Alpacas and stock dogs featured at Michigan Ag Expo
posted on June 21, 2012 3:11pm
517-432-1555, ext. 230
EAST LANSING, Mich. – For the first time, MI-Alpaca is joining the lineup for Ag Expo to show that raising alpacas for their fiber can provide an additional income source.
Native to South America, alpacas require special care but offer a prized product. Alpaca fiber is warmer and softer than sheep’s wool and hypoallergenic. Alpacas are known as luxury fiber-producing animals and have been bred for fiber production for more than 5,000 years.
Although a relatively new organization, MI-Alpaca, an association of alpaca owners, has 65 members. Organizers say that there are 8,000 registered alpacas in Michigan.
Tamara Miller, a MI-Alpaca member and demonstrator for the show, said that raising alpacas is relatively easy, though there are some nuances to note.
“Alpacas aren’t necessarily hard to care for, they’re just different because they aren’t native to the United States,” Miller said. “They have special nutritional, environmental and medical requirements compared to other livestock. As long as owners are educated about alpacas’ special needs, raising them can be a successful venture.”
The group will present two demonstrations daily during the show on handspinning and skirting. Handspinning is the art of twisting plant or animal fibers into a continuous thread using a spinning wheel or drop spindle. Demonstrations at 11 a.m. July 17-19 will highlight the techniques used to spin alpaca fiber into yarn. Samples will be on display.
Skirting is the first step in processing an alpaca fleece. It removes undesirable fiber or foreign matter from the fleece. Skirting is necessary to ensure quality in the finished product by making sure that no vegetation, dung or coarse guard hair fibers are mixed in with the fibers of the prime fleece. A demonstration of skirting will take place at 2 p.m. each day of Ag Expo in Livestock Central.
The 2012 Ag Expo will also feature Jeanne Weaver and her champion stock dogs, who will demonstrate what it takes to create a healthy working relationship between handler, dogs and livestock.
Covering a variety of topics related to stock dog training, the Williamston, Mich., resident plans to share techniques on conversing with dogs by whistles and commands, as well as the importance of developing teamwork between dog and handler and knowing how dogs interpret and understand livestock.
In her 30 years of training and competing, Weaver has produced 10 Australian shepherd and border collie champions, most notably the 2006 Canadian national champion, Liz.
“You’ve got to have good timing,” Weaver said. “You have to be able to work with your dog instead of against it and to learn to use its natural instinct. These dogs have the ability to save you lots of steps and time.”
Weaver’s demonstrations will begin at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. each day of Ag Expo.
Ag Expo runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 17 and 18, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 19. The site is located at the corner of Mt. Hope and Farm Lane. Admission to Ag Expo and parking are free.
Because of construction, Harrison Road will be closed between Trowbridge and East Crescent roads until July 27, rendering it unusable for Ag Expo traffic. To avoid the construction altogether, all visitors should use the Jolly Road exit. To view a map, visit http://agexpo.msu.edu/directions/
For more information about Ag Expo, call 800-366-7055, or visit www.agexpo.msu.edu.
Ag Expo is hosted annually by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University Extension and AgBioResearch.