Hundreds of alpaca enthusiasts and fiber art fanatics will gather at the Will Rogers complex in February for a regional competition that features the fleecy and photogenic animals in the show ring for judging. And the public and get in on the fun.
The TXOLAN Sweetheart Spectacular draws competitors from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico. The event also is an opportuntiy to educate those who are considering raising alpacas, or those who just want to see them up close.
Parker County’s Jayme and Dustin Haney will be there. They began raising alpacas out of necessity.
“We lived on Oeste Ranch Golf Course in Willow Park, and another tax increase forced us to look at our options,” Jayme Haney said. “Dustin said we needed an ag exemption and I said, ‘Well, we can’t put cows on the golf course.’”
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She said the two instantly began thinking about suitable animals they could have around their children — two with special needs — but that also could make money for the family.
“Alpacas came to mind and we started researching them and it looked like the perfect fit for us,” she said. “I found a farm in Burleson. We called them to discover in person if we were interested in this venture. It was love at first sight; we left there knowing alpacas were in our future.”
Jayme Haney said they found 10 acres of land on Old Annetta Road and built a house, barn, and shop.
“One year later, we moved in with trailers behind the U-Haul bringing in 18 of our first herd,” Jayme said. “Now 16 months later we have 79 alpacas, and 32 are pregnant.”
She said their herd is all show animals. They are bringing 21 alpacas to the TXOLAN show Fort Worth in to get “ribboned up,” Jayme said.
“We have many grand champion and blue-ribbon winners in our ’paca family,” she said. “We show, breed and sell here at our farm.”
One look at an alpaca and it’s easy to see the benefits of their fleece. It’s more sought after than cashmere and warmer than wool, according to Jayme Haney.
“We sheer them in April and have products made from the fleece, which we sell in our farm store,” she said. “We have everything from dryer balls, socks, gloves, hats, scarves, rugs, saddle blankets, sweaters, and blankets.”
Yes, but how hard are they to care for? Haney said it’s easier than you might think. The Haneys feed them hay twice a day, trim toenails quarterly and poop-scoop daily. “Poop scooping is even easier, as they use a communal dung pile,” she said.
“Breeding is also an annual thing, as they stay pregnant 345 days, and then you re-breed three weeks after birth. When you breed a pair, you bring the male back to the female a week later, if she spits at him, she is pregnant, and if she’s not, she will let him re-breed.”
The biggest surprise
Jayme Haney said the public’s interest has been phenomenal.
“We have visitors call and schedule to come by almost daily,” she said. “We will have open farm days occasionally, and we will have 500 to 1,000 people come. . . . We never charge people; we love sharing them and seeing the smiles they bring to everyone’s face.”
Alpacas are very docile and quiet. That was a big selling point for the Haneys.
“We have two sons with Fragile X syndrome (a genetic disorder). Our 22-year-old works the farm as his job,” she said. “Our 14-year-old we call the ‘Alpaca Whisperer.’”
Haney said she never worries about their sons being in the field with the alpacas alone. The animals have soft hooves, like a dog’s paws, and they don’t have top teeth, so they don’t attempt to bite.
“The most they will try to do if aggravated is kick,” she added. “Most people ask if they spit? They can, some do, but most of ours don’t. They spit more at each other at feeding time.
“You can even have some of them registered as therapy animals,” she said. “Our slogan is ‘Once you go paca, you never go baca.’ ”
TXOLAN Sweetheart Spectacular
Throughout the weekend, artisans will showcase alpaca fiber and examples of felting, fiber arts and more. Vendors and farm displays will sell the latest alpaca fashions and hand-crafted items.
▪ Free alpaca selfies
Get ready to change your social media profile picture to the one you never knew you needed, until now! This year’s event will feature a free alpaca selfie booth. How can you NOT jump at this unique opportunity? Alpacas will be available for selfies throughout the weekend.
▪ Educational seminars
For those ready to take the next step in learning about the alpaca industry, classes will be available throughout the weekend for a nominal fee. Topics include sheering, skirting techniques, fiber arts, animal care, creating a business plan and much more. Visit http://www.txolan.org/page/7066/txolan-2018-education-seminars for more information.
▪ Youth Competition
At 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, youth will take the ring to compete with their alpacas. And don’t miss the costume contest, which also takes place Saturday, when young participants will strut their stuff with their costumed alpaca. Costumes will be judged on the comfort of the animal, and how imaginative the costume is, as well as the story each participant must write telling about the costume.
If you go...
This year’s show will be Feb. 9-11 in the newly remodeled Cattle Barn 2, Cattle Barn 3 and adjoining arena at the Will Rogers complex
▪ Hours are: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9
▪ 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10
▪ 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11
For more about the Alpacas of Aledo call 817-980-2426 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org