23 June, 2014
From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.
Alpacas are large animals with long, thick hair. They are related to camels and lamas. Most of them live in the Andean area of South America. But a growing number of them are being raised in the United States. VOA recently visited an Alpaca Farm near Washington to find out why.
Alpacas are being sheared at an Alpaca Farm in Maryland, less than an hour away from the nation's capital. Shearing is the process of removing that thick, heavy covering of fleece from the animal. Some of the alpacas quietly let the owners shear them, but some of them do not like it at all.
The alpacas on Sugarloaf Farm are sheared to keep them cool during the hot summer months. The shearing is also profitable for farm owner Kevin Brandt. He says there is a growing demand for alpaca wool.
"We're finding that there are more people in the marketplace looking for alpaca yarns because it's considered to be hypoallergenic, and it's really as soft as cashmere," Brandt said.
Mr Brandt and his workers turn the fleece from the animals into yarn, using an equipment at the farm. Mr Brandt sales natural and colored yarn, and other alpaca products in his store at the farm. But that is not the only way he makes money from his animals.
"We raise and sell alpacas as bred females. We also sell pet males and fiber males to others. We also have a stud service where we'll take our stud males around for hire," Brandt said.
Mr Brandt says he entered the Alpaca of farming business, because he and his family love the animals.
"My wife Nancy and oldest daughter and I were at the local country fair and we decided to stop into one more barn before we went home and it happened to be the alpaca barn and almost instantly we fell in love with the alpacas," Brandt said.
Experts estimate there are about 300,000 alpacas in the United States. Mr Brandt says fewer alpacas live in places other than South America. The Farm's website says 99 percent of the 3 million alpacas in the world live in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
"Alpaca are just a wonderful livestock. They're gentle. We've raised our three kids here and it's a wonderful lifestyle to have," said Brandt.
And as more and more people learn about the joy and money alpacas can bring, he believes there will be even more farms like his.
And that's the VOA Learning English Agriculture Report. For more agriculture stories, go to our website 51voa.com. I'm Caty Weaver.