Running of the Llamas Makes the New York Times

by Sheila Fugina

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Winning team Nick Meyer and Cosmo.

Though attendance at the 18th annual Running of the Llamas in Hammond, Wisconsin, was down just a bit from last year, there were two people present who gave the event an extra boost—reporter Mitch Smith and photographer Jenn Ackerman of the New York Times. The result was an article and photo in the Sept. 15, 2014, edition of the paper, as well as a short video clip and additional photos on the New York Times website—heady stuff for a small village in northwestern Wisconsin.

The article was well written—fun, informative and with just the right amount of humor. Llama and alpaca owners from various parts of the country, however, were quick to notify the paper that they had misidentified the animals in the photo as llamas when they were definitely alpacas. A correction in the September 17 edition identified the racers as alpacas and included the line, “While the llamas were the stars of the day, one race was designated just for alpacas, perhaps to make the llamas’ kissing cousins feel included.”

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Maggie Carter won first place in the alpaca race with Parker.

In the main event, 12 llamas ran in four heats with the winners of each heat racing against each other in a final face-off to see who took home the biggest basket of veggies. Two years ago organizers added an alpaca heat to recognize that alpacas had become a part of the day’s activities. Winners of this year’s baskets included: first place llama Lightning, owned by Mark Jacobson of Hammond and handled by Nick Meyer of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin; second place llama Cosmo, owned and handled by 4-Her Alyssa Anderson of Osceola, Wisconsin; and top alpaca Parker, owned by Don Dipprey of Comstock, Wisconsin, and handled by Maggie Carter of Roberts, Wisconsin.

Racing animals came from Wisconsin and Minnesota as did most of the handlers, but one adventurous runner, who was in the alpaca heat, came from San Diego, California. A number of 4-Hers in llama/alpaca projects ran with their project animals. Little one-year-old Margy’s Tambolicious Bart (who wasn’t even as big as his name) was a crowd favorite. He was the project llama of 4-Her Austin Eberhardt of Foreston, Minnesota, and owned by Joan Dobbert of Princeton, Minnesota.

Mercedes Blas-Day and her husband Paul drove 350 miles from their home in Des Plaines, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, to take in the day’s activities. She grew up in Peru and met her American husband there while he was teaching English and becoming acquainted with llamas. She thought he was kidding a couple of years ago when he asked her, “Do you want to go to the Running of the Llamas?” Now they’ve become regulars at the event.

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Larry Fraser

The race is always preceded by a quirky three-block-long parade that features the racing llamas and alpacas strutting their stuff. This year’s parade also included unicyclists, hula hoopers, a kiddie car train, a man on stilts and kids wearing llama ear headbands. Leading the parade was the event’s mascot, bagpiper Larry Fraser of New Brighton, Minnesota, playing his bagpipes and decked out in his official plaid kilt and a neon-colored “Llama Security” t-shirt.

Vendors offered a variety of products, many of them llama and alpaca related, and the Hammond Arts Alliance sold the official 2014 Running of the Llamas t-shirts and other event souvenirs. The race was followed by the popular rib fest where five area restaurants served up their own special rib recipes in an attempt to win the people’s choice award, and a live band added to the festive atmosphere.

The Running of the Llamas is always held the second Saturday in September. More information on the event and its history, as well as a photo gallery, can be found at www.therunningofthellamas.com.

Camelid Community Jamboree Targets New Owners

by Sheila Fugina

cc-logo-webCamelid Community’s “Fiber as Business” conference in Wooster, Ohio, in August created a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm about the potential for camelid fiber to generate income for alpaca and llama owners. That income potential is not limited simply to selling fiber and fiber products. A profitable camelid fiber industry would add value to our animals and make them more attractive to new owners, demonstrating why we raise camelids and what we can do with them—and we must have new owners if we are to succeed as an industry.

Just as the “Fiber as Business” conference was designed to provide a format and template for similar fiber conferences to be held in other parts of the country, Camelid Community has developed what we feel is the next step needed to grow our industry, an educational camelid jamboree designed to attract and educate the potential new owners who will insure that our industry’s future is a bright and strong one. The Camelid Community Jamboree also is designed to provide a template for use in future locations.

Target Audience—Young families and newly retired couples living on small acreages are the primary target for an educational camelid jamboree. They and others who are looking for family friendly, easy to care for animals that can generate an income flow are the main focus for such an event. The initial Camelid Community Jamboree will be held Sept. 19-20, 2015, at the Pierce County Fairgrounds in Ellsworth, Wisconsin—ideally located to draw people from a wide area in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and near enough to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area to draw fiber enthusiasts. The event will be free to the public.

