A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 27, 2007

Sun, Rain and Wind – The Shelter’s The Place To Be

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, General — alpacalady @ 7:32 am

Large Car Port ShelterA question we are often asked is, “What is a suitable shelter for an alpaca?”  The question is a good one as alpacas do need some form of shelter in their pastures, but the type of shelter will vary according to your environmental needs.

Here in Eastern New Mexico we are blessed by many months of warm dry weather and so our shelter requirements are quite different from other parts of the country where the weather may be cooler or wetter.

When we first brought our alpacas home we had them in a pasture that already had a shelter in it that was made from an old wooden box car.  It’s a pretty study shelter and has the added advantage of two slide doors that mean we can keep the alpacas in if we need to.  We still have the box car shelter and it has survived well over the years.

As our herd grew Ric decided that he could build shelters for our pastures.  The first shelter he built was one that is now in our quarantine pen.  The shelter consists of two three sided buildings that have a wooden frame, metal siding and a metal roof.  The two buildings face each other forming a breezeway between them which the alpacas often like to cush in.  By installing a portable panel on each end of the breezeway we can easily adapt the shelter to become a catch pen.  The shelter is pretty nice except for one design flaw – it is not tall enough!  When Ric built that shelter he felt that as the alpacas themselves are not tall he could make the shelter shorter in height, the only problem was that he forgot that he and are vet are both over 6 feet tall.  We’ve now lost count of how many times we have banged our heads on that shelter roof!

So when it came time to build another shelter this time Ric made it quite a bit taller.  Again he used the wood frame, metal siding combination.  A faucet was installed in the shelter to provide water and eventually an automatic waterer was added to the outside of the shelter.  This shelter has been a very flexible one.  We can easily set up portable panels within the shelter to create a pen for a new dam and cria or if we have a sick alpaca that needs some TLC.  The roof joists provide us with all sorts of options for setting up equipment such as heat lamps, fans or even hairdryers for blow drying chilled crias.  The shelter has a dirt floor which we can spray down with water during the hot summer months to provide a cool area for the alpacas to lie on, or that we can add deep straw to if the weather is particularly cold.  The only problem with this shelter is that over time we realized it was becoming a little unstable, and the reason for the instability was that the wooden corner posts were being devoured by termites!  Termites are in abundance in this part of the world, and while our house is protected against them we had not given thought to how they would attack any wood used out in the pastures.  So the shelter had to be taken down and reassembled using a metal frame and corner posts.

As our herd grew we realized that we were going to need more shelters and started researching our possibilities.  At one seminar I attended the speaker mentioned using metal car ports or garages as alpaca shelters.  I mentioned the idea to Ric and after some further research we contracted to have a double car port shelter installed in the girls pasture.  The car port shelter has metal siding on three sides and a dirt floor, and also has heavy duty trailer house tie downs at each corner to ensure that the shelter can hold up to our high winds.   While we had to pay a little more for this shelter it was definitely the way to go.  On the day the shelter was delivered and installed the crew showed up on time and had the shelter put together and installed in under an hour!  Having seen that, Ric declared he would never build another shelter in his life!

The car port shelter is large enough to accommodate all of the alpacas from that pasture and also the llamas should they all wish to go in at the same time. We have again installed a faucet and an automatic watery.  The car port shelters come in a variety of sizes and really provide a great, fast, reasonable option.

It has taken us a little time and some trial and effort to figure out what type of shelter is best for our alpacas considering our weather, the functions that we might want that shelter to perform and the cost of not only our money but also our time.  In hindsight we wish we had thought of the car port shelters earlier but if we had done so we would have missed out on some valuable learning lessons along the way.

 Rosemary

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