Style & Personality
Shado Alpacas, Monroe
On a cold and very snowy day in Monroe, the SnoCo Kid an I made our way to the farmstead of Shado Alpacas. We had never been to an alpaca farm before, let alone gotten up and personal with the animal, so we were excited for the new experience. We were even more excited about rubbing it in the face of her brother who, for one reason or another, wants an alpaca.
For those unfamiliar, Alpaca fleece produces hypo allergenic fiber that is naturally colored and processed. It can be used to create a wide array of products from dryer balls and rugs to blankets, scarves, hats, and most importantly, socks that stay warm and dry when wet. With all the rain we get in the PNW, they are a must have.
It’s not all about the fleece though. Alpacas, and their many colors and personalities, are an interesting bunch to spend time with. They have a …unique… beauty, one that they love to show off no matter the weather. On more than one occasion my attempts to photograph one alpaca were photo bombed by others. It didn’t take long to realize why Doanielle and Shawn Carmody love them so much.
“Alpacas are gentle and curious, each one has a unique personality and there is just something about being around them. We fell in love with [them] immediately. We love hanging out in the pens with the animals and enjoying their personalities and their calm spirit.” – Doanielle
Their farm is home to 31 alpacas, 16 male and 15 female and you will find that the differences in personality aren’t just from one alpaca to another, gender also plays a role. The males instantly herded towards us as we approached their pen and stopped to stare at us, barely moving until dinner time. It is a bit of an odd feeling being stared at by a mob of alpacas, but their curiosity grew on me and it was probably the easiest time I’ve ever had photographing animals.
The females, on the other hand, would not come near us. They were content not having their photo taken and stayed near their barn or under cover. I couldn’t tell you if that had more to do with them being less curious than the males, or just plain not wanting to get covered in the heavy snowfall that was upon us. If it was the latter, you go girls, I’m with you.
The Carmody’s first made the decision to put their ten acre farm to use as an alpaca farm in 2008. It was a decision that was in part based on “cuteness,” but also on issues related to sustainability, amount of care required, and impact on their land.
“We learned that alpacas were easy to raise and handle. [They] are easy on the earth and produce a sustainable product with their luxury fiber. We [also had the option] to raise them for their fiber, breed and show our best stock, and sell both offspring and products.” – Doanielle
Don’t get the wrong idea though, there’s a bit more that goes into raising alpacas for fiber and breeding then day-to-day care. Genetics and personality also have important roles to play. While one can effect the quality of fiber produced, both can determine just what kind of alpacas they, and others, will be raising.
“Our females are selectively bred to males with the intent of producing offspring with higher quality fiber, specifically we look for uniformity, fineness and density. Temperament is also a trait we’ve bred for. We don’t want any high strung or overly nervous animals. Genetics play an important part in producing high quality animals that are sound, resistant to disease, easy to train and handle and gentle with each other and any farm visitors.” – Doanielle
From our experience with the alpacas, to keeping my toes warm in my freezing office thanks to socks made from their fiber, I’m happy to say that the Carmody’s are doing an excellent job on their farm. They also do an amazing job of providing information on not only their alpacas, but on how their fiber is harvested and turned into products.
“Some fiber goes to a local mill for processing. We are also members of the Natural Fiber Producers Co-op, which allows us to share the cost of production with others. Our fiber is sorted and graded, pooled, then processed into products. We then receive our portion of the product our alpacas contributed to based on the amount of fiber we provided.” – Doanielle
Alpacas and their fiber aside, I can’t help but give a shot out to the unsung heros at Shado Alpacas. They are five of the biggest, fluffiest, and most faithful dogs you are ever likely to see. Throughout our visit, we found them keeping diligent watch over the alpacas, with one poor guy getting stuck out in the heavy snow the entire time while the male alpacas kept an eye on us.
These dogs live with the alpacas 24/7, never leaving their side, and keeping them safe from bears, coyotes, and other predators found in the area. They do so gently and with an obvious connection with, and love for, the alpacas they share a pen with. They didn’t bark at us once, they merely ensured that they were between us and the alpacas at all times. One even went so far as to block pictures of the alpacas in his pen, or maybe he thought my camera was food.
The Carmody’s farm is available for tours, by appointment only of course so that the alpacas have time to look their best (if you happen to see a stray piece of hay here or there, don’t let them know it). The dogs on the other hand, always ready. I highly recommend a tour, and a stop by their little shop if you are at all interested in alpaca based products. It is an experience that you and young ones won’t forget, especially if they get to ride around with Shawn while he feeds the alpacas.
As for me, I’d happily go back, I might even consider granting my sons wish of having an alpaca should we actually manage to move to our dream farm someday. I’m also a huge fan my alpaca fiber socks, which is saying a lot considering that I am someone who notoriously never wears socks. They are comfortable and warm. More importantly, I can’t wait to try them out on one of our camping, hiking, or photographing adventures soon because, well, my name is Jessica, and I get myself into a lot of situations that result in wet and/or really cold feet. For that, I am thankful for alpacas, and the Carmody’s for raising them and putting so much into producing such high quality fiber. Keep up the good work!
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