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Wednesday, January 31

Wooly Bully (Sam the Sham)

Not exactly a ZOO study, but we got to take a field trip to Just Right Alpacas, on a very cold day!  The owners, John & Janice Robinson, are just the nicest people you'll ever meet.  They taught us all about their alpacas, including how they got into alpaca farming, all about the animals, and how the fibers are harvested and used.

Alpacas are :
  • green & sustainable
  • herd livestock
  • very easy to care for, with minimal shelter
  • thrive on a few acres
  • produce organic fertilizer
  • produce soft, versatile fibers
  • are naturally hypoallergenic
Be sure to check out our other Zoo Studies!

While we were there, the kids got to take a hayride and ride on a horse.  For some of them, it was the first time they'd ever ridden!
At the end of the day, the kids got to make wool dryer balls out of alpaca fibers and old pantyhose.  It was a neat, easy craft, and we're still using them in the dryer today!

Want to know more about these cool creatures? Here are a few pieces of information we’ve learned:
  • An alpaca is a camelid. Other camelids include camels, llamas, vicuñas and guanacos.
  • Alpacas are native to South America, especially Peru.
  • There are two types of alpacas: Suri and Huacaya. Gia and all the animals we work with are  Huacaya. Suris have a different texture of fiber – almost like dreadlocks.
  • Alpacas are herd animals, so you really can’t and shouldn’t keep just one. But you can raise as many as five on a single acre. Interestingly, many alpacas develop particular “friendships” and will make noise if they’re separated from their friend.
  • An adult alpaca might weigh between about 120 and 200 pounds. Bigger than 200 is Alpaca Diet Time!
  • Alpacas eat primarily grass and hay, and in fact, some of the ones from our local farms are used by a nearby farm market in their solar panel field as “grass-mowers!” 
  • An alpaca is like a cow in that it has a multi-chambered stomach and chews a cud. This helps it get the most nutrition possible even when the foliage they’re eating isn’t particularly great.
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