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Can Alpacas Live in Cold Weather?

Alpacas can comfortably live in cold weather or temperatures that are very cold

This is because of their fleece which keeps them warm and protects them from the harsh weather conditions.

 Alpacas have their fiber to keep them warm, and honestly they mind the heat much more than the cold. However, there are times and conditions when our alpacas appreciate a little help keeping warm.

Our rule of thumb is that we close the alpacas in the barn, when we hit single digit temperatures.  

Even alpacas appreciate being able to get out of cold, harsh winds and pelting rain or snow.  

We line the inside walls of their shelter with bales of straw, stacked three or four high, to cut down on the drafts as well as have handy for layering on top of the manure. 

Other than the cold and the snow, alpaca care is actually a little easier in the winter because we don’t clean up the manure in the barn.  

Rather we spread straw on top of the manure.  

Heat is generated from the lower layers of composting manure and straw.

Related: Check out this article on What do alpacas eat?

Tips on Readying Alpacas for Winter

landscape photography of mountains covered in snow
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

To everything there is a season.  

This is true on any farm, and an alpaca farm is no different.

On our farm we deal primarily with farm start ups and newcomers to alpaca farming.  

Two of the key questions we get from newcomers, and even journalists that visit the farm, is what happens to the alpacas in winter, and what do you do to get ready for winter on the farm? 

We’ve talked to a number of alpaca owners over the last few days. 

Most are people who haven’t had experience with an extended period of very cold temps like this and they’ve concerned about what they should do to keep their alpacas warm. 

Here are some reminders about dealing with sub-zero temps.

First, make sure your barn is keeping out the wind. 

A three sided shelter is fine if the open side is facing away from the wind and the other sides are solid enough to block the wind. 

If not, put up some plastic or stack some hay bales – just two high is fine for cushed alpacas.

Put plenty of bedding on the floor. We always spread out an extra bale or two in really cold weather.

Keep the hay feeders full. 

The alpacas will go through a lot of hay during cold snaps.

Make sure you have water available. 

We use heated water buckets all winter.

If you take care of the basics listed above, you shouldn’t have to worry much about the alpacas unless you have animals that are compromised in some way. 

We provide coats for our older/skinnier alpacas. 

If we have a small cria, we will coat it.

Our alpacas are usually free to go in and out of the barn as they choose. 

In this weather, we will shut most of the doors and just leave one or two open enough that those who want to go out can. 

Most of our alpacas opt to stay in the barn or under the overhang on the sunny side when it’s cold.

Here are some tips to help you get by

  1. Breed for spring and autumn births.
  2. Use layered, thick, dry bedding in sheds and barn.
  3. Bring alpacas inside in extreme cold and when they are wet dry them off before sending them back to the pasture.
  4. Use a flame and fan-free heating system when heat is used.
  5. Avoid drafts.
  6. Provide good drainage.
  7. Provide good ventilation and air circulation in all barns year round.
  8. Clear pastures of snow in areas large enough to provide exercise.
  9. For cria hypothermia, place cria in a plastic water-tight bag in warm water up to, but not including, the head.
  10. Use heated water buckets.
  11. Use cria coats and coats for adults when you see them shiver.  Use common sense.
  12. Feed large volumes of high quality hay in cold weather.

Can Alpacas Survive the Cold?

Generally, yes. Alpacas are amazingly resilient animals and have adapted successfully to the extremes of both very hot and very cold climates. 

In hot, humid climates, alpaca owners need to take extra precautions to make sure that the alpacas do not suffer from heat stress.

Check out this article that talks about can alpacas live with horses

What Temperatures do Alpacas Live in?

Alpacas are native to a climate which can fluctuate between extremes of temperature in excess of 30ºC during the day to below freezing at night.

Combined with a very low humidity, making them extremely resilient in regards to heat and cold, but not so tolerant to heat combined with high humidity, or cold combined.

Conclusion

Alpacas can live and survive in cold weather

They are very resilient animals and can easily adapt to the extremes of both hot and cold weather.

One thing you need to know also is that even though they can adapt and live in cold weather, you should ensure that you provide warmth for them whenever possible

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