National Alpaca Farm Days are this weekend, September 28th and 29th! We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with John Ferrante of Otter Peaks Alpacas in Thaxton, Virginia, and he gave us some insight about life on an alpaca farm and the fabulous fiber and products made from their fleece. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation as John opens our eyes to everything that goes into making the soft alpaca yarn we all love.
Jamie: How did you first start raising alpacas?
John: We started raising alpacas in the central New York area after seeing a herd while boating. They seemed interesting, so we docked our boat and started talking to the owners. We fell in love with the alpacas immediately and went home to research them. After a short time, we contacted another nearby farm and began talking about purchasing animals. We were offered an opportunity to work on the farm and learn how to raise and care for our alpacas, and we purchased a pregnant female. After a few years, we purchased land and moved our herd to our current location, Otter Peaks Alpacas, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We now have 23 alpacas and several on the way.
Jamie: What kind of care do they require?
John: Caring for alpacas includes protection (fencing and shelter), clean water, nutritional food, cooling fans during summers, and socializing them so they can be easily handled. Special care is needed if you, as we do, show your alpacas in competitions and want to produce high quality fiber. We work with our animals every day, especially the cria (baby alpacas) as they are developing.
Jamie: How do the alpacas react to being shorn? Are they happy to get a haircut?
John: We shear our alpacas once per year in mid-April. Shearing only takes a few minutes per animal and they quickly get used to it. I believe they are happy to have us remove their heavy fiber coat when the temperatures are climbing in southern Virginia. Alpacas are quite sensitive to heat and are much more content after shearing.
Jamie: Do you know anyone who knits or crochets and has made a project with yarn from your alpacas’ fleece?
John: My wife Cindy knits and crochets farm-made products with fiber from our own alpacas. She also makes felted animals, bottle cozies, and other felt products. Cindy operates an alpaca farm store where she sells raw fiber, rovings, and fiber in all stages of processing, including yarn. We often have folks who knit or crochet come to the store for yarn. Cindy custom dyes the alpaca yarn for customers who are looking for a special color.
Wouldn’t it be divine to knit or crochet your next project with alpaca yarn purchased directly from a farm? Yarn crafts help us to embrace a natural, hand-made lifestyle, and seeing first-hand where your fiber comes from takes that sentiment to the next level. Snag some gorgeous yarn during National Alpaca Farm Days this weekend while the kids get to know these adorable animals.