As soon as the gate opened, the girls flooded out into the field, leaping into the air, off all four feet and running about like children.
Still furry with their heavy winter coats, nearly a dozen female alpacas—natives of the Chilean, Bolivian and Peruvian Andes—frolicked about the fenced pasture Saturday at Oyama Lake Alpaca Farms just as if they’d just been let loose from school.
Darlene Homenchuk and Jim Covington started the farm about 12 years ago and say they adore the alpacas they’ve raised.
“We’ve raised our lovely alpacas from birth, treated them all the same, and yet their personalities are all so different, just like children,” daid Homenchuk.
Each has a favourite habit, like nuzzling a neck or offering kisses on the cheek, and each animal’s face is full of personality and very different from the others.
But, this is the last week this season they’ll be burdened with those thick, fuzzy coats.
Next Saturday the shearer will visit Oyama and each animal will lose about five pounds in fiber, which Homenchuk will spin into yarn. That will be turned into a wide assortment of clothing and home decorating articles, all for sale at her on-farm gift gallery or online.
The shearer has a custom-made table for the alpacas, so he can carefully but quickly remove the long, thick fur from each animal. All that’s left when he’s finished is the characteristic topnot, a bushy tail, and perhaps some socks.
First, though, each animal has the dust and grass blown out of her thick coat. Once it’s been sheared off, the fibre is prepared for spinning into yarn. Alpaca yarn is light, very warm and soft.
While the animals are sheared, the also have their toenails clipped and get their shots. Some object, but most behave well for the annual event.
The shearing will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on April 14, when all 15 members of the herd will be shorn. Visitors are advised to bring their cameras as the newly shorn, naked-look is quite fun, said Homenchuk.
The gift gallery will also be open .
In additon to yarn goods, the farm also sells alpaca manure, which has been composted, ready to spread on gardens.
Call ahead to make arrangements.
While visitors are welcome all day, the shearing will be finished by noon.
For details, go to: alpacadelights.com or call them at 548-4004.