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A Lesson In Alpacas

Shearing demonstration draws 125 to Windsor

BY WENDY WALKER/TIDEWATER NEWS

Wendy.walker@tidewaternews.com


       WINDSOR-Despite an initial shower, a first-time event for local farmers proved to be a sheer success.

       Cornerstone Farm Alpacas Shearing Day and Open House drew 125 people to the farm on Spivey Town Road.

       Along with Cornerstone's alpacas, Smithfield's Woodland Trail Farm, owned by Joe and Kathy D'Andria, and Courthouse Pastures, owned by Al and Virginia Dillon, had approximately 30 animals sheared by Jamie Jones, an expert who travels throughout the Southeast during the spring months.

       "He has been shearing animals for a number of years," Chris Wingard said.  Wingard and her husband, Daren, own Cornerstone Farm.  "He has an excellent reputation for his skill. 

       "There were also about 20 helpers and farm hands who took part in the shearing."

       Visitors also had the opprotunity to see Rosemary Gadsby of Boykins demonstrate spinning skills, while Master Weaver Bob Hecker of Newport News demonstrated weaving.

       D'Andria was also spinning and had alpaca fibers and children's educational activity books for sale.  An ounce of raw fiber costs $2.50 while the same amount of carded fiber was $4.50.

       "(Raising alpacas) is a great way to have a farm and not have to sell your animals later on the market," she said.

       Other alpaca-related items, such as figurines and items made from alpaca fiber, were also avaialbe from Cornerstone Farm's store.

       "Although alpacas have been around for centuries in South America, they are relatively new to North America," Chris said.  "Alpaca fleece has the feel of cashmere.  It is extremely strong, resilient and non-allergenic."

       "Even here in Isle of Wight County, a lot of people want products made with natural materials.  And alpaca fiber comes in more than 17 different colors, so if you don't want to dye your yarn, you still have a choice in color."

       Wingard said that alpacas are registered much like full-bred dogs.

       "Alpacas were imported in the '80's but they stopped allowing them in the national registry in the '90's,"  she explained.  "So we have to take the herd we have and breed them to create our own North American standard.  There has to be a certain number to establish a successful industry.

       "With only the fiber used for specialized items right now, the money is really in the breeding.  Our goal is to have a viable fiber industry in America.  We want the animals to have good confirmation but also the softest fiber they can have."

       Wingard will average 4 pounds to 5 pounds of fiber from one alpaca when it is shorn.  Shearing is done annually.

       Prices vary according to quality and condition of the fiber.

       "I would like to see 8 to 10 pounds ," she said.  "What we do is match a longer-haired alpaca with one that has more dense fleece to yield a heavier fiber.  The money from that would pay for their upkeep for one year."

       Farming alpacas not only gives owners good tax benefits, according to Wingard, but provides them an opportunity to show their animals.

       "We'll be going to our second show for the Virginia chapter of the national organization in November," she said .  "It's a good place to network and meet people.  There is no trimming or washing required of the alpacas.  They want them natural."

       Wingard said they are excited to introduce these animals to people in the community.

       "Cornerstone Farm Alpacas provides livestock sales with financing available; breeding with reproductive and birth guarantees; boarding; fiber and product sales; educational programs; and consultation," she said.