Two beasts that are no burdens

Llama and alpaca lovers bring annual show to fairgrounds

Ryan Knudtson, 11, of Somerset, Wis., watches over a group of alpacas owned by Tabitha Lunning of Somerset at Saturday’s Llama Magic show in the Washington County Fairgrounds cattle barn. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

BAYTOWN TOWNSHIP — A gusty, cold north wind lashed the Washington County Fairgrounds cattle barn Saturday. In other words, the perfect weather to make the barn’s star attractions feel at home.

The fairgrounds hosted the 19th Annual Llama Magic llama and alpaca show Saturday and Sunday. The show is a Mother’s Day weekend tradition that brings St. Croix Valley llama and alpaca breeders together to educate show visitors about the two animals native to South America that are becoming more popular in the Valley.

Among the 45 vendors at the show were 15 farms that raise either llamas or alpacas, said organizer Sheila Fugina of New Richmond, Wis.

“People really look forward to this event,” she said. “A lot of families come with their kids.”

There are several reasons why more Valley families are raising llamas and alpacas, according Fugina.

“You don’t need a lot of acreage. They’re very easy animals to be with kids,” she said.

And because llama and alpaca fleece are considered among the world’s finest fibers, Fugina said fleece sales can pay for the animals.

“They don’t cost anything to keep if you use or sell the fiber,” she said. “They’re great animals to have as pets.”

Llamas and alpacas are shorn once a year in the spring like sheep so the animals can stand the hot summer months. The shorn fleece is sold by the ounce or pound, Fugina said.

Lorraine Kilmartin of Winona has raised llamas for seven years and works with 4-H youths who show llamas at shows and fairs.

“I had a friend that had llamas and I fell in love with them,” she said. “There’s lots you can do with them. They lower your blood pressure.”

Kilmartin said llamas can carry roughly two-thirds of their weight, pull carts and guard sheep and goat herds from predators.

“They’re very good guard animals. They run toward predators to scare them off,” she said.

Tabitha Lunning of Somerset, Wis., has raised alpacas for two years. Alpacas are smaller than llamas.

“We have land and we wanted livestock,” she said. “I have an eight-year-old girl and I wanted animals she could handle.”

Lunning said she raises alpacas for their fleece, which is denser and softer than llama fleece. And alpacas have another advantage over llamas, she said.

“As rule, they’re friendlier. They stay a lot smaller,” Lunning said.

Lunning’s alpacas have one other endearing habit, according to Lunning.

“They love water. Pools, sprinklers, kiddie pools, they love the water,” she said. “We turn our sprinklers on and they stand under the water.”