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Alpaca industry growing in central Kansas

Kansas

In the summer of 2000, if you asked someone in Central Kansas the question, "What is an alpaca?" the answer, most likely, would have been, "I don't have the faintest idea."

Today, raising alpacas is a growing industry in the center of the Sunflower State.

Alpacas are fleece-bearing animals that are native to only one place in the world-South America. In the early 1980's some entrepreneurs imported a small number of these animals to North America and the industry has been thriving ever since. Importation was closed in order to breed a specifically American alpaca.

The alpaca produces the finest, softest fleece in the world. It is light, water resistant, strong, more thermal than wool and, unlike wool contains no greasy lanolin. It is also hypo-allergenic and there has been no known allergy to the fleece documented. Because of the rarity of the alpaca, the fleece is prized all over the world and traded on the world market. The alpaca is the only fur or fleece- bearing animal in existence that comes in twenty five colors, making it the choice for natural products containing no dyes or chemicals. It is highly prized and used by designers including Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne, Yves St. Laurent and more.

In the last ten years, Canada and Australia have made extensive efforts to grow the alpaca industry within their countries. The government of both countries subsidizes studies into the use of the alpaca fleece because of its wonderful natural qualities. Here in America we are focusing on production animals and increasing the number of alpacas to meet demand.

Alpacas have now been a part of Kansas agriculture for over ten years and, in the Spring of 2009, the Kansas Alpaca Association was formed by breeders in the Central Kansas area. The mission of the association is to familiarize people with the alpaca, assist them in starting their own business and promote the alpaca and the end products it produces.

Alpacas are friendly, clean, social animals that like people. They are easy to manage, have none of the standard "livestock" smell and are great fun for families to raise. Because they are so gentle, they are a great choice for families with children. The word alpaca is often mispronounced. The word is of Portuguese origin (from their native South America). It is pronounced al-paw-ka. It is incorrect to say "al-pack-a" although many pronounce it this way. In South America, a nickname for the babies is "pacquitas" but the actual name for the babies is "cria" (cree-a).



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