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Md. Women Maintain Alpaca Farm, Use Fiber To Knit

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CHARLENE SHARPE
The Daily Times of Salisbury

BERLIN, Md. (AP) — At first, Nancy Taylor was worried when she started to see people pulling their vehicles over on Route 50 near her farm.

But she soon realized that they didn’t have car trouble or an urge to trespass, they were simply admiring the farm’s herd of alpacas.

After years of thinking about it, Taylor and her sister-in-law, Susan Taylor, purchased their first seven alpacas last year and started Ocean Breeze Alpacas. As avid knitters, the women wanted to be able to get fiber from their own animals.

Although they planned to purchase just a few males to shear each year, word of mouth and a deal they couldn’t refuse left them with a herd of 24 alpacas. They now have 13 males and 11 females.

“This is a good number,” Susan Taylor said.

Her sister-in-law agreed.

“It’s still really new for us,” Nancy Taylor said.

She said that as knitters, they had long enjoyed making hats, scarves and the like with alpaca fiber, as it was versatile and hypoallergenic. Although alpacas were expensive when they first made their way into the area, in recent years their popularity has increased and the animals have become more affordable.

“It was cost prohibitive back then,” Nancy Taylor said.

After doing plenty of research, the Taylors decided they would purchase a small herd, as they had the room on the family farm, some of which was already fenced in. Although they ended up with a few more animals than they intended, the women are now able to have two separate groups, one of males and one of females.

“You don’t want just one or two,” Nancy Taylor said. “They’re herd animals.”

Because they graze in the field, the alpacas, which are members of the camel family, require little grain. The Taylors have made a few adjustments to their pastures, adding some sand mounds and wading pools for the summer, to make the animals more comfortable.

“They love to play king of the hill,” Susan Taylor said, motioning to one of several sand mounds in the field.

While the more conventional sheep could also have provided the women with fiber for knitting, they were quick to expound on the benefits alpacas have over the more traditional farm animals.

“They’re easier to care for,” Nancy Taylor said.

Her sister-in-law added: “Their yarn is better — it’s hypoallergenic.”

The ladies said the animals were also cuter and had more personality than sheep. The alpacas, they have found, love children.

“They’re very curious,” Nancy Taylor said, petting Jet, a 3-year-old black alpaca.

The alpacas are sheared once a year, typically in May. The raw fiber is sent to a mill and turned into yarn, thread and roving. The Taylors are going to use some of what they’ve gotten back for their own knitting projects while they are also going to sell some of it at local events.

Their first trip to a public event will take place next month at Snow Hill’s Fiber Fest at the Julia A. Purnell Museum.

Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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