story & photos
by Anna Trusky
It’s impossible to meet an alpaca without instantly falling in love with its gentle eyes, graceful neck, and perky, velvety ears.
But there’s much more to appreciate about these South American camel cousins than their adorable appearance. They also provide luxurious fibers that are as soft as cashmere, come in a wide range of sumptuous colors, and are warmer and lighter than wool.
On September 29 and 30, the member farms of the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) held National Alpaca Farm Days, which provided a unique opportunity for the public to learn about the alpaca livestock industry in the United States and Canada. Six Paca Farm in Bozrah participated in the celebration. Co-owned by Lisa Adelman and Joe Christina, Six Paca Farm has been “brewing the best in the breed” for about a dozen years.
The farm is a second career for Linda. After working in construction for almost 40 years, she retired and began searching for something new to do. One day, she accompanied a friend to move some animals, but she had no idea they would be alpacas. “Someone put a 10-day-old, new-baby cria in my arms. He snuggled up to me and nuzzled me, and that was it!” Linda said. She did research for about two years, and then acquired her first a pair of alpacas. Two alpacas led to many, many more!
Six Paca Farm is actually three farms—a breeding farm, a maternity ward, and a general farm that’s open to the public and features a boutique packed with alpaca sweaters, vests, hats, scarves, socks, blankets, rugs, and fibers for knitting. The farm also sells registered alpacas and offers classes. There are currently 58 alpacas living at the farm, including a new baby, or cria, who was born on September 22 and weighed in at 12 pounds, 8 ounces. Like his mother, Ellyn, he has a rich, black coat of fleecy fibers.
Breeding is done twice a year, timed so that the crias will be born in spring or fall, when the weather is milder, Linda explained. When alpacas are bred, a mating pair is put together, and then separated once they’ve mated. After a couple of days, the male is put back with the female. If she spits at him, this means she is, indeed, pregnant. “We call this the spit test,” Linda said. “It’s even more reliable than an ultrasound!”
Alpacas are shorn in the spring. The coat is clipped in one swath from shoulders to hips; this is called the blanket. The blanket is “carded” on a special device that aligns the fibers so they will be able to be spun. “They are so funny when they’re first shorn,” Linda explained. “They’re embarrassed to be seen by the others—it’s like they’re in their underwear. But after a few minutes, they realize how cool and comfortable they feel, and then they prance around!”
To meet one of these intelligent, inquisitive, gentle creatures, visit Six Paca Farm. It’s located on Route 163 in Bozrah and open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. For more information, call 860.204.0386 or go to www.sixpaca.com.