Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fuzzy Friends: Future of America?

Alpaca farming is a growing industry in America, especially in West Virginia. There are over 300 alpaca farms in America, including the 24 in West Virginia. As a resident of an alpaca farm, I have quite a bit of knowledge on this particular subject.

The goal is to raise the alpacas for their fleece and sell the fleece for profit. The fleece is used for yarn to make clothing items. Alpaca fiber is 5-6 times warmer than wool, and it doesn’t contain lanolin or oil. Lanolin is the item in wool that so many people are allergic to. You could also sell alpaca beans (manure) as fertilizer. It is very clean, contains no parasites, and it is odorless. A major purpose is to sell and breed alpacas to other farms and other prospective farms.

Many people think that alpacas and llamas are the same thing, but they are not. Although, they look similar, they do have differences. Alpacas’ weight can vary from 125- 200 pounds, with a median of 160 pounds. Llamas’ weight varies from 300-400 pounds, with a median of 340 pounds. Alpaca fleece is softer than llama fleece, making it easier to work with when turning the fibers into yarn. Alpaca fleece is also much more comfortable on the skin.

Alpacas aren’t your average, everyday animals. They have quite a personality that is different with each one of them. A lot of them can be very friendly while others can have obnoxious minds of their own. Overall, they are considered to be intelligent animals, which are for the most part easy to work with. For instance, one of the alpacas that we have on our farm, Kingsley, thinks that he is a dog. He tends to run and jump on people just to get closer to their faces. He loves attention, he loves to be petted as a dog would, and tries to lick your face.

Another one of our alpacas is the absolute opposite of Kingsley, and his name is Joe. He is not friendly, and has a very arrogant attitude. He acts like he owns the whole farm and everyone residing there. He has that mentality because at the farm he lived on before ours he was a stud, and practically ran the whole pack. A stud is who the majority of female alpacas are mated with. Now that he is on our farm, he has been fixed and is no longer a stud. His attitude shows that he clearly still thinks he is.

Alpaca farms are helpful to our economy by developing another textile industry similar to wool. It would be another “home grown”, American made item for the U.S.A.

Local alpaca farmer Averill Perdue said he got into the alpaca farming business because, “I think it’s a great time to enter into alpaca farming. The market has been down for the last couple of years and it is rebounding nicely in late 2011. That’s why we’ve made huge investments in 2011.”

Alpaca facts:

Alpacas originate from Peru!

Alpacas have odd fighting mechanisms. They have teeth in the back of their mouths that are curved sharply backward to rip off body parts of the enemy!

Female alpacas carry their babies to term up to 11 months! Most alpaca farmers wait about a week after they give birth before breeding them again. Female alpacas spend the majority of their adult lives pregnant.

By: Danielle Vealey

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