Healthy Alpacas throughout Winter
It’s the last full week of February and winter has a firm hold. Snows have been falling and temperatures are in the -20’s C (way below 0 F!). The weatherman says it’s going to stay this way for a few days, and we will take extra time to monitor the alpacas for their comfort and warmth. Even our cattle prefer to be in the barn in this weather.
It’s a great time, though, to do a complete herd health logging as most of the alpacas prefer to hang out and eat hay inside the barn. Wind and snow are not their favorite weather elements.
Daily, as we walk through the barns and corrals, the animals are checked for any signs of lethargy, weight loss, infection and loss of appetite. Alpacas are picky eaters, but during the day, alpacas should be either eating or sitting and chewing (truly ruminating!). Our fuzzy buddies should be nice round barrels with no sign of spiny backbones or ribs showing.
It’s also important to make sure there are enough hay bales set out so that all animals can find a ‘place at the table’. Some alpacas can be a bit domineering, and will sit by the hay bale, and even sleep at the hay bale, and not allow some of the more timid characters a turn at the trough.
Herd health logging gives us a chance to look at each animal in more detail. The alpacas are walked through a laneway one-by-one, where we give each animal a good ‘hug’. We look them in the eyes and ears, and everywhere else to make sure all parts are in good working order. Yes, they would really rather not have to do this, but then most of us don’t like to get a check-up either.
In summary, make sure they have continuous access to yummy grass, plus minerals and extra protein, a nice warm barn for winter’s coldest days, lots of company to spit at and talk to, and keep monitoring for any signs of trouble. They’re not much for complaining or letting you know when something’s wrong.
One thing is certain, healthy alpacas make healthy crias (babies), and that’s the best reward of all.