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Mercersburg, PA 17236

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Stocking up the Cupboards for the BIG SNOWSTORM--Stella!

There is a comic where a farm family stopped "dead in their tracks" when the weather came on...so it is when you live on a farm and especially if you raise livestock.  In the summer, we are forever watching the sky because of the threat of rain on our tedded hay and in the winter, it's good to know how long we will be drifted in with the blowing snow.   Power outages add their own dimension to the mix, but fortunately, we have all of the barns on generators.  Notice I said barns, not our home!  During power outages, our well pump is powered by the generators, but otherwise, it's cold water, a fireplace, and thank heaven for a live outlet for coffee!  Those that live in town cannot appreciate what a little wind does to just a foot or so of snow.  Plowing a mile long lane once is not so bad, but once it's packed in with snow drifts, the going is not so easy.  We've learned how to make snow "fences" by piling snow on the blowing side and how to close up barns so it's not too drafty, nor ironically, it's not too warm, because alpacas can really generate a lot of heat once they start chewing cud.  And so with extra bales of straw, hay and heated water buckets (for those not wishing to venture from the barn 25 feet to the automatic waterers), we begin our prep for a snowstorm, this time her name is Stella.  I think the biggest challenge is to ensure that stress levels within the herd are kept as low as possible.  So I always leave a door open and try to make as much open space as possible.  I have hay tucked around for easy access and ample places for them to drink water from heated buckets and/or automatic waterers.  Water intake is equally important in winter and summer.  We deep compost when there's snow on the ground, meaning we add straw on top of dung piles, rather than removing the piles.  I think alpacas are what I call cortisol sensitive, which is another way of saying that their stress can cause an increase in their endogenous steroids, which eg-is probably the specific cause of aborted fetuses during very stressful events.  I don't think a brief period of stress would cause the increase in steroid production, but rather repeated and prolonged exposure to stress can take it's toll on them.  I'm a firm believer that tending alpacas is 80% observation and 20% work.  And so as the snow blows and the animals are tucked in, there's a special kind of happiness or rather contentment that creeps in knowing you've taken care of your animals....except for the crazy Great Pyrenees that insist on staying out in the howling wind!