are remarkably adaptive and can survive in a wide range of
climate conditions. Still,
to achieve the best results possible raising alpacas in severe
conditions, a little extra care will go a long way.
and I have been raising suri alpacas in northern Ohio at Humming
Hill Suri Farm Ltd. since 1993.
Our herd averages 90 to 100 suri alpacas, and we also
have three huacayas. There
are no significant differences in cold weather animal husbandry
between huacayas and suris; therefore, I will address this
subject in terms of all alpacas.
years ago we made one of the most expensive and significant
decisions since we started in this business.
We held all our females open and bred them for spring and
fall births. We no
longer have December, January or February births and we have
eliminated July and August births as well.
We have a two year old state of the art facility
specifically designed for alpacas.
It includes a large heated barn, closed circuit
television cameras and concrete floors covered with rubber mats.
Regardless, we still feel extreme temperature births are
an unnecessary burden and especially for new alpaca clients
purchasing their first animals from us.
plow snow or move it with our front end loader so the alpacas
can exercise, because normally they will not walk in snow over
six inches. On
sunny days we place bales of hay in the plowed pastures so the
animals will leave the sheds.
These alpacas stay in the pastures at all times in the
winter unless temperatures go into the single digits.
In extreme cold they are placed in the barn, particularly
at night. Common
sense seems to be the best method of determining when animals
need a warmer, more enclosed area.
If an alpaca is shivering, it is cold and needs a coat or
a warmer atmosphere. The most detrimental weather for all livestock occurs when we
have a soaking rain followed by falling temperatures. In these conditions, all the alpaca are brought inside and
heat is used to dry them out.
Usually, after one to two hours drying out, we release
them to the pasture if the rain has stopped.
On cold snowy days they are free to roam the pastures or
enter their sheds or the barn, without heat.
use heated water buckets where electric is available.
In the pastures we place warm water in large containers
twice a day and remove the ice from the water tubs.
If heat is used, we recommend radiant heaters.
They are more expensive but they are worth the extra
cost. They do not
have an open flame, they power exhaust out of the barn and
because they do not use forced air they will not cause a draft.
Drafts are a very real detriment.
Straw bales should be used to block areas under doors,
etc. to eliminate drafts. On
the west side of our barn where we have overhangs or porches, we
install sheets of plywood starting in November to block the wind
and leave a 24” space for the alpacas to enter and exit the
barn and porches. Remember,
the more you enclose the barn, the more ventilation you must
provide. Good air
circulation is important year round.
is one of our most important concerns.
We use gutters on all our overhangs and sheds to avoid
water and ice buildup at the very areas where the alpacas enter
and exit. Their
feet must be kept as dry as possible to avoid foot rot and other
winter births are part of your breeding program, use cria coats
on all cold days and nights on newborns.
Wash the cria coats and dry them if used randomly.
Remember, if you are using cria coats randomly without
washing you are moving a coat with the scent of one animal to
another. This will
cause consternation for the dam.
Sometimes, in extreme cold, we layer the coats.
Make sure the alpaca are not shivering.
Even adult animals need coats if they shiver.
Every animal has its own thermostat.
We have one of our original alpacas, Grandesa, our Grand
Dam import from 1993, who refuses to come inside in any weather
if given a choice. We
have gone out and found her buried in snow from sleeping out all
night. We do not
like to enclose animals in a barn, but in extreme conditions it
is the wise thing to do.
you have a cria birth and it has hypothermia, place it in a
plastic bag in warm water.
Use a rectal thermometer and get its temperature up to
normal. Massage the
animal and dry with a hair dryer.
If you place the cria directly in warm water without the
plastic bag, you will wash the natural scent from the cria and
the dam will not accept the cria.
In over 100 births, we have had only one bottle fed cria.
most important food heat source is hay and not grain.
99% of their nutrition comes from the hay.
We give free choice hay at all times, all winter.
The feeders are large and are checked three times a day.
They are kept full, especially at night. We use only third cutting, 18% protein tested hay with up to
30% alfalfa. The
results of using this expensive hay are obvious when observing