Farm Facts...

Winter is on the Horizon

by Marilyn Loft Houck

Winter will soon be arriving in Wisconsin. Therefore, livestock owners have been working hard for several weeks preparing their buildings for the cold, snow, and ice that is sure to come.

What do Llamas and Alpacas need for winter protection?

Even though these hardy animals have wonderful wool coats they need protection and care during winter. Below are a few things we have learned and have practiced through the years to keep our Llamas safe and healthy.

1. A barn or shed is necessary to keep the animals out of wind and driving sleet and snow. The barn or shed should have doors and windows that can be closed when there is a storm blowing in from one direction such as a fierce storm with wind from the West in our part of Wisconsin. Be certain to close ONLY the doors and windows that would allow blowing snow to enter the building. Llamas and Alpacas need to see other doors and windows open... it is their nature to have an "escape" from a building. At Fancy Creek Llamas we never close all exits from the buildings. We only close the doors that would cause storm discomfort.

2. Llamas and Alpacas need a good, reliable source of water in winter. Because the animals are eating dry food in the form of hay and a grain ration they require more water in winter than they do in summer months.

3. Keep your water source free of ice and keep it clean. If you would not drink out of the water tank then the animals should not be expected to drink unsuitable water either. Use a heater in the water if you are in a northern state where the temperatures are extreme. (Heaters are available at hardware and farm supply stores.)

4. Feed grassy hay to your Llamas and Alpacas. Do not feed any moldy hay.

5. Feed a grain ration. Watch your animals carefully while they eat their grain ration... do not feed "free choice" all day! Once in a while a Llama or Alpaca may have a choking situation with a grain ration. You may have to help massage the animal's throat or give a tiny bit of water (5 cc) to loosen the grain blockage.

6. Why feed a grain ration? In the northern region, there is no grass for grazing in the winter. The grain ration contains vitamins to help keep the animals healthy. The vitamins and minerals in hay are virtually non-existent due to the drying process.Hay provides the great fiber the animals need and the grain ration provides the vitamins and minerals.

7. Offer a 50 pound white salt block for the animals as well as a "sheep" mineral mix. This mineral mix is important for the health of the animals. The mineral mix is granular so that you can make a small wooden box... 8 inches by 10 inches... attach the box to the wall in the barn with lag screws. Fill the box with the mineral mix and the Llamas can eat it free choice. The white salt block will provide some salt but not enough on a daily basis. Because Llamas and Alpacas cannot stick out their tongues to lick like a cow or dog can, they do not get enough from the blocks but they do enjoy "gumming" the blocks. DO NOT use a mineral block... use ONLY a white salt block.

Stay tuned for the next Winter update on Llama and Alpaca care...
Contact us if you have more questions about winter preparation.

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