Thursday, February 21, 2013

Animals A to Z

Meet the Alpacas part 1

Come with me to feed the Alpacas. Don't let the weather deter you. It's 18 degrees out, cloudy, and breezy. It could be worse. And don't let that pesky bronchial infection stop you. Dry, frozen wind will fix that right up. (You're familiar with sarcasm, right?)

The right outdoor attire is a must. I'm joking. Sort of.

Boot are a must though. These have been working well this season. Keeps the toes warm and are fun to boot. sorry.

 First we have to walk through the yard down the tree lined path toward the loafing shed. (a big lean to for animals to provide them shelter - kind of a half barn).

Then through the gate and through the forest. Yes we planted a little forest when we moved here. It has Austrian pines, Colorado Blue Spruces, and Aspens.

There's the table and chairs where I sit with tea or a glass of wine in the summer and fall whilst reading a book.

There are the boys. Ever curious and waiting for food.

This is Fantan aka Fanny. A little skittish and shy.

                                      This is Quito. Fantan's real brother. Curious yet aloof.

And Puca. Friendly and likes to sniff your hair. They all came with their names when we bought them.

Alpacas are native to the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile and survive at altitudes of 11,500 ft to 16,000 ft above sea level, where it can be extremely hot during the day and freezing cold at night.  Please don't confuse them with Llamas, although both are camelids. Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burdens, but were bred specifically for their fiber. And they're much cuter and gentler (I had an unfortunate experience with a llama when I was young. Can you tell?) And they only spit green gunk at each other occasionally not at people like camels.

First thing I do is feed them sweet grain. These guys only get fed about a cup or so a day. It's more like a treat, and they love it.

Then comes hay. After living here for 17 years I've learned more than I ever wanted to about hay. Suffice to say there are as many options about types and amounts of feeding hay to various animals as there are types of coffee to order at Starbucks. Our alpacas get grass hay - sometimes with a little alfalfa hay mixed in when that's what's available (there I go - I'll have a dry cappuccino with a half shot of chocolate syrup....) People who raise alpacas for their premium fiber often feed them a richer diet because it shows in their fiber.  Since our Alpacas are basically pets at this point they don't need nor do as well on a rich hay diet. Don't get me wrong - I have them sheared and save their fiber. I have 40 bags stashed in the garage and attic to prove it! (More about that in part 2)

And last but not least fresh water. Out here you need one of these. Pumps where the pipes are three feet down in the ground. Below the freeze level. During the winter, hoses are pretty impractical (unless you thoroughly empty every last drippy drop of water out of it after each use) So buckets it is. You tend to build arm strength when taking care of large animals. And yes, that is an empty cat litter bucket. We believe in recycling here. So two trips with this to the heated water bucket in the loafing shed.

 After the boys are taken care of it's back the way we came

And inside to have some hot chocolate and a snack. Until tomorrow when it has to be done again...

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