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Fiber from a shaved alpaca, at right, can be used in biodegradable mats and is popular for clothing because it's water-repellent, wrinkle-resistent and warm. Alpaca wool is comparable to cashmere. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Open house set this weekend at Foothills Alpaca Farm

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Open house set this weekend at Foothills Alpaca Farm
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Scott and Linda Elmore invite the public to meet their alpacas and learn more about the inquisitive animals and the fiber they produce.


An open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28- 30 at the Foothills Alpaca Farm, located at 190 68th Ave. S.W., Backus.

(From Park Rapids, head south on Highway 71 to Highway 87 east, continue east to 68th Avenue and turn south.)

Activities include spinning demonstrations and drawings for a 10" teddy bear.

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 over 160,000 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 (wa-Ki'-ah) is the more common of the two and has a fluffy, extremely fine coat. The Suri (SUR-ee) is the rarer of the two and has fiber that is silky and resembles pencil-locks.

Adult alpacas stand at approximately 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. Alpaca is just as warm as, yet one-third the weight of wool. It comes in 22 natural colors, yet 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.

Additional performance characteristics include stretch, water repellency, and odor reduction. For travelers, clothing made from alpaca is desirable because it is wrinkle-resistant.

Sensitive to their environment in every respect, alpacas have soft padded feet instead of hooves and can leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged. Alpacas prefer to eat tender grasses, which they do not pull up by the roots. Lacking upper teeth, alpacas "cut" the grass with their bottom teeth and upper palate. This vegetation cutting encourages the plants' growth.

Because they are modified ruminants with a three-compartment stomach, alpacas convert grass and hay to energy very efficiently, and stop eating when they are full, further preserving the landscape on which they live.

All fiber from an alpaca can be used. Even the fiber from the lower legs, belly and neck, is being used for things such as natural weed mats to be placed around trees. Alpaca fiber is biodegradable.

Alpacas require no insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers that pollute the groundwater.

To find out more about National Alpaca Farm Days visit www.NationalAlpaca

To learn more about Foothills Alpaca Farm, visit or call 218-947-3291.