Monday, January 18, 2010

Alpaca you a bag...let's learn!

When talking about green living or sustainable living, we should all remember that these "rules" of raising should extend to the types of pets and/or animals one raises. Alpacas are an extremely sustainable and Earth friendly animal to keep on your "green" farms as an income/fiber animal. For an animal to eat you might look into chickens (though, their poop is quite toxic) or mini cattle (more on those later).

We'll start with our learning about Alpacas and Llamas, mostly about alpacas even though llamas are my favorite animals they aren't as cost efficient to raise. And yes, they are from the same family but inherently different. Alpacas are smaller and, some might argue, better fiber producer, though llama and alpaca wool are both high priced and higher quality fibers. Alpacas are first and foremost a docile, domesticated animal. One of the world's oldest domesticated animals, predating the Inca empire! How's that for a breed history?

There are two kinds of alpaca the Suri (no, not Cruise) pictured right, and the Huacaya in the first picture. The Suri is noticeably different from the fluff ball of cute that you see in most pictures as it has pencil-thin locks that dangle from it's sides as opposed to the traditional crimped coat of the Huacaya. Some say the Suri's wool is more luxurious or some such nonsense. I have felt both in raw, spun, and crafted product and I can tell you there is no noticeable color or texture difference here. Neither is brighter or better than the other, don't let someone over charge you for Suri, my friends!

The alpaca can do so much for you. You can spin it into fiber arts, make clothing from it, then sell it or wear it. It takes up so little space that you can raise one in just about any back yard but keep in mind they'd love company as they ARE a herd animal. The pads of their feet are soft, not hoofed so you don't have to worry about terrain wear. They only have teeth at the bottom and not the top so biting is near painless. The only thing you should really worry about is trying not to agitate them by paying attention to their flicks and kicks because beyond that, my friends, comes the spits! It's a vile combination of well, bile and food stuffs leftover in their tummy, foul smelling.


In the 70s, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization defined the ideal animal for the future. The animal should be: A ruminant that needs little water, is easy to breed, and should provide people with protein and other products. Someone should have been like *headdesk* why didn't we think about the camel and it's relatives the alpaca and the llama? But, I still don't think those people are on the right track so far as sustainable agriculture is concerned.

If you would like to visit your local alpaca farm take a look at the map above, that's not all the alpaca places in Ohio but they seem to be the most hospitable toward having visitors. Just look them up and take a drive. Just watching the animals frolic and play is enough to make you feel young at heart. Moving into the blue part of the winter, many of us could use this type of light-spirited activity. If that doesn't suit you though, you could always go on a mini-cow excursion!

Mini cow or (lowlines) information courtesy of Minicows West

Key advantages of breeding Lowlines:
  • A more easily managed animal (naturally polled, docile and easier on your pastures and fences)
  • More efficient animal on feed and pasture (they need less of both to produce higher quality amounts of meat)
  • They mature earlier and dress off with less waste
  • Good fertility and easy calving
  • Pigmentation avoids problems of lighter colored breeds
  • Less birthing and maternal problems (always a plus if you don't have a vet on hand or live further out from medical care)
  • Produce ideal amount of designer steaks for the typical family freezer (direct marketing & backyard beef) Lowlines deliver right sized – right kind beef!
  • Tax deductible investment!
What's that you say? Tax deductible? Why yes! Many sustainable animals now classified as livestock are, indeed, tax deductible! Savings FTW! These beauties have been hand selected for many generations to provide quality over quantity...though I CAN say the cuts of higher end steaks are, by weight, nearly the same as a full sized cow. Now, that's saying something! Mini's also produce less methane, eat less, and have a less detrimental effect on pastures. This makes it possible to keep many mini's in one location a lot longer than you could if you had full sized cattle. Less trampling is good for your Mamma.

That's all I  have for tonight, my brain is killing me and so are my hands and heartburn. /rolaidsfail

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