Aug 05, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Cynthia Carr loves her alpacas.
When she decided to start, she said she began looking for an animal that she could manage herself and that would not overpower her.
Carr was hooked on the idea of an alpaca farm after visiting Peru with her husband and experiencing wild alpaca on the Alto Plano, a region of the Andes. The couple purchased a former horse farm in Camillus and Carr renovated the property into Gossamer Farm, home of Zen Alpacas.
Carr started her foundation herd in 2003 with three females, and aside from two males she purchased later, the rest of the herd of 11 were born on the farm – all of them male.
The spit test
Last week, Carr was waiting for two of her long-overdue females to give birth, and hoping for more females.
Carr has noticed that while the low-key animals can be playful at times, new mothers are especially giddy.
New moms will nuzzle Carr, and act as if they want to show her their accomplishments, she said. That’s quite a change in the way they act when pregnant.
After attempting to mate two alpacas, Carr reintroduces the male to the female after a few days of their initial meeting.
If she spits at him, she’s pregnant.
“They’ll do that all through pregnancy,” Carr said. Though, unlike the llamas to which alpacas are often likened, they do not often spit at people, and when they do it is the peak of their aggression.
A popular pet
Carr said New York is home to the fastest growing number of alpaca farms in the country. So what makes them such attractive pets?
Carr believes it is because they are exotic pets, but very easy to take care of. She administers a shot to each of her alpaca once every six months to prevent them from picking up a parasite carried by deer, and shears them once a year, in the spring.
They withstand the cold winter months extremely well – the advantage of originating in high altitude mountains.
“I’ve come out here during storms, thinking ‘oh, my poor alpacas,” Carr said. She finds them standing contently in the pasture, inches of snow piled on their heads, perfectly suited for the weather.
Unfortunately, they are less suited to withstand the heat of CNY summers. When temperatures reach around 75 to 80 degrees, the alpacas begin to get uncomfortable.
To help them cope, Carr rigged a mister to a garden hose for the pregnant females, and shearing the alpacas in the spring helps keep them cool throughout summer.
In honor of National Alpaca Day, Carr will hold an open house on the farm on Saturday, Sept. 27.
But if curious neighbors must get their alpaca fix before then, Carr welcomes visitors to the farm anytime, as long as the gate is open.
That open door policy relates to her hopes that the farm can serve as an educational tool for the community, expanding knowledge of the animals as well as caring and respect for the earth.
Carr will travel to South Carolina to learn dying techniques, and later hopes to learn to weave the fleece herself. She has future plans to be able to have scout groups and other organizations on the farm to learn about the process that turns raw fiber into fine fabrics.
Carr also has plants to open a farm shop onsite, offering locally produced goods. She hopes to have The Fifth Sun, as she has already named the store, open next year.
But perhaps her biggest goal is to preserve the nearly 60 acres she and her husband own, fending off the encroaching development of Camillus and providing a sanctuary.
“This will always be country, as long as I’m alive,” Carr said. “I have some big dreams.”