Some people might have thought Minuit was having a bad hair day in the Kansas wind Saturday, but this alpaca actually has award-winning hair.
Or fleece, anyway.
The alpaca – just about the same color as a chocolate Labrador – joined her 16 of her camel-esque friends for an “open barn” at the Royal Plush Alpaca Ranch in Rose Hill. The unique take on Small Business Saturday and the Black Friday shopping weekend brought out people curious about the animals, who are the “cute cousin to the llama,” said Mike Green.
Green and his wife, Loretta, raise alpacas on pasture at their home. They got into the alpaca business six years ago. Both have jobs outside the ranch, but the alpacas provide a side income.
“My wife grew up on a farm,” Mike Green said. “She wanted horses, but I’m not a real big horse person. We looked into alpacas, and they’re pretty easy to handle.”
The Greens have 17 of the animals now. The females are separated from the males, and the Greens raise the animals to sell and for their fleece.
The alpacas are sheared once a year. Their fleece is spun into yarn. Minuit took first place for her fleece two years ago at the national alpaca show, Mike Green said. The Greens sent in a sample of Minuit’s fleece, and a professional spinner spun it into yarn, and judges rated it the best.
Another of the Greens’ alpacas, Little Bit Cinnamon, took second place, Mike Green said.
The Greens breed their alpacas not for their color but for the fineness of their fleece. Some of the alpacas are white, some multi-colored, some brown.
Mike Green said their fleece is “as warm as wool and softer than cashmere.”
Related to camels, alpacas are native to South America, Mike Green said. They’ve been in the United States about 23 years.
Wichita resident Carla Daniels came out Saturday to learn more about the animals.
“I was just intrigued,” she said. “just general curiosity.”
She was interested in the benefits of alpaca manure for gardening, and she also knits and crochets.
She laughed when asked if she might get an alpaca of her own.
Mike Green says the animals have a similar disposition to cats.
“If they want to be with you, they will. If not, they’ll ignore you,” he said.
All of the Greens’ alpacas are named and registered. Each has her or his own personality, he said.
Some will come close to strangers, even nudging their nose in a face. The more timid move quickly away.
The Greens named one of the animals Whisper because she often nudged Mike Green’s ear, as if whispering.
There’s one baby at the ranch. Crystal is about 2 months old. She nursed during the open barn Saturday and stayed close to her mother.
Just before dark, the alpacas do something called “pronging,” which is like prancing. The Greens can look outside their window to see the show.
“It means they’re happy and having a good day,” Mike Green told visitors.