LLAMA CARE FOR WARM WEATHER
The change in the seasons requires different types of care for your llamas. The heat here in the South as well as in the North can suddenly change to a very warm or hot and humid temperature. Llamas can tolerate gradual changes over a period of days, but an abrupt one can greatly effect them. If you have a llama who is ill, has worms, or is pregnant, that additional high temperature can result in their getting heat exhaustion.
It is never too early to plan for the oppressive humidity and heat of the summer. Some of the ways you can prevent your animals from developing heat stress is just proper maintenance and care. Keep up a worming program which you and your veterinarian have decided on. Make sure you keep your llamasí vaccinations up to date. Do a daily observation of your animals to make sure they are well. Over a period of time you will begin to know and understand your animals for signs of wellness and illness. This will avoid some problem becoming worse over a period of time. Make sure they always have fresh clean water, and also a clean cool place to lay down. Put out minerals, and salt blocks. Plan a shearing program for all of your llamas and stick with it. Also provide them with fans which will circulate a lot of air. Install sprinklers in your fields.
Your program for avoiding heat related problems in your animals can actually begin with the construction of your barns. Plan for the best wind circulation you can capture. Allow nature to help you out in this building process. Walk around the area where you plan to build your barn and see which way the wind normally blows. Construct your barn doors so that the wind with blow through the building. Have tall buildings verses short low ceilings. The higher the roof and walls the better air flow you will receive. As I said, let nature talk to you in your construction. If you wanted to stay cool, would you go out in the hot field and lay down, or into some woods which are cooler? Save your fields for grass and hay, and construct some of your llama shelters in the woods.
We built four of our buildings in the woods, and one out in the hot open field. From the middle of April to the end of September the building in the hot area is useless except in the early morning. It is like a bake oven. But in the fall and winter it is well loved by the llamas. We are not getting our maximum usage out of that building. Remember if you build your barns out in a hot area they will go there, because they have nowhere else to go for protection and shelter from the sun. Something to them is better than nothing, but why not make their home as pleasant and cool as possible? Our barns in the woods are always 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the other barn.
As we built we became smarter, the last barn for the females is very tall, the wind blows through both doors. It is constructed with wall that only goes up six feet and is open to the roof. This allows the hot air to escape out the top and the wind to blow in. We use fans, but we constructed openings in the walls with shelves which our fans sit on, and this has been a very successful process. All the fans in the barns have been put on timers too. As the summer progresses we can select the time for them to go on and off. Which is a wonderful time saver. There are no fans on the floors and therefore; it has prevented groups of llamas from bunching up on one or two fans and forming a crowd. This again allows better air circulation in the barn.
The floor has pea gravel thrown on it which we can hose down, and so the llamas are laying on a cooler floor. The gravel provides another added benefit of helping to keep their nails trimmed down.
I have talked with some people who have put sprinklers hoses close to the floor and place them on timers. This is a wonderful way to get their bellies cooled down. Llamas get matted down with the weight of water if it is on their backs, turning their wool into a wet felt which defeats the purpose of trying to cool them down.
A good sprinkler in the fields that rotates is nice, because it not only will water your grass, but cools down the legs and under belly of the animal. Some will even learn to drink out of these sprinklers. I try to teach all our llamas to drink out of a hose too. Almost all of our animals look forward to being hosed. Be sure to do this on their legs and under their bellies and leg pits, and under the tail. Another popular item is a baby pool. We have stopped using this since they became dirty too fast and the llamas began fighting over who was going to lay down in the pool, or they broke the pool with their toe nails. But honestly there is nothing funnier than seeing six or seven llamas standing in a baby pool relaxing.
To help complete their comfort nothing can substitute for a shearing. This is really essential in the South. You can shear with scissors or electric shears. The shearing of your llamas really is the only way to assure that they will not suffer from the heat.
Llamas develop heat exhaustion over a period of time. The effects of heat plus humidity add up and then their body overheats. That is when your animal can die from heat exhaustion. Signs of heat exhaustion can be very subtle and a llama can be in the early stages of this without your being aware of it.
Signs are a staggering gate, inability to get up; some llamas with have a redness to the skin and mouth breathing is common sometimes occurring with drooling. The males will mouth breath and their scrotums will enlarge and have a great deal of swelling. Young crias also have a difficult time in the heat. They must be watched carefully. It is best to give them a barrel cut, and keep them in a cool area if possible.
Early prevention is always the best cure for heat stress, but if you find one of your animals in this situation the treatment must be fast. If your animal isnít sheared get all the body wool off as quickly as possible. Hose the llama down for at least 20 minutes or more. It takes this long for the core body temperature to start cooling. A small cria can be picked up and put directly in a big tank of water out in the field. Try to see if you can get oral fluids into the llama. See if you can get them to drink out of the hose. You may need medical help if your animal does not respond to the above care. Call your veterinarian; they may need to put the llama on IV fluids.
If you are aware of the daily temperature and the relative humidity, it will give you an idea of the day your llamas will have to face weather wise. You add the temperature to the relative humidity and if it totals under 120--not to bad, but a total of 120 and over-- that is a Red Alert day. So hose your llamas down and watch them all. With planning, and shearing of your llamas, you will be able to keep them fairly comfortable. Even on these Red Alert days they will do well if you spend the extra time up front to prepare them for the hot summer days.
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