Sponsors—Sponsors of the initial Camelid Community Jamboree include Alpaca Owners Association (AOA), International Lama Registry (ILR), International Camelid Institute (ICI) and Greater Appalachian Llama & Alpaca Association (GALA). Additional groups also have indicated interest in becoming sponsors.

Content—The jamboree will include a series of short educational sessions, around 45 minutes or so, that will be repeated mornings and afternoons on both days so that people have the opportunity to attend all or most of the sessions no matter when they arrive. Topics will include camelid healthcare, nutrition, housing, training and handling, camelid 4-H projects, fiber both on and off the animal, the business end of fiber and demonstrations related to many of the topics. There will also be opportunities for hands on experiences with alpacas and llamas for both adults and youth, including animal walks, obstacle courses, etc. Other hands on activities will be fiber related, again for people of all ages. Attendees can leave the jamboree with all the relevant information needed to start their camelid adventure, and they will have made contacts with current owners who can be called upon for mentoring.

Vendors will offer a wide range of fiber and fiber products for sale as well as other camelid related items. In addition to providing a good marketing opportunity for the vendors, it also demonstrates to potential new camelid owners what they can do to generate an income flow from their animals. Exhibitors may have llamas and alpacas on display or for sale, and camelid organizations may have booths and displays to educate both current and future camelid owners as well as the general public. In addition, this will be an attractive venue for fiber mills, pools and cooperatives, as well as livestock related businesses—trailer manufacturers, feed suppliers, producers of farm buildings and equipment, etc. Local food vendors will provide meal and snack items for purchase.

The “workforce” for the jamboree will consist of volunteers: alpaca and llama owners in the region, members of regional and local camelid organizations and 4-H/FFA members and leaders in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, especially those with llama and alpaca projects. Additional details will be forthcoming the first part of 2015, and updates will be posted on Camelid Community’s website at www.camelidcommunity.us.

If you or your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor for Camelid Community Jamboree, or if you are interested in vendor or exhibitor information, please contact Sheila Fugina (bsfugina@frontier.com) or Barb Baker (bebaker@earthlink.net).

What’s the Real Cost of Llama Fiber?

by Sharon Bramblett

After shearing our eight llamas in early May 2014, I was again faced with whether or not it’s worth having the fleeces professionally processed by a fiber mill. I’ve used Zeilinger’s in Michigan several times and am generally pleased with the cleanliness and quality of the returned fiber. Their posted charges, based on weight of raw fiber, are $13/lb. for three pounds or more; but $23/lb. if less than three pounds! Naively, when we first acquired llamas, I wanted to spin everyone’s fiber, even if it wasn’t the best quality. Later I became more discerning (read “cheap”) and only sent fiber from those llamas from which I have experience spinning and producing wearable items. I mailed the fleeces to Zeilinger’s June 6; they were returned October 2.

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Sharon Bramblett shearing Miss Z.

Because we get about 1.5 pounds of fleece per year from each of our five best llamas, we decided to accumulate two years’ worth before sending for processing. Usually we don’t skirt each fleece, but 2014 was a bumper year for clover burrs that processing doesn’t remove. Thus, Claud and I skirted them by hand, adding about three hours each of our time per fleece but at the same time, reducing the weight. We can’t win.

Most llamas have two types of fiber: down and guard hair. The mill first washes the fiber, allows it to dry, then passes it via a conveyor belt through a dehairing machine that separates the soft down from guard hair and VM (vegetable matter). Clean, dehaired down (clouds) drops into the first bin; guard hair mixed with VM into second and third bins. Less than half of the raw weight is returned as clouds, suitable for spinning into yarn. Having the clouds processed further into roving would have been an additional charge. I like spinning clouds into worsted yarn.

Llama raw fleece weight (lb) processing costs usable fiber (oz) returned(excludes waste) cost/oz
Majic 3.12 lb. $40.56 24.6 oz. $1.64
McArthur 2.38 $54.74 17.0 $3.22
Kimmie 2.97 $66.01 8.2 $8.05
Inti 3.17 $41.21 13.2 $3.12
Miss Z White 2.12 $48.76 12.6 $3.86
Miss Z Brown 2.14 $49.22 15.8 $3.11
total $300.50
shipping $71.00

 

Waste fiber (including VM) is also returned to us. We accumulate several years of waste then send it to Ingrid’s Handwoven Rugs in Paint Rock, TX where it’s woven into rugs. The guard hair in this waste llama fiber makes strong, washable, easily vacuumed rugs.

Note: Because Miss Z is a paint llama with a large, dark brown “saddle” that contrasts starkly with the rest of her white fiber, I divided the colors for processing.