Friday, August 22, 2008

Nothing Says Summer Like Belly Baths

Our farm is in the Deep South. Alpacas can be raised in the South, but the heat and humidity is a challenge for alpaca farmers. Alpacas can actually die of heat stress so we are serious about keeping our critters cool. Fans are a must. Alpacas cool through their bellies so we water their tummies with a hose when we are concerned about an individual or the whole herd getting too hot. We want our alpacas to be acclimated to our Southern climate so we do not water everyone's belly every day, but we do use that technique when needed. Alpacas are like people. Some are hot natured. Others never seem to break a sweat all summer. They are all so different. I used to think that the black ones would be more hot. And I do think they would if they sat out in the sun all day with their deep pigment drawing the sun to them, but they sit in front of fans in the barn most of the day. In general black alpacas are not as dense as their lighter colored friends so most of the blacks aren't terribly hot relatively speaking. Density is probably the biggest factor after individual heat tolerance. If you want to raise alpacas in the Southeast I recommend you build your herd around fineness and not try to specialize in density at least at the beginning. The more follicles of fiber, the less room for their skin to breathe.

With regards to heat, we were told by our mentor to buy alpacas from our region when we were getting started. We followed that advice to a certain degee. But after a few years in the alpaca business, with some experience under our belt, we bought a herdsire from Maine. We brought him home after the AOBA National Conference in June. The next morning after we returned home, I opened that back door to go check on our new macho.

A wall of heat and humidity hit me in the face. I thought that I must have killed this poor alpaca to bring him down here as he was used to a much cooler and less humid existence. Panicked, I ran out and found him sunbathing in the field. For the rest of his life that boy loved to sunbathe and never appeared to be affected at all by our climate. We have also had a couple of alpacas who were born and raised here that don't like the heat. So you never know. A few look at me plaintively in the summer with nostrils flaring, their eyes saying "Can't you please do something about this?" I wish I could. Summers can be miserable here. For those gals I just pray that when they sell they go to cooler climates. For more on keeping alpacas cool in summer, here's an article on Preventing Heat Stress in Alpacas. Hang in there, it's almost over!

Got comments and/or tips for keeping animals cool in summer? Share them with us!

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