Thursday, November 25, 2010


The first time I saw an alpaca I fell in love with the species. They have beautiful, soft, fuzzy looking fleeces, gentle, inquisitive faces and big golden eyes. The first time I saw an alpaca run, I was entranced. They move like liquid flowing across the ground. Their heads stretch forward and their bodies glide, apparently without effort just above the ground. The first time I saw a newly shorn alpaca, I laughed out loud. He looked exactly like a Muppet – topknot, long skinny neck, tiny body and bodacious long legs. The laughter has stayed with me. Just watching Kaylie, our alpaca, gives me joy.

I never considered buying an alpaca. They are out of sight expensive. I couldn’t make back the cost in fleece sales and I am not interested in selling breeding stock with all the showing of animals and public relations involved. But when a friend asked us to board some of his animals, I accepted without a moment’s hesitation. Just the chance to have alpacas on the farm was a good exchange for feeding them. When he sold those animals to a breeder, he gave me Kaylie in exchange for our feed and time. I’ve never had a better deal.

When I look out over the flock, Kaylie’s slender black neck and head rises above the sheep. She places herself between strangers and the flock. In fact, when Dave and I move the sheep into the barn, she tries to stand between us and the flock. When we work with the sheep in the barn, coating them, giving shots, or during shearing, Kaylie keeps up a constant humming. We’ve never figured out if the sound is reassurance for the sheep or warning to us. Perhaps it’s both. Alpacas spit with amazing accuracy and disgustingness when they are upset. They can also kick with their hind legs hard enough to seriously injure anyone unlucky enough to be standing behind them.

Kaylie acts as a guard animal for our flock. One day we took Buddy, a visiting dog, out to the barnyard to see how he responded to the sheep. Kaylie took one look at Buddy, laid back her ears, and screamed. The sheep disappeared around the corner of the barn; Kaylie stood her ground; and Buddy strained at the end of his leash, as far away from Kaylie as he could get.

When ewes lamb, Kaylie sniffs the newborns and then checks them out in their jugs as they sleep curled at their mothers’ sides. She is always aware of us, always on watch, a part of the flock, and much more.

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