Saturday, January 30, 2010

Arctic Blast

It's been cold! The kids reported that at school this week they had the choice of a short outdoor recess, or recess inside. For a public school in Michigan, where we are used to cold, it's rare they even offer indoor recess. It's been cold, even for this area.

Last night our thermometer shows the low of -5* (which is where it was when I went out to feed the alpacas). By the time I got back inside, the sun had started to shine and it was up to a balmy -2*

In the cold there are a few things that we make sure the alpacas have so that they stay warm. For one, they need a shelter, even if they choose not to use it, they need access to somewhere out of the wind. They need warm bedding to cush in so that they can warm up if needed. And they need lots of hay, as their stomach working to digest the hay warms them up.

I made sure to bring out a lot of hay during this cold spell so that they have plenty to eat and keep warm:

Our alpacas have shelter, with lots of straw to cush down in to stay warm. I know they can all fit into this barn because I have been in there with them during a bad rain storm. There was room for all of them, plus Spot, plus me in the back corner. However, the barn stands empty:

Note our blue plug in water buckets, can't have the water freezing on them.

Instead they choose to be outside. I found most of them with frost on their backs and faces (often just around the muzzle). You can see the frost best on the darker colored alpacas.

The alpacas do ok in the cold. I'm most concerned if there is a strong bitter wind, as that can sometimes make them cold. They have that thick, warm fiber all over their body that really does keep them warm. I've put my hands into their fiber, close to their skin and can feel the warmth. They regulate their temperature through their belly/chest. As in the summer I will spray that area with cold water from a hose to cool them off; in the winter, they cush down (basically how they sit/lay) to cover that chest/belly area in the hay or straw. Cushing in the straw/hay allows that area to be out of the wind and elements and really keeps them warm. Their fiber does a great job of keeping out the elements (even rain usually only wets the outter layer, not deep towards their skin). We have some alpacas who love to cush in the barn, notibly Sancha. Other alpacas almost always cush outside, near the hay bin. We put some old stalky hay on the ground out there so that they have that to cush on. They seem to love it. Here they are later in the day, when some are eating hay out of the bin, others are cushed in the old hay, soaking up the sun:

By that time that picture was taken, it was almost 30* outside, and all the frost was gone from their faces and backs.

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