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June 30, 2017

By: Jonathan Carvalho

Standard Times - 2013

One Seriously Cuddly Business

By JONATHAN CARVALHO Posted Jun 30, 2013 at 12:01 AM

DARTMOUTH — Some people retire to warmer climates to live out their golden years in the sun. Others work part-time jobs to stay busy and involved. Some raise alpacas, the small South American members of the camel family renowned for their soft, waterproof fleece. DARTMOUTH — Some people retire to warmer climates to live out their golden years in the sun. Others work part-time jobs to stay busy and involved. Some raise alpacas, the small South American members of the camel family renowned for their soft, waterproof fleece.
Roger and Shirley Lanouette would probably be in the latter column.
Shirley retired a few years ago, and Roger still works as a mechanical engineer, but nine years ago they decided to do something with their retirement that was out of the box.
It started when they saw a commercial on TV for “I Love Alpacas,” which helps to direct people to visit alpaca farms that are open to the public. “I turned to Shirley and said, ‘What’s an alpaca?’” says Roger.“So I looked it up on the computer, and we were surprised to learn how many farms there were.” They visited one and were intrigued, and over the next three years they were able to visit many alpaca farms across New England. Learning what it would take to raise the animals, and nearing retirement, Shirley says they decided it was something they could do in their later years.
In 2006, they began their herd with their first 3 alpacas, two of whom were pregnant.
“They’re herd animals, so you really would need a minimum of two, probably three,” says Shirley. “They just don’t thrive alone.” Alpacas are known as a low-maintenance farm animals. “They’re referred to as a gentleman’s livestock,” Roger says. Their herd has grown to 23 over the years, as they breed the alpacas with those from other locations. Each year, the alpacas are sheared for their fleece.
“The fleece is comparable to cashmere,” says Shirley. It’s softer and warmer than wool, and it’s water resistant and fire retardant. And it’s hypoallergenic, so it can be worn at the skin.”
At the shop on their farm, Roger and Shirley sell alpaca products from their own animals and from those they get from a co-op they’re involved with, the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool. Items include scarves, alpaca slippers, gloves, hats, and baby sweaters that Shirley makes from scratch. It’s a process that involves spinning the fleece into yarn, then knitting it like any other fiber. She also sells the alpaca yarn she makes, as well as raw fleece for customers who spin. From the co-op, they also offer more gloves, hats, as well as bags and socks. “The socks are the most popular for the winter,” Shirley says. “They stay dry and keep you warm, so it’s good for anyone who works outdoors during the winter.”
Roger says the alpacas require a few hours of real maintenance each day, from waste clean-up to feeding, but otherwise they’re hardy animals and aren’t too difficult to keep. They don’t require washing, and their fleece coats stay remarkably clean. “If people want to get involved with alpacas, they should get in touch with someone who knows alpacas, and someone they can trust,” says Shirley. “We learned for a year while we boarded them at a farm in Millis, and then traveling back and forth as we learned.” And the Lanouettes are willing to give interested people information on the subject. “We’re always willing to talk to people about alpacas,” says Shirley.
Visit Hill Crest Alpacas at 338 Old Fall River Road in Dartmouth but phone ahead first.
Call Hill Crest Alpacas at 508-961-7464, or visit their website at www.hillcrest-alpacas.com.