Loving Alpacas while Gaining Ecological Knowledge

I was very excited to visit the Alpaca Cass Farm in Davis CA. It will be interesting to compare the information I learned here with information I will learn from a visit to an Alpaca farm in NY in a few weeks.

When I first entered their area, the Guard Llama, shown in the photo below, immediately came to me and sniffed me. Kathryn, the owner of the alpacas, said that it was the job the Guard Llama to protect the alpacas. Natural predators that the Guard Llama may protect alpaca from include coyotes and dogs, but Kathryn indicated that they don’t come through the farm very often. I read that the Guard Llama can scare away predators and is a healthy alternative to killing alpaca predators on site. There’s a  “Predator Friendly” certification that can be used as a marketing strategy for selling the yarns. (Photos Courtesy David Arellanes)

llama

The Guard Llama was taller than I was, and I was initially scared because I didn’t know what it would do. But it harmlessly sniffed my hair and let me take a close look at its ginormous eyes. As I looked around, I was amazed at all of the adorable alpaca.  They surrounded me and Kathryn mentioned that it’s because they wanted food (similar to the eager goats from the Laughing Goat Farm in Ithaca).

close up

The alpaca fibers are considered luxury fibers since they are very soft, lustrous, and strong. They are also hypoallergenic (safe for babies), and are good insulators of heat.

There are two types of alpaca. The first is the Huacaya, the more common type, which has fluffy hair like a teddy bear. They are super cute and produce a lot of fleece that can be processed into yarns. I especially loved the big fluffy tail!

walking

Kathryn also showed me how to tell if the fiber quality is high. The alpaca in the  photograph below won a blue ribbon at the Dixon Lambtown Festival for its fiber.

density

Kathryn explained that it is very dense, has a nice crimp, and is uniform. She said that she was going to have the Huacaya sheared in April. It was pretty warm in Davis and I wondered if the alpaca were already hot, and if they might experience heat stress. Kathryn indicated that the climate is pretty moderate, and alpaca are very resilient animals since they come from the Andes mountains in Peru.

Below is the second type of alpaca, Suri, which is more rare. Their hair is like a thin curly dreadlock. I really liked this one because there were dreadlocks that were multi-colored with creme and brown. I read that the Suri are sheared every 2 years.

sur

This is an image of a female Suri alpaca getting ready to drink water. As I looked at them, they looked back and it was nice to realize that they noticed me appreciating them (i wonder if that’s how they saw it).

The boys and girls were separated. Below are images with a male Suri who was very friendly.

kiss

Kathryn takes two males to the Farmer’s Market where she sells yarn. It is nice to know that community members have the opportunity to interact with these adorable, loving animals. I was very grateful to be able to visit the farm in California and am looking forward to visiting more farms in New York.

happy

I think that greater awareness about fiber farm agro-tourism can expand knowledge about local, natural fiber resources. I think it is great that fiber farmers have allowed me to visit their farms and have given me tours so that I could learn more about the animals.

Greater knowledge about the fiber resources (alpaca in this case) and associated narratives in clothing can foster strong product-person relationships. The more a person knows about the origins of their clothing, even the raw material, the more likely they are to develop an emotional attachment to it and use it for a long time.

References

Alpaca Cass Farm: http://www.alpacacassfarm.com/

http://www.alpaca101.com/types.asp

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