National Alpaca Farm Days held over weekend
by James Howell
Visitors gathered to Landmark Farm Alpaca in Grassy Creek for the National Alpaca Farm Days event on Saturday and Sunday to raise awareness for alpacas and raise money for Mountain Animal Safe Haven.
“Alpacas are safe and pleasant to be around, and I’m glad we could host this event to educate the community about the benefits of owning these wonderful animals,” said Rachelle Bridges, part owner of Landmark Farm Alpaca.
Bridges, along with her husband Ralph, have been operating Landmark Farm Alpaca for the last two years. According to Bridges, her farm currently houses 10 alpacas and two are on the way.
During the event, visitors were allowed to pet the alpacas and ask questions about them. According to Bridges, several visitors appeared at the farm to view the alpacas.
Bridges praised alpacas being used as livestock, calling them very “low maintenance” animals. “Alpaca’s are extremely easy to keep as livestock,” said Bridges.
Bridges also said alpacas are very safe animals to domesticate, especially around children. “These animals are so gentle that children can handle them with ease,” said Bridges.
“They do not bite or butt and do not have sharp teeth, horns, hooves or claws as do other types of livestock,” said Bridges.
Alpacas come from Peru and belong to the camelid family, making them cousins of camels and llamas. Though alpacas greatly resemble llamas, they are distinctly different animals, said Bridges.
According to Bridges, alpacas are about half as big as llamas, with an average weight of about 100 to 200 pounds, compared to a llama whose weight averages 250 to 450 pounds.
Another primary difference between llamas and alpacas are how the animals are used when domesticated. Llamas are mainly used for packing and for guarding herds of sheep, whereas alpacas are raised for their “soft and luxurious” fur.
According to Bridges, alpaca fur was considered a delicacy in the past; only Native American Inca royalty was allowed to wear clothing woven from alpaca fur. This earned alpaca fur the nickname “fiber of the gods,” said Bridges.
Bridges also said alpacas are much cleaner than most other livestock. They have a minimal aroma, which attracts fewer flies than other livestock.
Bridges shared another interesting fact about the animal. Alpacas have such a fierce herd mentality that they cannot be by themselves. If a person wants to adopt an alpaca, the adopter must acquire at least two of them, said Bridges.
From a business standpoint, Landmark Farm Alpaca works like a wholesale business. In addition to selling yarn made from the farm’s alpaca fur (which is sheered once every year), the farm also buys alpaca yarn from Peru and sells it to textile businesses.
The farm also sells consumer goods made from alpaca fur. Some of the goods for sell include articles of clothing like fur hats, scarves, gloves and socks. Other products for sale include toy bears and handheld puppets.
Landmark Farm Alpaca does not sell things on-line or at festivals as of yet. Bridges says they have considered visiting festivals like the local farmers market.
Also attending Landmark Farm Alpaca’s event was Mountain Animal Safe Haven (MASH), who was busy selling raffle tickets and taking donations for their fundraiser.
According to Cyndi Norris, the executive director of MASH, the group’s goal is to build a permanent animal shelter which will embrace a no-kill philosophy for stray animals.
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