Cold Weather Care

When the winter months blanket us with a mixture of deep snow and ice, the first severe drop in temperatures down around the zero range find some of our llamas suddenly shivering. When temperatures descend gradually, as they normally do in the fall months, they all seem to be adapted and ready for it, but when the temps drop suddenly, sometimes combined with drenching rain, it can be quite a shock to some of them. Normally some kind of shelter will provide them enough for comfort.

However, some short wooled llamas and some older, thin animals do need a little more attention in the cold weather. Without the surplus fat on their body, you can almost see the calories blowing off some of these older llamas. They would benefit from a horse blanket or possibly a "designer llama blanket" made from a sleeping bag. (purchased in the sports department for only $14 at Wal-Mart). Additional feed and cracked corn will help their body heat and a sheltered place to bed down in a deep layer of straw will help to keep them comfortable.

Some kind of heated area is almost necessary for a new cria born in these temperatures or for an animal that is ill. A safe, heated "emergency room" in the barn is the ideal, but most barns don't offer that luxury. Infared Heat Lamps can help warm an area but they should be used only with extreme caution. They can be wired or nailed securely in place so they cannot get knocked down, but there still is the danger of burning an animal if it gets too close and also the danger of a barn fire with all the hay around. Any type of heater that uses a fuel is also considered dangerous when used unsupervised around the animals. The DeLonghi radiator heater has been recommended to be the safest heater available. Available at stores like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Menard's for about $50.00, it is thermostat controlled and kid safe - never too hot to touch. Although this heater will not heat a barn, it will do a good job of raising the temperature to a comfortable llama level in an enclosed stall sized area. We've found it to be very effective in a tent-like structure with vinyl sides and a ceiling of ten feet.

A warm, cozy spot can be created for your crias in your creep feeder or even in a corner of the barn by making walls of hay or straw bales. Protected from drafts and thickly bedded with straw, the crias can cozy up together and enjoy their own supply of grain, cracked corn, and a higher protein hay. Additional warmth can be provided with cria coats and dog sweaters. Cria neck warmers can be made from sleeves of old sweaters or sweatshirts.

Freezing water buckets are a problem in this weather - except for those who have heated, automatic waterrers! Definitely a good investment! The next best thing would be the insulated, heated buckets. Flat on one side, they hang nicely and keep the water from freezing. The electric cord exits from the bottom of the pail and is wrapped with wire to prevent chewing. These usually run about $40.00 from any farm supplier. Floating tank heaters can also be used but some have reservations about the complete safety of this type of heater. Animals have been known to pull them out of the water buckets and the heater can then possibly start a fire in the hay. For complete safety, these heaters should not be used without a GFI outlet.

Just carrying hay and water in deep snow proves to be quite challenging. Short of a motorized vehicle that will soar over the snow, an old toboggan or sled seems to simplify this job.

This article, written by Marilyn Nenni, appeared in the Hoosier Hummer.
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