Kathryn and Monica of Aging Gracefully TV recently traveled to a farm to meet Marilyn Kennedy, a 65-year-old farm owner who is aging gracefully with alpacas! You will LOVE this episode!
A Different Kind Of Downsizing
The lively and energetic Marilyn is an inspiring example of an actively aging adult. Marilyn owned horses for many years prior to owning the alpacas. She recognizes she just can’t do everything she used to do, so she decided to “downsize.” She went from horses to alpacas since they are known to be quieter, more docile animals.
The way these animals are loved and cared for is impressive. During the tour of the farm, Marilyn and her daughter, Alison, gave each animal’s name and background. They described alpacas as curious and creative creatures. They laughed as they described the way their herd will spill out water buckets to create the mud they love to roll in. The animals are given toys to play with, too.
Marilyn and her daughter, both formerly dog groomers, say that shearing is necessary each spring. Alpacas would overheat if they weren’t shorn. Nonetheless, some alpacas are more tolerant than others with the process. Marilyn and Alison shear the smaller animals and get assistance from another groomer with the larger ones.
The animals must be constrained during their shearing, for their safety and that of the shearers. The tools are powerful and potentially dangerous so the feet are bound for a portion, with three people assisting to make it as safe and quick as possible. It’s a painless process, but some resist more than others. Compassionate care from these two women who love their animals was evident and there was no part of the process that was aggressive or abusive. Nonetheless, the women were grateful this is only done once a year!
In a typical year, Marilyn takes her alpacas to shows where the animals compete and are judged on conformation and fleece. “Thankfully, they’re not judged on behavior,” she says with a laugh. Alpacas are known to be spitters when they feel fearful or are trying to display dominance.
Alpacas originate from South America where they were domesticated by the Incas 6000 years ago. They were bred for their luxurious and warm fiber, as well as for meat. With an average height of about 3 feet at the shoulder, they typically weigh 120 to 150 pounds. The females have a gestation period of about 11 months, but some can go over a year. Marilyn said the females get crabby during their pregnancies. One of her mamas has remained pregnant beyond 12 months. “No wonder they get crabby!” Alpaca babies are called cria and are only 18-20 pounds at birth. Their lifespan is 15 to 20 years.
What’s Special About Alpaca Fiber?
Alpaca fleece is strong yet finer than cashmere. It’s softer than cotton and warmer than goose down. It allows for breathing better, or wicking, than many thermal knits, making it a good choice for socks, sweaters, scarves, and more.
The fiber is hypoallergenic and doesn’t feel itchy because it doesn’t contain lanolin as found in sheep wool. Processing doesn’t require high temperatures or harsh chemicals. It’s naturally flame-resistant and water-resistant.
Alpacas are herd animals with soft padded feet that don’t damage the grass. They continuously graze, chewing with their back molars. They have no top teeth in the front portion of their mouths. With short tongues, they only nibble the tops of grasses or vegetation. Most males are kept separated to prevent territorial fighting.
Want more information on alpacas? Mother Nature Network has an article on 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Alpacas!
Aging Gracefully With Alpacas!
A big thank you to Marilyn and Alison for an insider view on alpacas and the shearing process! It was a delightful, highly educational experience!
Please share your thoughts in the comments box below…
Are you impressed with this “senior citizen” still actively working a farm?
Have you ever purchased alpaca clothing? If yes, what was your experience?
If you enjoyed this Aging Gracefully TV episode, you might enjoy seeing a 67-year-old gymnast, too! Stay active! Stay healthy!