A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

December 8, 2009

Can It Get Any Colder!

The alpaca boys watch the snow

The alpaca boys stay on their warm spots and watch the snow

The last week has seen our weather change from the balmy temperatures of an early New Mexico fall to the bone chilling cold that can occur during late fall and winter.

Part of farming is accepting that you are at the mercy of the elements – you can’t control the weather and have to be prepared to work in whatever weather comes your way.  As the cold arrives the insulated coveralls are brought out of the closet, the alpacas socks become a permanent fixture on our feet, the fleece lined jeans are the dress choice of the day and our snow boots start to prove their worth.  Water bucket heaters are installed and the alpacas and horses are treated to extra hay on those super cold days.

Last Thursday we were initially forecast for a fairly cold dry day, but during the night the cold front that was coming into the area headed just a little further south than the weather man had predicted and by Thursday morning our ground was covered with snow.  Initial predictions of accumulation of an inch soon went out the window as by 9 a.m. two inches were already on the ground.

With the snow starting during the night the alpacas were already bedded down for the evening and having been cushed for a while each one had developed a warm spot where they were sitting.  When the snow started to fall it settled on the top of their fleeces but they were nice and warm – and were not moving!

We're not moving

Cosmo and friends stay out in the weather

Some of the alpacas were in their shelters, Theresa had moved her cria into the shelter and the little one was dry, warm and more than ready to show off her repertoire of bucks and kicks.  Ana Lynnette too had headed inside the shelter with her cria Roadrunner and the pair were contentedly watching the snow fall.

Box Car Alpaca Boys

Homer and Tobiano decided the shelter of the box car was a better place to be

It seems as if that snow fall opened the doors for an arctic blast because since then it has been cold – very cold.  Someone told us that Thursday night was reported as being record cold and since then it has only got colder.    By Monday our night time low was 18 (- 7.7 Celsius) and our daytime high was 26 (-3.3 Celsius)– and that’s without figuring in any wind chill.  But despite the cold the chores still need to be done – the animals fed, the poop piles raked, the dogs walked.  We still opened the store on Saturday and met some lovely (and hardy!) customers who came out to stock up on warm alpaca socks and Christmas gifts for the family.

The good news is that we can take our time getting the chores done and then head into the warmth of the house for some hot tea and warm food.  Then we can get on with some inside tasks and take a few minutes here and there to enjoy watching the alpacas whether they are rooting around in the hay, sitting out chewing their cud or wrestling, pronging and playing in the late afternoon as they start to build up their body heat for the night.

Our temperatures are supposed to warm up starting today, I say supposed to because already the forecast has changed a little and the word snow has now reappeared in the forecast as well as the mention of 60 mph wind – sounds like it’s going to be an interesting day, I don’t think I will be packing away the insulated coveralls, snow boots and alpaca socks anytime soon!


January 28, 2009

You know it’s really cold when …


The alpaca poop piles are frozen!  Yes, they were frozen solid this morning, hardly surprising as the temperature was only 15 degrees when we first went out.  The prospect of the frozen poop piles made me wonder what other alpaca breeders do who live in areas where the cold stays around for longer.  Our temperature is supposed to get up in the fifties today, but I know in some of the northern states the cold temperatures linger for days or even weeks.  I suppose their farms are designed more to cope with the cold weather than farms in the Southwest are, but still there must be some weeks when daily poop clean up is impossible due to the poop piles being frozen.


Apart from the frozen poop piles our herd fared well during the cold night.  Sunrise found most of the herd cushed in the shelters with a couple of brave souls venturing out to eat hay from one of the outside hay feeders.  I am always concerned that the small crias might feel the cold.  Our fall crias are too big for cria coats and are still quite vulnerable, but they didn’t seem to be bothered by the cold.  Their fleece is now reaching a length where it gives them better protection and insulation.


As I looked at the girl’s pasture I could see our resident American Hawk huddled up on the fence line with his feathers puffed out.  Usually he perches higher up in the trees on the north side of the property, perhaps the house was providing some protection from the wind and a warmer area for him to perch in.


All of the alpacas were glad to receive their morning feed and fresh hay followed by some warm soaked beet shreds.  Fresh water all round was a welcome provision, even though it is cold the alpacas still need to have a good supply of fresh water to keep them properly hydrated and functioning well.


Even the dogs were not too bothered by the cold on their morning walk, chasing the scent of rabbits over the property and sniffing out evidence of other visitors to the farm overnight.  The cold must have started to get to them though as they voluntarily cut short their walk and headed home before I told them to do so.


The joy of living in New Mexico is that cold weather does not usually last long, by yesterday afternoon we had sunny blue skies and the temperature had climbed to 32 degrees.  Warm enough to thaw out those poop piles and send me back outside for another round of poop scooping.  The down side of living in New Mexico is the lack of moisture, yet again the promised moisture passed us by with not a drop falling from the sky.  Let’s hope that spring brings us some much needed rain.


Today is supposed to reach the mid fifties so the chore routine will be closer to normal, no more frozen poop piles and icy water buckets I hope!



December 5, 2008

Staying Warm In Record Lows


Sometimes life doesn’t cooperate the way we would like it to.  While I made it safely to England for the funeral services for my father, Ric has had a more challenging time at home.


When Ric returned from his trip to England, he apparently brought an unwanted gift with him – a nasty virus which has left him with a sore throat, cough, low energy and which has stolen his voice.  Not really what you want when you are running the farm on your own, but so far he has been managing. 


If that was not enough to deal with the weather has turned really cold with Wednesday night/Thursday morning bringing record lows.  (I think Ric said minus 15, but with his lack of voice it is difficult to understand him sometimes).


Cold weather always brings more work with it, the alpacas need extra bedding and we also increase their hay to help them keep good energy during the cold temperatures.  Extra beet pulp shreds soaked in warm water are always welcomed by the herd, who love to slurp up the warm sweet water that the shreds are in.  We also like to put out buckets of warm water for the alpacas to drink.  Ric contends that the warm water freezes more quickly, but often the alpacas drink most of it before it gets a chance to freeze.  The first couple of warm water buckets may show less consumption but usually once word gets around (and it is amazing how quickly alpacas spread the word of something good to eat or drink) the warm water is the first to go.  It makes sense really; I know I prefer to drink warm drinks over iced drinks on a cold day.


The youngest of the crias have been practising their warm up routine, galloping at high speed around the pasture at dusk, and Ric reports that on Thursday morning the cria group had figured out that if they all cushed close together they could all be pretty comfortable.  Usually crias tend to sit with their dams at night or when it is cold, but I have noticed in the past that this fall cria group will often sit in a group together and sometimes even lie across each other.  They are a happy, friendly (and now in the cold weather comfortable) little group.


To keep us humans warm in such cold times the solution is lots of layers of clothing and I can be pretty certain that Ric is using his insulated coveralls, fleece lined jeans and of course alpaca socks (a post on our newly arrived line of alpaca socks will be following in the next day or two!).


The forecast says that the temperatures in New Mexico are due to start to warm back up again, so hopefully that will be the case.   I am sure not only Ric but all of the animals will appreciate some warmer weather.


Here in England I am doing my best to stay away from anyone who has the slightest hint of a cold or sickness, the only thing I plan on bringing back are my suitcases and some goodies from the grocery stores that I cannot buy in the United States (and with my trip coming so close to Christmas there are lots of goodies to choose from!)



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