Late spring and summer are the best times to go on farm visits - longer daytime, warmth and animals that come out to play. Looking for a fun filled visit, I picked up my camera and headed over to Alberta Rose Alpacas which is located just 20 minutes North of Edmonton just off Highway 2, West of Morinville. There’s red alpaca barn is quite noticeable from the turnoff so it’s easy to spot. The owners of this alpaca ranch are Bob and Lauraine Bijou.
Prior to being involved with Alpacas, Bob worked in the construction industry and Lauraine worked as a school secretary in Morinville for many years. They started a farm 20 years ago with a couple of alpacas and continued to breed them until they reached about 150. I have got to admit, the moment I saw the animals, I just loved them. They are so cute and look like a giant stuffed animal – what kid wouldn’t like them! Bob and Lauraine have built up their herd over the years to include prize champion winning alpacas. Breeding genetically superior alpacas is the most lucrative part of the business besides wool products.
Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious fibers, known for its fineness, luster, light weight and insulating quality, which is eight times that of wool. High-end designers are flocking to alpaca for its valuable fiber as many of them feel the yarn produced is more luxurious than cashmere and mohair. They are the only animals in the world that come in so many different colors. While similar to sheep’s wool, alpaca fiber is warmer, not prickly, and is hypoallergenic.
Alpacas come in 22 natural colors, with more than 300 shades from a true-blue black through browns-black, browns, fawns, white, silver-greys, and rose-greys
Bob and Lauraine shear the alpacas at the end of April or early May. The fiber is then sorted and sent to a local mill. Just as certain parts of a cow produce prime cuts, so do specific sections of an alpaca produce prime fibers—and that’s how alpaca yarns are sold. Twisted Sisters & Company Fiber Mill and Store in Leduc processes the raw fiber, which they spin into yarns and a variety of other products such as alpaca socks, duvets, blankets, scarves. Alpaca products may seem expensive but they are a good investment because they are far less likely to pill.
Did you know that an alpaca can handily grow enough wool for four or five sweaters in a year?
Woven alpaca scarf, hat and mitts
Bob and Lauraine are in the process of winding down their alpaca business within the next two years; however, their experience in the business has provided many insights that they’re willing to share with other alpaca enthusiasts. They also have a wide range of alpaca products for sale, so whether you’re interested in learning more about alpacas, planning a daytrip for the kids or getting a clothing gift for a friend or family member, visit their website at: http://www.albertarosealpacas.com