National Alpaca Farm Days set for Sept. 29-30

September 19, 2012

True Colors Alpaca Farm in Caledonia, Ill., will host a two-day open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sept. 29-30. (Photo provided)

• Caledonia’s True Colors Alpaca Farm to participate in event

Staff Report

Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) invites you to visit their member farms and ranches during National Alpaca Farm Days, Sept. 29-30. This is a unique opportunity for the public to explore the many aspects of the alpaca livestock industry in the United States and Canada.

True Colors Alpaca Farm, 14718 Route 76, Caledonia, Ill., will host a free open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29-30. Meet alpacas, learn about the animals from South America, and purchase yarn and other alpaca items. Visit www.truecolorsalpacas.com or call (815) 765-0280 for more details.

From meeting these beautiful, inquisitive animals in person to experiencing luxurious alpaca products at individual farm stores, there will truly be something for everyone.

Visitors can also learn how alpacas are a green business opportunity, as they are animals that are sensitive to their environment in every respect.

While most alpaca farms welcome visitors throughout the year, National Alpaca Farm Days are sure to include special activities and educational opportunities.

For a complete list of participating farms and ranches, visit www.NationalAlpaca-FarmDays.com.

Alpacas

Alpacas, cousins to the llama, are beautiful, intelligent animals native to the Andean Mountain range of South America, particularly Peru, Bolivia and Chile. The United States first commercially imported alpacas in 1984. There are now more than 180,000 ARI (Alpaca Registry, Inc.) registered alpacas in North America.

Alpacas, cousins to the llama, are beautiful, intelligent animals native to the Andean Mountain range of South America, particularly Peru, Bolivia and Chile. (Photo provided)

Two types of alpacas exist in the United States today. Although almost physically identical, what distinguishes the two types of alpacas is their fiber. The Huacaya (wa-Ki’-ah) is the more common of the two and has a fluffy, extremely fine coat. The Suri (SUR-ee) is the rarer of the two and has fiber that is silky and resembles pencil-locks.

Adult alpacas stand at approximately 36 inches at the withers and generally weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. They do not have horns, hooves, claws or incisors. Alpacas are alert, intelligent, curious and predictable. Social animals that seek companionship, they communicate most commonly by softly humming.

Alpaca fiber

Alpacas are shorn, without harm, every 12 to 18 months. They produce 5 to 10 pounds of luxurious fiber. Long ago, alpaca fiber was reserved for royalty. Today, it is purchased in its raw fleece form by hand-spinners and fiber artists. Knitters buy it as yarn.

Because of its soft texture, alpaca fiber is sometimes compared to cashmere. Making the fiber even more coveted, it has the luster of silk. Alpaca fiber is just as warm as, yet a third the weight of, wool. It comes in 22 natural colors, yet can be dyed any desired shade.

Containing no lanolin, alpaca fiber is also naturally hypoallergenic. Most people who are sensitive to wool find they can wear alpaca without the itching or irritation they feel from wool because alpaca fiber is smooth. Additional performance characteristics include stretch, water repellency and odor reduction. For travelers, clothing made from alpaca is desirable because it is wrinkle-resistant.

Green alpacas?

Sensitive to their environment in every respect, alpacas have soft padded feet instead of hooves and can leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged. (Photo provided)

Alpacas come in 22 natural colors, but they are all green!

Sensitive to their environment in every respect, alpacas have soft padded feet instead of hooves and can leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged. Damage to topsoil decreases long-term soil fertility and, in the process, the soil is eroded and weed invasion is encouraged.

Alpacas prefer to eat tender grasses, which they do not pull up by the roots. Lacking upper teeth, alpacas “cut” the grass with their bottom teeth and upper palate. This vegetation cutting encourages the plants’ growth. Because they are modified ruminants with a three-compartment stomach, alpacas convert grass and hay to energy very efficiently and stop eating when they are full, further preserving the landscape on which they live.

However, alpacas do not mind eating brush, fallen leaves and other “undesirable” vegetation, leaving the “good stuff” for species that do not have the stomach to digest such roughage.

Alpacas’ pellet-like droppings are PH balanced and are an excellent, natural, slow-release, low-odor fertilizer. This rich fertilizer is perfect for growing fruits and vegetables. Because alpacas consolidate their feces in one or two communal spots in the pasture, it is easy to collect and compost, and the spread of parasites is controlled.

While alpacas are environmentally friendly — and even beneficial — to the land, what makes them even more “green” is the fiber they produce. No chemicals are employed either during feeding or during the industrial production of alpaca fleece into fiber. If dyeing is desired, only 20 percent of a normal dye quantity is required.

All fiber from an alpaca can be used. Even the fiber from the lower legs, belly, neck, etc., is being used for things such as natural weed mats to be placed around trees. Alpaca fiber is biodegradable.

Alpacas require no insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers that pollute the groundwater.

AOBA

With headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., the Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association (AOBA) serves to facilitate the expansion of a strong and sustainable alpaca industry through the growth and development of the national herd and its products. Since AOBA’s formation in 1988, its membership has grown steadily to more than 3,500 members with more than 180,000 registered alpacas in North America.

To learn more about the alpaca industry, visit www.AlpacaInfo.com. To find out more about National Alpaca Farm Days, visit www.NationalAlpacaFarmDays.com.

From the Sept. 19-25, 2012, issue

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