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Raising Alpacas: Creekside Acres Farm

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Hi. I'm Scott and I would like to share my family's farm. We have alpacas. This is actually one of them—this is Symphony. They're South American wild animals—well, domestic now. They're really raised for their fiber. Unlike our house cats, these animals cannot be by themselves. They are herd animals, which means that they have to have at least two animals per herd.

There's two kinds. [Symphony] is a Huacaya. She has really warm and thick, teddy bear-like fiber. It's really fuzzy and soft, while there's the other type, called Suri, which have dreadlocks, and that's a lot softer and thinner. The alpaca's fiber is one of the softest in the world. They live around twenty to twenty-five years, and they're really good for the environment because they have padded feet, so they don't hurt the lawn, and they also bite the grass, not rip it up, so they're not tearing holes in the yard.

Right here [on top of Symphony's head], is the topknot, and we usually leave it 'til it covers their eyes, and then usually clip it, but this is really what hers would look like. And those curls—you can even see here—there's something called "crimp," which is the curliness in it. [Alpaca fleece is] very warm, and the advantage of having alpacas over sheep is that alpacas are softer and not so woolly.

A major difference between llamas and alpacas is that llamas have more guard hair [protruding from the "blanket" of the soft hairs of the undercoat] so it's a lot softer right there [on the alpaca] and it's more fiber you could use. [Alpacas are] really used only for their fiber. They are cousins to the llamas and the camels and all the other camelids. Another difference between llamas and alpacas is that llamas are a lot bigger.

What happens after you shear them is that you would bring [the fleece] to the mill, get it washed and spun, and then afterward you could sell the yarn or you could felt it yourself, or you could even make hats, sweaters, mittens—and it's very warm! Like I said, it doesn't have the itch factor, you can't be allergic to it, and it's just warm and it's soft.

Alpacas are bred for their fiber. This [sheared fiber] is the first stage. It's raw. You just shave it off them, and there's your raw fiber. If you like, you could bring it to the mill and they'll pick it, and then they make what's called "rovings," which is the stage before yarn, and you can choose to have it spun. If it's spun, then you come out with [yarn] like this—these are natural fiber colors. If you like, you could have [the fiber bleached] white, and then you could dye it any color you want. And that's all there is to the alpaca fiber: raw, rovings, yarn.

Creekside Acres is a small family-run farm located in the heart of the Hudson Valley in New York State. Creekside Acres started in 2006 as a hobby farm with just two alpacas; today it has a foundation herd of five alpacas and two pygora goats. All of Creekside's animals are friendly, handled on a regular basis, and are included in 4-H programs. The farm's main breeding goals are a sound, social temperament and fiber production. Its alpacas' fleeces have color, softness, crimp, and density; and the goats have personality, color, and softness. All of Creekside's animals are kept in "clean" pastures and are maintained on a daily basis, providing for clean fleeces when shearing time comes.

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