BATESVILLE, Ark. – The heat does not discriminate when it comes to who can be impacted.
Many experts have talked about the consequences on people and even our dogs, but what about alpacas?
A family of breeders in Batesville tell us keeping them cool right now is crucial, though it is no easy task.
“Their fiber – which is what we call their fur – is warmer than wool,” Caren Barnett said. “It is like them wearing a wool coat in the middle of summer.”
For John and Caren Barnett, keeping their 16 alpacas cooled off this time of year is a full-time job. The heat can easily cause exhaustion and worst-case scenario, can be life threatening. For eight of theirs who are pregnant, there is even more risk.
“They would go into labor early,” John said. “They take 11 and a half months, so if they go in eight and a half… we will not be able to save them.”
With such a long gestation period, their alpacas are not supposed to give birth until October at the earliest. So, the focus is on making sure the heat stress does not cause them to go into labor early.
The Barnetts have methods to keeping all of their alpacas safe in these high temperatures.
From keeping cold water outside all day to hosing them off every two hours and keeping large fans plugged in 24/7 for them to crowd around. Alpacas typically walk around outside and do their own thing, though in weather like this, you can find them crowded around those large fans laying down.
“Today they got here about 9:30,” John said, showing us the room with fans surrounded by the alpacas. “They won’t get out from the fans until about 6:00 this evening.”
The Barnetts said that this full-time job of cooling off by the fans can be risky, though. As we wrapped up just a few feet away from the animals, the large fan in the middle of the room tipped over onto one of the pregnant alpacas laying in front of it.
The Barnetts realized, as soon as they lifted it off, that her leg was fractured. The injury will take at least six weeks to recover, though the stress she is facing over it also worries the Barnetts for the baby. That alpaca is not due until November.
Before the incident, the Barnetts told me this time of year can be a lot of pressure as a breeding business to make sure the alpacas stay healthy, but ultimately, they also just care about their animals. Because of that, they work around the clock to ensure they do not suffer.
“It is stressful,” Caren said.
John also noted that he has been known to bring some alpacas into his home to cool off from heat stress. Alpacas’ average temperature is 100-101 degrees.
This photo shows one who was brought inside when her temperature got up to 105 degrees.
As for the energy bill to keep those large fans blowing, the two told us they are currently paying about $700 a month. To give you an idea, they typically pay $100 a month in the winter or cooler months.