The Summer Doldrums in Texas
Summer has arrived at Tierra Prometida Alpaca Ranch. The shows are over, the trailer is parked, and the show materials stored. The alpaca cria (babies) are born, shearing is done, and it’s getting too hot for even the stud males to be interested in breeding. In the cool of the mornings, and twilight, the alpacas wander around the pastures while the cria stretch their legs with group races. During the days, the trees make great shade. We have had some rain so there is grass to sleep on. This is the time of the year when no-one puts you in a trailer and hauls you across the country to go into a show ring. It is a time to eat, sleep, grow fleece, and nurture the cria. It is three months of summer vacation for the alpacas.
Things slow down for the people, too, although not as much. The main summer task is to make sure the alpacas can stay reasonably cool by having access to shade and water. By “reasonably cool”, we have to keep in mind they handle the heat better than I do! I get to sleep in the AC at night, while they will sometimes be content sunbathing in the full mid-day brightness. Mostly, we have to watch them regularly to see any changes in behavior that may indicate heat stress. Looking at the alpacas every day trains the eye to know if one is ill.
Summer can be a battle against bugs and weeds. Animals that produce manure will attract flies and we have tried just about everything to control the swarms. It seems like one of the most effective weapons we have found . . . are chickens! They eat just about every bug they can find and apparently bring havoc to fly larvae. They are pretty good about keeping small snakes away as well.
The other summer chore is to zealously kill grass burrs, the”landmines of the back yard”, the destroyers of fleeces. Alpacas rolling in grass burrs, also known as “stickers”, will ruin this years fleece beyond recovery. Because the alpacas graze off the ground, we have been very hesitant to use herbicides. Instead, we will attack a sticker plant on sight, surgically dig it out to avoid dropping a burr, and dispose of it almost like hazardous waste. It has taken years to get the burrs out of the pastures, but the effort shows in the quality of the fleeces.
The lazy days of summer.