And the living is easy. Or so it is for our alpacas. They just love the summer because it means they go out to the pastures to graze.
We have two barns, a large one and a small one. They both have overhangs and paddocks in the front. During winter, the alpacas stay in the barn and paddocks and don’t go to the pastures. They don’t particularly like snow and here in New Hampshire we have a lot. But when Spring comes they start humming to go out.
The big barn holds our large female herd and a small herd of males we call the ‘young boys’. The girls have the largest areas in the barn, and the boys are kept separate in their own stall and section of overhang. They are not all young anymore, but are younger than our other male herd (known as ‘the big boys’) who live in the smaller barn.
Both barns have access to pasture behind them. The girls and younger boys access their fields by going up a rather steep aisle-way that takes them up to the grass. The young boys’ aisle-way parallels the girls and those young boys will not go to pasture until the girls do. The older boys in the small barn next to our house, go downhill a bit to their field and though they can see the girls go out in the distance, they don’t depend on the girls to tell them when to graze! When we are cleaning stalls in the morning, we watch the girls as they stare at the back sliding door and hum anxiously. It is open, but for some strange and unknown reason, they don’t go out automatically. Dick thinks that it is one female, MoonDance, who ultimately makes the decision to go. One or another of the other females, who are lower down on the hierarchy, may attempt to go out. She’ll go into the aisle-way, but when nobody else follows, will come running back in. Finally, MoonDance will start off and the whole group leaves the barn. The young males see them start up and they run to their aisle-way and go up too. Once and a while I get impatient with the constant humming and indecision and will clap my hands and shout, “OK! Let’s GO!”. It does work on occasion. Sometimes if I just walk out the door after saying that, they will follow me up the aisle-way and into what ever section of the field we’ve rotated them to.
Summertime may be easy for the alpacas, but it is not easy for Dick. He spends a great deal of time tending to the pastures. Because we practice rotational grazing, he is always moving temporary electric netting around to funnel the animals into different sections of the fields. It became obvious to us that we didn’t have enough pasture for the girls. But we had a back field that wasn’t fenced and was growing some nice grass once Dick started mowing it regularly. We had long been storing manure there for it to age, and once spread on the other fields, good grass was growing where the piles had stood. So this summer we decided to try to graze the girls in that back field. Three sides of it were bordered by woods and ancient stone walls and the fourth side had an existing perimeter fence for what we call ‘the hidden pasture’. (Before we cleared our land of new growth trees, the hidden pasture was surrounded by woods. The woods are gone, but the name stuck.) The only real large opening to the back field was below our vegetable garden where we had access to that field. Dick put up the electric netting to that opening, blocked a couple of other little places with field fence and we let the girls out there through the hidden pasture gate. It worked great, except that I fretted that the ancient stone walls couldn’t protect them from predators when they went out at night. To make myself feel better, I take the dogs out there frequently in hopes they leave dog smell around.
We have plans to have the whole back field fenced with the six strand high tensile electric wire, but in the meantime I’m hoping the dogs are a deterrent.
The not so ‘hidden pasture’ and the back field have become the girls favorite places. The back field has an added benefit of having some undergrowth where they can scratch. Seeing as New Hampshire has a lot of bugs in summer, the underbrush gives them a place to rub at the itchiness. The young boys also have a grove of trees where they scratch. On hot days, that is their place to hang out.
It is now August and the grass has slowed it’s growth so we supplement the pasture with hay. Since the hay is now almost a year old, the alpacas prefer their grass, but being the chow hounds they are, they eat the hay too. As Fall approaches, we know they will have to be closed off of the pastures once the grass stops growing. By then, we’ll have all new second cutting hay to give them. But they will still hum at the back door for a month or so. And by then, there can be no, “OK! Let’s go!”. Alas, winter is not so easy…