News / USA

Alpaca Farmer Shears His Way to Success

Alpaca Farmer Shears His Way to Successi
Julie Taboh
May 28, 2014 7:33 PM
Alpacas ‒ large, wooly animals related to camels and llamas ‒ are normally found in the Andean region of South America. But a growing number of American farmers are finding them just as charming ‒ and lucrative ‒ in the United States. VOA reporter Julie Taboh visited an alpaca farm near Washington to find out why.
It’s shearing season at Sugarloaf Farm just outside Washington, where most of the alpacas don't seem to mind getting a haircut.

But whether they like it or not, the 130 animals will have their woolly fleece sheared. It will keep them from getting overheated during the summer months while generating a cool profit for farm owner Kevin Brandt.

“We’re finding that there are more people in the marketplace looking for alpaca yarns because it’s considered to be hypoallergenic, and it’s really as soft as cashmere,” he said.

Fleece quality

Brandt keeps both types of alpacas at his farm; the Huacaya and the Suri.
An alpaca is sheared at Sugarloaf Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. (J. Taboh/VOA)An alpaca is sheared at Sugarloaf Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. (J. Taboh/VOA)
An alpaca is sheared at Sugarloaf Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. (J. Taboh/VOA)
An alpaca is sheared at Sugarloaf Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. (J. Taboh/VOA)

“The Suri has the long, dreadlock-like fiber and the Huacaya has the fluffy, teddy bear style,” he said.

The animals provide three different grades of fleece.

The finest comes from the animals’ back, hip and shoulder and is usually made into clothing. The next-best grade comes from the neck.

The third-grade fleece, from the legs and belly, is a coarser fiber that is used for rugs and accessories.

Spinning mill

Brandt and his team process the raw fleece into yarn in a spinning mill right on the grounds of his farm.

The first step is the tumbler, a big machine which removes loose dirt and debris from the fiber. The fiber is then washed and dried and put through the picker to further separate the fibers.

It’s then ready for a machine which aligns and blends it with other fibers. Another machine thins and lengthens the fiber. The spinner is where it finally becomes a single ply of yarn.

After a few more steps, the final product is ready for sale, either in its natural form, or kettle dyed in various colors.

Alpaca sales
An alpaca at Sugarloaf Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. (J. Taboh/VOA)An alpaca at Sugarloaf Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. (J. Taboh/VOA)
An alpaca at Sugarloaf Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. (J. Taboh/VOA)
An alpaca at Sugarloaf Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. (J. Taboh/VOA)

Brandt sells those varieties of yarn, along with other ready-made alpaca products, in his store on the farm’s grounds.

And that isn’t the only source of income on the farm.

“We raise and sell alpacas as bred females. We also sell pet males and fiber males to others. We also have a stud service where we’ll take our stud males around for hire,” Brandt said.

He proudly showed off Charmer, one of the most popular studs at the farm, who appeared very comfortable with all the attention.

Happy accident

Brandt, who has owned the farm for about 10 years, got into the alpaca business almost by accident.

“My wife Nancy and oldest daughter and I were at the local country fair and we decided to stop into one more barn before we went home and it happened to be the alpaca barn and almost instantly we fell in love with the alpacas,” he said.

Alpacas are part of the camel family. They are curious by nature and easy to care for.  There are more than 300,000 alpacas in the U.S., but no more are being imported since a ban was imposed in 1993.

“Alpaca are just a wonderful livestock,” said Brandt, “They’re gentle. We’ve raised our three kids here and it’s a wonderful lifestyle to have.”

And as more and more people learn about the joy and income potential alpacas can bring, he anticipates even more farms like his springing up in the future.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs