Public invited to meet alpacas

HELLO THERE — Golden Meadow Alpaca farm, located in rural Lewisville, will participate in National Alpaca Farm Days this weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

LEWISVILLE — Known for their luxurious, warm fibers, alpacas are unique and inquisitive animals.

This upcoming weekend provides an opportunity to learn more about them as it is National Alpaca Farm Days. Golden Meadow Alpacas, a farm located in rural Lewisville, will participate and be open to guests on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The farm is located just off Highway 15, on Highway 30. Heading east, it is the first farm on the right, or south side, of the road.

Alpaca breeders from all over the United States and Canada are inviting people to their farms or ranches this weekend to meet their alpacas and learn more about them.

Rick Zoellmer owns Golden Meadow Alpacas and runs it with the help of his daughter, Jessica Spann. Right now, they have 20 alpacas, all of whom are registered and named.

Alpacas are closely related to llamas, but they are distinctly different. Alpacas are smaller, nearly half the size of llamas. Whereas llamas are generally used for packing or guarding herds, alpacas are primarily raised for their soft fleece.

“The alpacas come in 21 different natural colors,” Zoellmer explained. “Their fiber is seven times warmer than wool.”

Zoellmer said they shear the alpacas in the spring.

Many different things can be done with alpaca fibers. Zoellmer knits while his wife, Karen, crochets. They make scarves and stocking caps, and Zoellmer recently began making rugs. They also can sell the fiber to people use it to make other items.

“There’s a group of ladies from Spirit Lake who knit. They come here to buy their fibers,” Zoellmer said.

He got two alpacas 12 ago at the insistence of his daughter.

“They’re a herd animal so we had to get two,” Zoellmer said. “It’s kept growing since then.”

The alpacas range in size, but average 150 to 200 pounds. They do not have any horns, hooves or claws, and mostly communicate through humming.

“Everybody asks if they spit, and they do,” Zoellmer said with a laugh, but he said it isn’t often, only in certain cases.

Zoellmer explained that alpacas mostly eat hay and grass, but he gives them some grains too. They do not require too much maintenance, but they need their toenails clipped every three months, as well as their teeth trimmed.

Zoellmer reported they are expecting nine babies, which are called cria, this spring. Alpacas are pregnant for 11 and a half months, and birth only one at a time. Zoellmer said they might sell the newborns, depending on what color they are.

In the past, Zoellmer said anywhere from 100 to 300 people have come the weekend of National Alpaca Farm Days.

“It’s a good time for people to get to know about the fibers,” he said.

They will have handmade items for sale as well as some fibers, and guests can see the alpacas up close.