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Alpaca farm open for weekend tours

By Staff | Sep 26, 2014

MAXWELL – Christian and Michelle Davies, alpaca owners and breeders from Maxwell, will open their farm and fiber mill to visitors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 27 and 28, at 33707 663rd Ave., in Maxwell.

This coincides with National Alpaca Farm Days, a coordinated effort across the United States and Canada to introduce the alpaca and their fiber products.

About alpacas

Alpacas were imported from Bolivia, Chile and Peru from 1984 to 1998. There are two types – Huacaya (wa-Ki-ah) with a fluffy crimpy fiber structure; and the Suri (Sir-E) with a lustrous silky fiber structure that resembles pencil-locks.

There are an estimated 150,000 Huacaya and about 34,000 Suri in the United States.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated the alpaca as farm livestock.

Adult alpacas stand at approximately 36 inches at the shoulder and generally weigh between 150 and 200 pounds.

Alpacas have two toe nails per foot that are trimmed with dog clippers as needed. They communicate by humming.

Their gestation period is 11 1/2 months. They can live into their mid-20s.

In the Midwest, alpacas are shorn annually, usually in the late spring. They produce 5 to 10 pounds of fiber per animal.

Fiber mill

Alpaca fiber is sometimes compared to cashmere, but is warmer than wool. Containing no lanolin, alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic.

Additional performance characteristics include stretch, water repellency, odor reduction and wrinkle resistant.

The Davies’ operate a fiber processing mill through which they process fiber from wool-producing animals nationwide.

They have seen various breeds of sheep, rabbit, goat, buffalo, llama, and alpaca. Fleeces come to the mill in the just shorn or raw state.

They are cleaned, carded to roving or yarn or cored yarn.

Alpaca products

There is a farm store attached to the mill, in which the Davies’ retail alpaca products such as roving, yarn, cored yarn for rug weaving, felt sheets, bears, saddle pads, stadium lap wraps, pet beds, and felt pin cushions.

C&M Acres is also a Schacht Distributor for spinning wheels and weaving looms.

Raising alpacas

Christian and Michelle Davies said they were “smitten” by alpacas when looking for a livestock to raise that was of manageable size, wasn’t going to aggravate her allergies and was going to have a return on investment.

They started with four bred females and two herd sires in the fall of 2006. Currently, their herd has grown to 80 head, representing both the Huacaya and Suri of various colors.

The alpaca is an animal that can be shown. Alpacas are judged in “pasture condition,” which means that the owner/handler puts a halter and lead on the alpaca and no other grooming or polishing is performed before they enter the ring.

Judging is based on the fiber of the animal and the alpaca’s conformation in relation to the other alpacas in that particular class.

Classes are broken down by the alpaca’s gender, type (Huacaya versus Suri), age and color.

In 2012, Christian and Michelle Davies opened up the fiber processing mill.

Both left their corporate jobs by August 2012, as they were flooded with fiber drop offs and deliveries.

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