With winter upon us keeping our Woolly Army warm and happy is the priority for our team and most of our day at this time of year is spent doing The Rounds. This involves travelling to all seven of our sites, making sure that all of our 140 strong flock are all living their best Alpacaly Ever After.
The team on The Rounds starts their day at Alpacaly HQ, loads up the big white van with hay, straw, extra feed, coats, halters and leads and any medical supplies needed and heads out to visit all the sites. We try to do this is pairs, depending on who’s available and keeping in mind the current restrictions on shared car travel.
We give our gang ad lib hay all year round but during winter we literally go through mountains of the stuff! Lugging it around to seven sites is no easy task and our guides are the most epic of hay chucking champions!
By the end of the day when the team get back to HQ covered head to toe in mud, with hay down their pants, wind swept but grinning from ear to ear… then we know that all is well in our corner of the world :)
Winter Feeding at Whinlatter Forest
All of our sites have sheds, as a general rule alpacas and llamas don’t like to be inside, they prefer being out in the fields and watching what’s going on. When it gets really cold, windy and wet even the hardy ones realise that the sheds are a good place to be! We clean the shelters and barns out daily, moving any soiled straw and replacing it with fresh cosy bedding for them.
By winter, after their summer haircuts, our alpacas will have grown back their beautiful soft and very insulated fleeces. These will continue to grow over winter and add extra warmth right up until Summer next year when they will be desperate for those now super hot coats to come off. If any of our alpacas or llamas are shivering or showing signs of not managing the cold and wet we have special winter coats we can put on them. They can eat, sleep and live in these coats for as long as is needed. We pay particular attention to any of our older or younger members and they get first priority, of course, but as with humans, some alpacas and llamas feel the cold more than others, so we check them all daily!
We have hay feeders (large round metal cages with large openings) on all of our sites and these get filled up to overflowing daily at all seven sites! We supplement their food all year round and make sure they are getting the extra nutrition they need to stay warm, healthy and strong. Winter feed supplements included sprouted barley (we do this ourselves, more on this later) and alpaca and llama specific livestock feed.
So sprouted barley, we hear you say? Well, the very ingenious red bearded man (aka Terry), has his very own hydroponics set-up at Alpacaly HQ. No one really knows what he does in there, but it involves fans, temperature checks, water filtration, lots of mysterious buttons and taps that only respond to special swear words…and then he appears with buckets of freshly sprouted barley and the Woolly Army LOVE IT! We get super large… in fact HUGE bags of barley grain delivered by big trucks with lifters. Terry takes it into the back room, rinses and soaks it overnight, lays it lovingly on long trays that look like a super scalextrics set-up and then a few days later (after the button pressing and the tap turning and the swearing) we have Super Greens! It comes out in rolls, gets loaded into the white van and whisked off, fresh as possible, to the sites where it is devoured with some extremely excitable humming!
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Wordsmiths: Rachel Kearns & Emma Smalley
Videography: Terry Barlow