Alpaca farm brings challenges and benefits

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By Matt Miller
Williamston Post staff writer

Many people own pets, but Kate Campbell has around 30, mostly Alpacas.

Campbell runs both a store called The Alpaca Shoppe and an Alpaca farm in addition to a part time job, but not without the rewards of a farmer. Campbell’s Alpaca Farm, which she calls Circle 6 Alpacas, receives farm based tax write offs for her veterinary care and the land she uses to raise her Alpacas.

There are other benefits that Campbell cannot write off, but are more valuable to her. According to Campbell, raising Alpacas is a family business, and she believes her four children have unique benefits that they could not get anywhere else than a farm.

Campbell said. “They have a lot more empathy, or responsibility, work ethic … they’ve really seen the circle of life.”

Campbell believes her children have a unique way of viewing life and death. Since, according to Campbell, Alpaca farmers suffer around a 10 to 20 percent loss in their herd due to death every year; her children are able to experience loss

Getting more solemn, Campbell mentioned that her children would see stillborn Alpaca offspring, and observe their mothers remaining by them days after. Campbell remarked, “It makes it (birth and death) more real to them…they’re seeing it all the time.”
Campbell loves the wool she gets from her Alpacas, and is able to use it in hats, gloves, scarfs, yarn and robing. Some of the features Campbell appreciates about Alpaca wool is that is softer and less bulky than sheep wool, and naturally wicking. Wicking means that the wool removes water, and helps keep the wool warm when it is wet. Campbell claims, “Once you start wearing it, you really don’t want to go back.”
There are some difficulties raising Alpacas, so Campbell keeps her two males with local groomer Sharon Kremsreiter. Kremsreiter provides the males with water, and says her main role is in “keeping an eye on them and providing pasture for them.” The purpose of this arrangement is to keep the males separate from the females, and allowing Campbell an easy time getting wool
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Certain Alpaca linages had better wool than others, which made them valuable as breeders and wool produces, Campbell said. In the past, Campbell said, some people would pay up to $50,000 for some Alpaca linages.

In general, the quality of an Alpaca’s wool is a factor in deciding the value of the Alpaca. Other factors include whether the Alpaca was registered, the animals wool and the pedigree of the Alpaca. Females can be bough from around $1,000-$7000.

Matthew Warwick, who has a doctorate in Anthropology, studied the use of Alpacas in prehistoric societies. Warwick said that both species have their origins in Central and South America, and was domesticated in these regions. According to Warwick, Alpacas’ ancestors have been domesticated since 3000 B.C., and used for their meat, fur and hides.
Warwick describes America Alpaca herding as a hobby, but this does create profit for some.

However, due to the recent economy, the value of Alpaca wool has fallen, and many people are trying to get out of the business. This has lead to people selling Alpacas for incredible low prices, claims Campbell. This means difficulty for those who wish to remain Alpaca farmers, however, Warwick believes “we will see the expansion of Alpaca wool as a commodity.” There are herders in the United States that continue to raise Alpacas for the wool and value they bring to their families.

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