Alpacas: Critters with character

Ask Karen Wahlund what the appeal of raising alpacas is, and she’ll tell you in one word: personality.

Alpacas huddle close together as they feed on hay at Murray and Karen Wahlund’s farm west of Stettler on Oct. 1.

Ask Karen Wahlund what the appeal of raising alpacas is, and she’ll tell you in one word: personality.

She and her husband, Murray, have 37 of the woolly creatures, each one with its own name.

“Most of them will come to their names,” she said, adding that the animals each have distinct characteristics and personalities. “They grow on you.”

Romulus, for example, was bottle-fed by his previous owners, and he’s still very affectionate, always approaching to be petted.

Duchess is among the oldest in the pack; she was one of the first alpacas acquired by the Wahlunds back in 2005.

Even at Duchess’s advanced age — Karen estimates she’s pushing 25 years old — she still acts as something of a mother among the alpacas on the Wahlund farm.

Alpacas are among the species of the camel family, descending from South America along with llamas, vicuñas and guanacos.

While llamas were bred as pack animals, alpacas are primarily raised for their fibre. It is similar to wool, but it is warmer, softer and hypoallergenic.

Nine years ago, the Wahlunds acquired two alpacas and three llamas. They quickly found that they preferred the alpacas.

“They’re more personable,” Karen says by way of explanation.

Several of the female alpacas are expecting, and Karen says they’ll likely be welcoming some newborns — or “crias” — in the spring.

The Wahlunds have their alpacas sheared every other year. Murray used to do the shearing himself, but since he injured his shoulder and underwent surgery, the task has fallen to Ernie and Denise Gamroth, who operate Battle River Alpacas.

Karen said the shearers typically leave some wool on the alpacas’ head, tail and lower legs, as it keeps them warm in the winter and blocks the sun in the summer.

The sheared wool is milled into yarn. Karen previously spun the wool herself, but after the arrival of their three children, she has relied upon other mills to do the processing.

The wool — which comes in a range of tones, from white and grey to tan, brown and black — is made into several products, including mitts, toques, scarves and sweaters.

Typically, alpacas are peaceful creatures unless they’re upset or agitated.

The arrival of any predator on the quarter-section — coyote, deer, moose or an unfamiliar person — will set off a high-pitched whine not unlike the sound of a car alarm.

They are known to spit, but only when they feel threatened or if they’re acting aggressive towards each other.

And they’re fast. Karen told the story of following the alpacas after they’d escaped into a nearby field, driving after them in a truck and clocking them at 35 kilometres per hour.

In addition to three dozen alpacas, the Wahlunds still have two llamas and a couple of llama-alpaca mixes on their farm west of Stettler. The family also raises ducks and chickens.

 

Just Posted

2018 Stettler Farmer/Farmerette Bonspiel Winners

Tournament held from January 18th to the 21st at the Stettler Curling Rink

2018 Stettler Farmer/Farmerette Bonspiel Winners

Tournament held from January 18th to the 21st at the Stettler Curling Rink

Sentencing postponed in Castor triple homicide

Jason Klaus and Josh Frank will appear in court again Feb. 14th

County council writes off certain Botha accounts

Council hears public library saw 60,000 pass through doors this year

Stettler secondhand charity looks for new home

Superfluity lease not being renewed; will move by Sept., 2018

Stettler and area youth jump into curling this winter

Junior Curling Program runs Monday nights in Stettler

Back to work: U.S. government shutdown ends after Democrats relent

Short-term spending measure means both sides could see another shutdown stalemate in three weeks

Bell Media, NFL take appeal over Super Bowl ad rules to top court

At issue is a ban on substituting American ads with Canadian ones during the game’s broadcast

Sentencing postponed in Castor triple homicide

Jason Klaus and Josh Frank will appear in court again Feb. 14th

Drumheller-Stettler MLA visits Stettler County Council during January constituency break

Rural crime matters, agriculture plastics recycling and infrastructure requests brought forward

Cougar window shops at Banff grocery store

An RCMP officer spots a cougar outside an Alberta grocery store

$130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic

Hot summer ticket: $130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic off Newfoundland

UK’s Princess Eugenie, daughter of Prince Andrew, engaged

Princess Eugenie, the daughter of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, will marry Jack Brooksbank in Autumn 2018

German nurse charged with 97 more murders

Niels Hoegel, serving a life sentence for two murders, has been indicted in nearly 100 more killings.

Most Read


Weekly delivery plus unlimited digital access for $50.40 for 52 issues (must live within 95 kilometers of Stettler) Unlimited Digital Access for one year for $50.40 Prefer to have us call you? Click here and we’ll get back to you within one business day.