ALPACA HUSBANDRY HINTS
Hands get wet and cold during winter chores even though you are wearing gloves? Try adding a pair of disposable latex gloves under your regular ones. They'll keep you a bit warmer and you probably won't feel a thing when your outer gloves get wet. We have been wearing them under inexpensive, stretchable knit gloves (the type pebbled with rubber or similar dots in the palms and fingers are best) for the past two winters. This combination allows great finger maneuverability and has kept us out there and working when temperatures are in the teens.
Vitamin D for Northern Latitude Youngsters and Moms
Vitamin D is required for proper bone growth and is manufactured by animals with sufficient exposure to sunshine. Unfortunately, for those living in the more northern latitudes, the angle of the sun is such that many young animals do not get enough sunshine even on bright days to enable them to synthesize sufficient Vitamin D. Insufficient Vitamin D may first be noticed when the legs of a previously straight youngster start to show angular deformity. Unremedied, this can progress to severe limb and spinal deformities, pain and all of the symptoms of rickets. Fortunately, Vitamin D can be given as a preventative. It is available in both injectable and oral forms. [To date only clinical tests with the injectable form have been completed.]
When we lived in California (latitude the same as San Francisco) we never experienced any Vitamin D deficiency problems in our herd but were aware of other farms in Northern California that had cases of rickets. However, during our first winter in Oregon we experienced Vitamin D deficiency in two crias, one dark fibered and the other a very woolly light fawn. We now give the injectable form of Vitamin D to ALL of our youngsters and pregnant ladies in late November and late January. If you are not currently on a Vitamin D program and live in a northern state or think that you might have a Vitamin D deficiency problem, we encourage you to check with your veterinarian and follow his/her recommendations.
Frozen Latches and Locks
Latches can and do freeze up when there is cold and precipitation. If an electrical outlet is near by a hairdryer provides a quick and easy solution. However, if the frozen latch is in a remote location and you don't favor removing your glove and using the heat from your hand, you might try one of the gadgets that are sold to defrost car locks. We purchased a battery operated deicer on a key ring that fits easily into a jacket pocket and find that it thaws double end bolt type snaps in 20 to 30 seconds.
Spare Panels and Gates - Great to Have Handy
Standard pipe type panels are typically available in 10, 12 and 16 foot lengths; gates can be had sized for 4 - 16 foot openings. Four panels or gates can be used as a temporary, free standing small pen or fewer can be used in combination with existing fences or structures. Last summer we used two 12 footers under a tree in the corner of a larger pen to confine a young cria with a badly injured a leg with its mom. They could see and be visited by their friends but the cria, as per veterinary orders, could not do much running around. To prevent the small cria from getting between the bars of the panels we also attached 3/4" mesh plastic netting to the panels from ground level to three feet. Panels and gates can also be used alone or in combination with existing fencing, walls and t-posts (or other posts) to rapidly create a catch pen for herd health or training days or divide up areas within a barn or other shelter.
Heavy gauge woven panels (typically 5' X16' with 2" X 4" mesh and 4' X 16' with mesh graduated from 8" X 2" at bottom to 8" X 6" at top) have even more potential uses. Best of all they can cut with heavy duty cutters to fit almost anywhere. Not as rigid as panels and gates, they require more support (i.e., posts) except when short lengths are employed. Attached to t-posts, they can quickly become temporary pens or even permanent fixtures. We once cut pieces of the 5' X 16' panels to make a mini pen at the back door for an alpaca that was on I.V. fluids for 5 days and had to be continually monitored. We also contoured a piece to replace the storm doors in our enclosed horse trailer for ventilation during warm weather hauling and have a removable piece positioned immediately behind the front seats of our mini van which turns the rear area into a great spot for traveling dogs or alpacas.
For more husbandry hints, go to our Alpaca Husbandry Hints Archives.