Owner's take on alpacas? 'You can't resist them'

·2 min read
Beth Turner of Foreston, Minnesota, rubs noses with Mikey-Angelo, her eight-month old Huacaya alpaca, at the Illinois Alpaca and Fiber Fest in the Exposition Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Beth Turner of Foreston, Minnesota, rubs noses with Mikey-Angelo, her eight-month old Huacaya alpaca, at the Illinois Alpaca and Fiber Fest in the Exposition Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Saturday, March 12, 2022.

Barbara Bernardi joked that her husband, Jim Shaw, said she had "an alpaca habit."

"I mean, there are worse things," Bernardi said, with a laugh.

Bernardi and Shaw, along with Bernardi's brother, Bruce Bernardi, now own 31 alpacas, cousins of llamas, known for their fiber or hair which can be spun into yarn.

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Barbara Bernardi said she wouldn't trade the alpaca lifestyle for anything.

"When my job gets stressful, I go down and shovel (the barn) and go look at the alpacas and work with them," said Bernardi, who teaches anatomy and physiology and microbiology at Lincoln Land Community College. "It's very relaxing to me."

Bart Leinberger of Petersburg said the alpaca industry nationwide and statewide has remained strong despite the COVID-19 pandemic the past couple of years.

This weekend's Illinois Alpaca and Fiber Fest at the Illinois State Fairgrounds attracted farm owners from Colorado, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Illinois.

"Sales have been good for most of the farms," said Leinberger, who owns and operates Alpacas of Indian Point Hills farm with his wife, Rhonda. "There was a huge auction last week in Arizona and sales were great, with some top prices. It's projected to keep growing."

Addison Attanasio, 4, of Jacksonville reaches up and touches the nose of Tritan, a one-year old Huacaya alpaca, as her mother, Katie Crumley, pushes her in a stroller during the Illinois Alpaca and Fiber Fest in the Exposition Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Saturday March 12, 2022.
Addison Attanasio, 4, of Jacksonville reaches up and touches the nose of Tritan, a one-year old Huacaya alpaca, as her mother, Katie Crumley, pushes her in a stroller during the Illinois Alpaca and Fiber Fest in the Exposition Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Saturday March 12, 2022.

Alpaca products, like scarves, gloves and socks, also are more popular than ever, Leinberger said.

"It's extremely comfortable. It's warm. (The fiber) doesn't trap moisture against your skin, like wool does," contended Leinberger. "It breathes better and they wear great."

Alpacas are also sustainable animals, Bernardi added. They have pads, not hooves, so they don't tear up pasture. Bernardi even uses alpacas' waste for composting or fertilizer.

"And they're just friendly," said Bernardi of Prairie Rose Alpacas, a six-acre farm in Salisbury. "I've never had any that were outwardly mean. You can't resist them.

"They're the best livestock to work with. The people who are in the alpaca business, they're all very kind. They're all willing to help you if you don't know something. From my perspective, I've worked with a lot of different animals, but alpacas and alpaca owners are the best."

Eric Bauman of Springfield said he came out to the show with his daughter, Mira, 12, and mother, Sherrie Bauman of Shreveport, Louisiana, because it sounded exotic and fun.

"I don't have the land for them, but they seem like very agreeable animals," he said.

Catlina Rarden, 4, of Livermore, Colorado feeds some alpacas during the Illinois Alpaca and Fiber Fest in the Exposition Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Catlina Rarden, 4, of Livermore, Colorado feeds some alpacas during the Illinois Alpaca and Fiber Fest in the Exposition Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Saturday, March 12, 2022.

Roland Williams, 9, of Petersburg, was at the show with his aunt, Heather Chapman of Tolono. Roland's grandfather, Roger Williams of Tranquility Art Photography, was taking photos at the show, so he has been around alpacas before.

"I like," Roland said, "that they're fuzzy and some have different colors on their bodies."

Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, sspearie@sj-r.com, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Illinois alpaca show a hit in Springfield