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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

If you can't beat the heat try & get creative at staying cool

Had a feeling it might be a long, hot summer in So Cal. Not only with on-going drought constantly in the news, it is becoming more evident everywhere you turn, no water in creek beds, dry looking brush and new wildfires breaking out. We are rolling into fall and have had temperatures of over 90 degrees for weeks straight – Ok, no humidity for those in other areas, but regardless too warm for too long.

Not 1 but 3, alpaca people lost their first born cria’s (alpaca babies) just last week and we were notified of two other separate people who lost alpacas week prior, very likely due to heat stress. As I contemplate this with a heavy heart, these people not only got these beautiful alpacas from us, but have become dear to us and it was truly heart breaking for them and I really feel at a loss for words. While the losses may not all have been directly heat-related, extra stress does not help a pregnant body full of fleece and may very well be a factor to an early delivery or complications. As a side note, newborn babies can’t regulate their body temperature, not off to a good start if they are born out in the direct sun. The poor females go through labor & physical stress, need extra fluids just to re coop, let alone produce milk. Suddenly, our big barn fan we bought and the summer pools for the alpacas hardly seem like enough, it has me seriously reconsidering timing of breeding, not only to try and plan for not delivery middle of hot summer but also not even for their 8 or 9 month mark where it is a common time to miscarry.

The two adult alpacas we were told passed away possibly would have been ok if they had been sheared last year but so no one is quick to cast stones, may I add, one owner has a terminal illness in and out of hospital and the other is still recovering from broken neck & back on top of job loss – they are doing what they can this stage in their lives, Unfortunately alpaca shearers aren't easy to come by. We actually still have an alpaca ourselves that did not get sheared - though I trimmed some underneath, me and scissors with a jumpy alpaca is probably more scary than 100 degree temps. Any how, with all this, I thought it worthy to write a blog on effects of heat on alpacas and us for that matter.

Fortunately farmer Don had heard me talking about other alpacas that died or almost died of intestinal obstruction recently, quite possibly heat-related, so he now fills our kiddie pools with cool water & installed additional auto waterers and takes time sweeping them out so they re-fill with cool water. I recalled hearing one of the vet talks at the Suri symposium emphasize to check their water, which includes temperature, if it is too warm they don’t really want to drink it, or too cold – so work on heating it. Eating a bulky hay diet and not drinking enough fluid, blockage or electrolyte imbalance is bound to have an effect. I have to say since he has been doing this in the afternoon, I am almost always greeted with wet, drippy alpaca smiles when I get home. Kind of like the food and the poop pile, it entices them to use it when they see you doing something with it.

How this all this leads into our weekend purchases which included buying a new oven range AND a spa, is a stretch, but for the record, they are “heat-related” matter of fact, too much heat! Our Viking stove that we had got from my mother-in-law had intermittently been having problems, burners not lighting or worse yet the flame was ridiculously high – long story short, we had been renewing our home warranty since we bought our house and the stove was covered – repairman fixed it numerous times. It was actually working great until about a month ago when it caught fire. I wasn't home but am told the flames were a few feet high, not going out with a wet towel. There was nothing cooking on the stove, food in oven was fine, but flames enough to crack glass in oven and fry up the electrical. After weeks of multiple inspections and a “heated” discussion between my husband & the warranty company and possibility of problem due to the fact that they didn’t send a Viking Certified repairman, they albeit begrudgingly, sent us a check for replacement of “equal” value stove.

Now we were faced with dilemma of either buying another Viking range at about four times the cost of your typical ranges or buying a GE that there is certainly nothing wrong with but if something went wrong with the new stove, the warranty company might not be too happy about it if we didn’t purchase the equivalent that Don had bartered for. I had basically summed up in my mind I would go for electrical instead of propane. our square footage of house with extremely high ceilings can totally break a bank - unless one likes spending over $1000 in propane in under 6 months time. Ghads, this is with no stove and certainly no heat running in the house – how much extra dryer time or water heater is used in the summer… We actually do sometimes get quite a few days in the 30s, possibly a hail storm or dusting of snow and I may like to turn on some heat or the oven for that matter.

Any way have you ever gone shopping and been thankful for small mercies in disguise? We headed over to a store that has basically every range under the sun on display – Sales guy, fully knowledgeable, helpful, not pressuring, very pleasant, gives us his opinion on how he hates cooking on electric – the hubby is weighing in because he remembered our last alpaca delivery people saying same thing. I’m stating propane cost is killing us, I really think at this house electric is cost-effective. Somewhere in conversation it is mentioned the repair/installation guy is currently on premises so we decide to get the cost of converting a gas range to propane and in speaking with him, first thing he says, you are on propane, you really need to go electric -propane cost will kill you. Then he says I don’t know the cost difference of Viking to the others but there is NO comparison, I am a certified Viking trainer and I personally would only make money off of you converting a GE or other model gas to propane, so this is an unbiased opinion of someone who has not only installed ranges but taught repair training classes for many years – hands down go Viking. So, farmer Don, the master negotiator, got the floor model, electric Viking cost down to almost half of what we received check from the warranty company for – Woot score number one on the weekend.

The next day, trying to decide with the family what to do to stay cool (other than stay in and eat) - our daughter says have you seen the inflatable Jacuzzi tubs? A quick google - a trip to Target, a few hundred dollars later, our son-in-law and their friend have it all filled and the bubbles are on. Despite the fact it only heats up 2 degrees per hour, it was 100 degrees out earlier in the day, so I am going in! Here we sat, myself, our daughter & a six year old (just about maximum capacity) who is subjecting us to a game of bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish – we are laughing over shear silliness, our daughter’s case of the giggles brings to my mind a memory of my own mother’s laughter – a distant memory faded with years gone by, life struggles and her passing from terminal illness that had suppressed my memory of her laugh – here it is 14 years later, in my own daughter, who is now enjoying her new motherhood – Needless to say that impulse purchase of inflatable hot tub has now become truly priceless – almost making me forget all about the heat. Now hoping to be continued just enough so little grand baby can test it out before it gets too cold. Then again, the inflatable tub comes with a handy carrying case – I wonder if the locking inflatable lid would keep the alpacas out when not occupied ? Rub a dub alpacas in a tub...

We will make them stick to their plastic pools and I will try to add photos of pacas in the pool if possible later. Though we sold all our pool hog alpacas and this herd of girls despite the heat don't seem to be interested in getting anything other than their feet wet. Maybe they don't want to mess the hair style - alpaca bathing caps?

An added note; recommend to hose only legs and under tummy for huacaya alpacas unless they are fresh shorn. OK to hose a suri alpaca
& a pool is not recommended for pregnant females until 60 days after breeding and before delivery to avoid possible uterine infection...

A video from over a year ago -
news article last summer