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Zena farm makes unique alpacas feel right at home... (continued from page six)


it produces. Animals here have received numerous blue ribbons at shows and the Callans understand that their success is no accident. They are sticklers when it comes to genetics and attribute their success to the close attention they pay to the bloodlines of their herd. “Most of our animals here produce fleece that is on the finer side of the scale,” said Callan. “We have something going on here that judges call ‘lingering fineness.’ We believe its largely genetic. We breed for it.”


Fleece grows at a rate of about a half-inch per month. It is harvested once yearly—usually around mid-April. The coat is several inches long when it is shorn and some animals may produce up to ten pounds of fleece.


“It partly depends on the season, it partly depends on the animal,” Callan said.


The Callans moved to Oklahoma from Utah in 2009. They were beckoned by a friend who had fallen in love with Grand Lake. The move presented Kathleen the opportunity to realize her childhood dream of raising alpacas. The 80-acre property was purchased and the ranch was built from the ground up. Another key component to the success of the farm is its manager, Staci Forshee. Forshee arrived in May 2011. She has been raising llamas and alpacas since the age of 13— more than half of her life—and managed a herd of 700 alpaca in Oregon. “She’s just great. She has a wealth of experience. We are lucky to have her,” said Callan of Staci. Zena Suri Alpacas also prides itself on staying abreast of the alpaca industy. They spend a good deal of time preparing for and traveling to shows, where there is a good exchange of information. Callan says there is always more to learn.


“Everyone in the alpaca business is still learning,” she


said. “We have a book that is kind of our alpaca Bible. There are communities on the Internet and a lot of heavy-


Northeast Connection 8


duty mentoring goes on there. Or, you can always pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone.” The environmental impact of Alpaca operations is


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minimal. The animals are relatively easy to care for, they have few health issues and they are extremely clean. They even use communal scat piles, which makes clean-up a snap. Alpaca manure also makes tremendous fertilizer for vegetable gardens. Zena Suri Alpacas sells it for $5 a bag. Alpacas are quite adaptable, even in Oklahoma’s climate of extremes. As it turns out, the same fleece that keeps the alpaca warm in winter also shields the animal from intense summer sun and heat. “It kind of acts like air


Craft your own alpaca treasure from a wide 


conditioning,” Callan explained. “We’ll coat them in the winter if it gets too cold, and in the summer we give them belly baths to help cool them down. Of course, they can always come into the barn. We run fans for them and it stays 10-15 degrees cooler. They are also pretty adept at finding shade and they know how to keep their bellies against the cool ground.”


Added Callan: “Alpacas are raised in every state in this country. Even in Hawaii and Alaska. But, no matter where you are, you always have to be prepared to make concessions when the weather is especially divergent.”


The Zena Suri Alpaca herd numbers nearly fifty and Callan knows each of the animals by name. Around a dozen babies (or “crias”) are expected to join the herd this spring. “A lot of people may have only two or three


alpacas. And then there are a few operations that have hundreds of animals,” said Callan. “I prefer to keep the herd a reasonable size so that I know everybody. I like to be able to shut the gate at night and do a bed


check.”


Zena Suri Alpacas is located on 580 Road, just a half- mile north of Highway 127. The farm offers free tours daily and operates a gift shop. There is a large selection of alpaca fleece apparel, yarn, toys and souvenir items to browse.


For more information about group tours and special events, or to stock up on winter gear, call ahead at (804) 389-2579 or visit online at www.zenasurialpacas.com.


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