Monday, June 29, 2009

How to survive the heat

Last week we had some very hot days (it hit 100* at our house on one of the days!).

The alpacas do not handle heat very well. They actually handle the cold better, given their very warm and thick fiber. Even shorn, they still do not handle heat very well. We have fans on in the barns anyday it gets above 75*. On the really hot days, we hose them off:

The key to hosing them off is where you put the water. It doesn't do them a whole lot of good to wet down their back. In fact, it can ruin their fiber if they get wet too far down and it doesn't dry out well (not an issue when they are newly shorn, but could be later on in the season). Alpacas regulate their temperture by their belly. There they have the least amount of fiber too. In the winter, Alpacas cush (sit down) and keep their bellies covered to warm up. Cushed down in the hay is a great way for them to stay warm on a very cold day. In the heat, cooling down their belly helps their whole body cool down. I aim the hose right at their belly, between their two front legs (as seen above).

This is our first year with a great pyreneese. Poor guy has a lot of fur. You aren't suppose to shave their fur as that puts them at risk for sun burn. They do naturally thin out their fur during the summer, but it's still miserable for them on really hot days. We have a lot of shade for Spot, and places he can get out of the elments. But on the really hot days, I fill a pool for him, that he loves!

I do want to make a note about pools. Some alpacas like to cush in the pool to cool down. Sancha has been known to do this. She jumps in and jumps out as quick as a flash. There are concerns about this. For one, as our vet pointed out, bugs can grow in water, so make sure to put in new water each day, do not leave water in there for days at a time. Also, newborn cria have been known to drown in a pool, so I would not leave it unattended anywhere near a due date (even if the alpaca is not known to go in the pool, it's not worth the risk). I've also heard of it possibly linked to mastitis (breast infection in a mother). This could be avoided by making sure the water is rinsed frequently and clean, and that the alpaca does not sit in it for hours at a time. A quick cush by Sancha and Spot standing in it is about all our pool ever sees. I make sure to empty it when I'm not there and to rinse it out everday we use it.

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