It’s More Than Just Cows!

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I am part of the “Camel” family, originate in South America, and come in twenty-two natural colors. What am I? An Alpaca, of course!

I am part of the “Camel” family, originate in South America, and come in twenty-two natural colors. What am I? An Alpaca, of course! Most people don’t know the difference between a llama and an alpaca, but alpacas are much smaller and have much softer fibers (hair.)

Most kids think owning farm animals is a job for adults, but even kids can take care of alpacas. You can raise alpacas with as little as a quarter acre of land, some hay and a little TLC. They are very social, so you should always keep two or more together. According to Stock Show vendors Greg and Sandy Smith, alpaca owners must be devoted, but basic care is pretty simple. Daily jobs consist of feeding and cleaning up after your alpaca (poop scooping). They also need their toenails clipped 4-5 times a year and their fiber shorn once a year in the early spring. Alpacas are kept in fenced-in areas to keep out predators.

Alpacas are raised mainly for their long, soft fibers. Fine alpaca fiber is used to make cozy sweaters, whereas courser fibers are typically used for socks, yarn, and rugs. Alpaca fibers are one of the best materials for clothing. They are soft as cashmere and lighter and stronger than wool.

There are three types of alpaca contests at the stock show. The first evaluates alpacas on their body structure and the fineness, density, and brightness of their fiber. The second judges alpacas on their ability to trust their trainer and complete an obstacle course. The third (my favorite), is an alpaca costume contest. It’s designed for kids and gives alpaca owners a chance to show off their creativity. In this contest, kids wear fun matching outfits they’ve designed for themselves and their alpacas.

Alpacas are very sweet creatures and raising one can be very fun and rewarding.