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Visit the animals on National Alpaca Farm Days
by Tribune Staff
Sep 22, 2010 | 912 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) invites Americans nationwide to visit the organization's member farms and ranches on National Alpaca Farm Days this weekend. This is a unique opportunity for the public to explore the many aspects of the alpaca livestock industry in the United States and Canada.

From meeting these beautiful, inquisitive animals in person to experiencing luxurious alpaca products at individual farm stores, there truly will be something for everyone.

While most alpaca farms welcome visitors throughout the year, National Alpaca Farm Days are sure to include special activities and educational opportunities. 

There are numerous farms located throughout Northern California, just a few hours from northern Nevada. For a complete list of participating farms and ranches, visit www.nationalalpacafarmdays.com. 

Alpacas, cousins to the llama, are intelligent animals native to the Andean Mountain range of South America, particularly Peru, Bolivia and Chile. The United States first commercially imported alpacas in 1984. There are now more than 150,000 Alpaca Registry, Inc. (ARI) registered alpacas in North America.

There are two types of alpacas in the United States today. Although almost physically identical, what distinguishes the two types of alpacas is their fiber. The huacaya is the more common of the two and has a fluffy, extremely fine coat. The suri is the rarer of the two and has fiber that is silky and resembles pencil-locks.

Adult alpacas stand at about 36 inches at the withers and generally weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. They do not have horns, hooves, claws or incisors. Alpacas are alert, intelligent, curious and predictable. Social animals that seek companionship, they communicate most commonly by softly humming.

Alpacas are shorn, without harm, every 12 to 18 months. They produced five to 10 pounds of luxurious fiber.  Long ago, alpaca fiber was reserved for royalty. Today it is purchased in its raw fleece form by hand-spinners and fiber artists. Knitters buy it as yarn.

Because of its soft texture, alpaca fiber is sometimes compared to cashmere. Making the fiber even more coveted, it has the luster of silk. Alpaca is just as warm as, yet one-third the weight of wool. It comes in 22 natural colors, and can be dyed any desired shade.

Containing no lanolin, alpaca fiber is also naturally hypoallergenic.  Most people who are sensitive to wool find that they can wear alpaca without the itching or irritation they feel from wool because alpaca fiber is smooth. Alpaca fiber is stretchy, water repellent and has less odor. For travelers, clothing made from alpaca is desirable because it is wrinkle-resistant.

Headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., the AOBA facilitates the expansion of a strong and sustainable alpaca industry through the growth and development of the national herd and its products. Since AOBA’s formation in 1988, its membership has grown steadily to more than 4,000 members with more than 150,000 registered alpacas in North America.

For more information about the alpaca industry, visit www.alpacaInfo.com. For more information about National Alpaca Farm Days, visit www.nationalalpacafarmdays.com. 
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