News / USA

Alpaca Farmer Shears His Way to Success

Alpaca Farmer Shears His Way to Successi
X
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)
x
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)
x
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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More