As you’ve driven through rural areas of Texas you may have seen some exotic animals that you thought were llamas, but they very might have well been Alpacas. Alpacas are much smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas were not bred to be beasts of burden, but were bred specifically for their fiber. Joe Brown visits with some Grimes County Alpaca breeders in this week’s From The Ground Up.

"The initial imports came into the United States back in 1984. That was in ranches up in Oregon and Washington, and over that time it spread across the country. The interest, people started finding out about them, and once you meet them, you’ll fall in love with them, that’s what happened to us."

Larry and Candace Wingo raise Alpacas in Grimes County and harvest their fleece once a year.

"This is the Huacaya, this is the most common and this produces more of a fluffy fleece and their fiber is actually hollow. The shaft of the fiber is hollow, so it’s very warm, but yet it breathes very well and, so it’s a real nice warm fiber next to your body in a garment."

The other type of Alpaca is called a Suri.

"He’s, this is more of a dreadlock like fiber, and it has a twist to it, and this has more of a shimmer so in garments you actually see the shimmer and shine and luster in the garment, and this is going to be a more expensive animal."

The Wingos breed and sell Alpacas as well as their fleece.

"We’re in a fiber cooperative, so we send a lot of ours to the co- op. They pool it with other co-op members, and they produce socks and yarn, and I believe they’re working on a throw, they’re actually made here in the United States."

Some Alpacas are easier than others to shear.

"But they always seem to be happy once the fleece is gone. Now today’s a little cooler. Some days, sometimes when we shear, it’s already warmed up more, and they’re really hot with all that fleece on them, and they’re really, really happy to get it off."

The Wingos say in addition to producing wonderful fleece, Alpacas are great companion animals. I’m Joe Brown, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.

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