mud and dead grass from a distance, actually has sprouts of tender broadleaf weeds that are quick to green as winter melts away. The alpaca’s set of lower teeth and soft upper palette are perfect for nibbling the shortest carpet of early spring greens.
Well, there is snow back in the forecast for the next few days. The promise of spring appears to come and go, and it’s not time to take off the chains yet. Still another few weeks of hay for the alpacas, but we and they are looking forward to greener days ahead.