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Foothills alpacas undergo spring 'makeover' grooming

Dan Simon of Owatonna gives PT (Patriot Thomas) Nelson a shearing at the Foothills Alpaca Farm. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
Meanwhile, out on the range, an alpaca awaits his appointment with the beautician, its cohort having undergone spring beautification. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)2 / 2

The Foothills alpacas underwent spring trimming.

Thirty-one Suri and Huacaya at Scott and Linda Elmore's farm endured a coifing, Dan and Paula Simon arriving from Owatonna to trim them for the summer ahead.

This is the Elmores' third season of trimming, the first year on a tilt-able table. The first two years, the trimming was done at ground level.

"It's going so much better," Linda reported. "It's so much easier to skirt the fiber," she said of separating the short pieces from the preferred longer strands.

The sheared fiber will soon be bound for a fiber co-op in Tennessee, where it will become socks. Some of the fiber will head to Kansas, for yarn and roving - used for spinning and doll hair. And the leg, neck and underbelly fiber will make its way to Texas, where it will become rugs, saddle blankets and seat warmers.

The short pieces will make its way to bird nests or used in gardens for weed control.

Thirty-one alpaca were sheared at the Foothills this week, 22 of them Elmores' and the remaining nine belonging to boarders and neighbors.

Harvested fiber ranges from 2 to 10 pounds per alpaca, with Patriot Thomas "PT" Nelson earning bragging rights last year.

Linda sent 2 ounces of the alpaca's fiber to sites in Virginia, Texas and Missouri where it was spun into yarn for judging. Adjudicators awarded two firsts and a second at the "spinoffs," adding credence to PT's notable family tree.

This year, PT's fiber, along with some of his cohorts' - Abigail Adams, Gen. George S. Patton and Patrick Henry among them - will be sent to a lab for a micron count.

"The lower the count, the better the fiber," Linda explained.

The average alpaca count is 19 to 20. Human hair is 36 to 38. The best - thin alpaca count - is 14 to 15, she said.

Meanwhile, three cria are in gestation in the Foothills, the baby alpaca expected to debut in late August.

The Elmore alpaca will continue making an appearance at area events, including Legends & Logging Days in Park Rapids and Muskie Days in Nevis.

The affable critters with their big brown eyes are gaining a fan base.

Visitors are welcome by appointment at the farm located at 190 68th Ave. SW, Backus. The farm is just off Highway 87 about four miles east of the Highway 64 and 87 junction. Call 218-947-3291.