By Susan Klovstad
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If you goWhat: Alpaca Bonanza pen sale and open house
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 5-6
Where: Waldron Grove Alpaca Farm, 39W856 McDonald Road, Campton Hills (2.5 miles west of Randall Road)
Details: (847) 888-3934; waldrongrovealpacas.com
They might nuzzle you if you hold still, but they won't spit on you -- or bite.
"Alpacas have been domesticated for 5,000 years," said Susan Waldron. "They're not aggressive. They don't even have any teeth on the top plate."
This weekend, visitors to Waldron Grove Alpaca Farm, which Susan co-owns with her husband Ronald, will have a chance to meet some alpacas, purchase alpaca-related artwork and clothing, and even take home their own alpaca, if they like. The free open house is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 5-6, at the farm, 39W856 McDonald Road in Campton Hills.
"Alpacas are herd animals," Waldron said. "You need to have two, and at least one acre."
Waldron, who has raised alpacas for nine years, said the woolly animals aren't difficult to care for.
"They graze and eat grass all summer," she said. "In the winter they eat hay with a small supplement of grain."
If you're not ready to own livestock, you can still visit and learn a bit more about the animals. But don't expect to be able to pet them.
"They have a personality like a cat; they show affection on their terms," Waldron said.
"They're kind of shy, very gentle," said Ann Bergstrom, Waldron's assistant.
Bergstrom works with Waldron in creating fiber arts and clothing made from alpaca wool. These items will be for sale, and Waldron will hold spinning demonstrations and seminars throughout the day. "Susan will be teaching needle and wet felting, which is how we make the clothing," Bergstrom said. "We have scarves, tunics, jackets and shawls."
"We raise them for their fleece," Waldron said. "Alpacas do not have any lanolin in their fiber, so there is a fabulous comfort factor. Most people allergic to (lambs) wool are not allergic to alpaca fleece."
Garments made from alpaca fleece are soft, light and warm, Waldron said.
All the alpacas at the open house will be in full coat, according to Bergstrom.
"They get shorn once a year, usually in May," Bergstrom said. "They're furry now."
The open house will feature 15-minute seminars on a variety of topics, including:
• The Meaning of Alpaca Farming
• The Alpaca Business
• Alpaca Fiber
• Maintaining a Healthy Herd
• Selecting Your First Alpaca
• Alpaca Farm Set up and Management
• Marketing for Success
• Make a profit from selling your fiber
Three alpaca farms will participate in the pen sale. Waldron says prices for an alpaca start around $500 for one that is pet quality and can reach $4,000 or more. Suri and Huacaya breed alpacas will be available for purchase.
Although raising alpacas is a long-term endeavor -- the animals can live to be 18-20 years old -- Waldron says they are appealing pets.
"They only grow to 150 or 170 pounds, which isn't much more than a large dog," Waldron said. "But they're not noisy, like dogs. They make a cute little humming sound."
"In the morning and evening they do this thing called 'pronking,' Waldron said. "It's so funny. They jump up into the air with all four feet. It's how we know they're happy."
For details on Waldron Grove Alpacas or the open house, visit waldrongrovealpacas.com.