As new alpaca people, we are compiling a long list of firsts. This ‘first’ is a brutal attack of extreme cold with snow and the challenge of protecting our herd from that cold. Alpacas are built for cold but we have a two-month-old cria and an expectant mom who is due in less than two weeks. The temps have been as low as about 15 degrees at night and will be about 10 degrees tonight. And the wind has been gusty….REAL gusty.
We spent some time this morning setting bales of straw and hanging tarps as wind breaks. The floor of the barn has been covered in a deep layer of straw. Our herd seems to be doing fine. Baby Alice is wearing three cria coats and the others have almost nine months of fiber growth.
THE NEXT DAY….
The low that was expected to be about 10 degrees was actually only 4 degrees. At first light, I went up to check on our herd. Every one was just fine! Although the high today will only be about 28 degrees, the sun is shining brightly and that is a very, very welcomed sight. I’m off to feed the alpacas!
It has now been a few days since the brutal cold and we made it! The old farm house suffered a frozen pipe in the bathroom, but no real damage. What we have learned from this is that the best practice is one of being prepared for extreme weather. Every activity in extreme cold is a challenge.
Our alpaca shelter is now stocked with infrared heat lamps, plenty of straw, extra tarps, CABLE TIES (these things rank HIGH on the list of “must haves”), blankets, towels, flashlights and spray on lubricant for keeping gate latches from freezing. I know we will add to this inventory as we discover other things that we need. Our water buckets are heated…this is a must!
We have planned for converting a corner in the shelter as a warm spot for the cria that is due soon. Under the heavy duty floor mat is a 30 foot heat cable that is normally used to prevent water pipes from freezing. This cable doesn’t put our much heat, but the mat traps the warmth that it does radiate and the effect is that of a slightly warm floor rather than a frozen one. Bales of straw and water proof tarps will help block the cold wind.
I know that it is likely that I will have to spend the night with the new arrival if the temperature is cold or if the cria is not strong. We do what we must. (December 2010)