A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 17, 2008

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:43 am

Well the cold air arrived as promised and yesterday was spent making sure that all animals would be as comfortable as possible during the cold snap.  The llama pillows are firmly wrapped around the faucets and hopefully we will have working faucets outside this morning.  An overnight low of 7 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind-chill taking the temperature down to minus one is a little bit of an insulation challenge though!

As the air cooled off yesterday (helped of course by the usual 26 mph sustained winds!) I watched the alpacas as they figured out the best way to stay warm and out of the wind.  I put most of the hay inside the shelters to encourage them to go inside, but they do so love to be outside and several of them stayed out until all of the hay in the outside feeders was gone.

The alpacas and llamas are pretty smart when it comes to figuring out which side of the shelter provides the best protection from the wind and when I ventured outside I checked the areas that they were cushed in and it wasn’t too bad.

During the late afternoon I looked out and saw Clarissa and Willow, her cria of two years ago both cushed in the pasture.  Typically Clarissa and Willow don’t hang out too much together, unlike Bjorn’s family who are almost glued to each other’s side.  Today though there were mother and daughter cushed fairly close together.  Not only were they cushed together but also each one had her head down and turned to one side in exactly the same manner.  They looked like a couple of bookends.  I went to get my camera to snap the shot, but as I closed the door on my way out to take the picture the click of the door caused Clarissa to raise her head and the moment was gone.

I’m still trying to figure out a way to have my camera with me and ready to work all the time, no success on that puzzle yet though.

I am betting that Clarissa and Willow spent much more time together last night as the alpacas all cushed together for the evening.  When the group all cushes together it is amazing how much heat they generate.  Today it is supposed to get up to all of 30 degrees for our daytime high; if it gets any warmer I will have to look out my shorts! 


November 25, 2007

Getting Creative – Llama Pillows

The last couple of days have seen some really cold temperatures.  Our daytime highs dropped suddenly from the high 70’s to the low 30’s – brrr.  On Thanksgiving morning we were also treated to a snowfall, nothing too heavy, but snow all the same.  Following many weeks of dry conditions the moisture from the snow is very welcome.

With the cold though come some challenges, little Kanika has to wear her cria coat day and night to make sure she stays warm, and we have put straw bedding in the shelters to give the alpacas a warm surface to lie on.  One of our main challenges though is freezing water faucets.  The water hydrants we have installed are supposedly frost proof, but in certain cold conditions they still freeze and by Thanksgiving morning only one or two of the hydrants were working.

Ric got to work with a heat lamp to defrost the frozen hydrants.  Having fresh water available in cold weather is just as important as having it available in hot weather.  Even in cold weather an alpaca can become dehydrated if it does not drink enough water and that can lead to all sorts of other problems.

Having defrosted all of the hydrants and got them working we now had to figure out a way to stop them freezing again.  During the summer Ric and I had discussed the possibility of using alpaca fiber as insulating material, we had various ideas about how it could be used, but put the thought to the back of our minds.  Now was our chance to get creative.

Having sent a lot of our lesser quality fiber off to be processed into rugs, we hated to use our really fine fiber for an insulation experiment, so instead we settled on using some of the fiber shorn from our llamas for the project.

Ric took the llama fiber and stuffed it into old feed sacks making “llama pillows”.  The trick was to have enough fiber in the sack to provide good insulation while still allowing the “llama pillow” to be molded around the hydrant.  Once the sacks were taped closed they were wrapped around the hydrant and then covered with an inverted trashcan.  Voila!  One protected hydrant!

So far our llama pillows are working well, but if we were to do this on a more permanent basis then we need to adjust our prototype.  First we need to put the llama fiber into something that is breathable but yet which would prevent moisture from getting into the llama fiber, which could cause it to rot.  Then we have to establish exactly how much fiber provides good insulation and in which form would it work best.   Would alpaca or llama batting be a better option than the loose fiber?  The trashcan cover works but is a little unsightly and awkward to handle, so a different cover would be a good idea.

So there are many refinements to be made to our project but in the meantime our crude prototype is keeping our hydrants working.   Llama pillows are wonderful things!


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