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Effort woman breeds alpacas, sets up farm store with fleece

Do Alpacas really spit at you? Well … if they are feeling displeasure with you, yes!

They do give an “air spit” warning. Llamas and alpacas are in the Camelid family, but alpacas are half the size of llamas and used for their soft “crimpy” fur.

Llamas are used for packing or guarding herds of sheep or alpaca. Alpacas are from South America and in the 1990s were no longer allowed to be imported.

These are a few of the interesting facts learned at Pohopoco Creek Alpaca in Effort.

Owner of the 72-acre farm, Mary Baxter, has a herd of 31 alpacas. All of Baxter’s alpacas are “Huyuka” with soft crimps of fur, rather than the “Siri” who have long hair.

Baxter bought the farm 11 years ago and said, “I don’t know how I really got interested in alpacas. I researched them, and they seemed to be cool. I attended the National Alpaca Farm Day at farms throughout Pa. and loved them.”

Initially, she purchased three, which can cost up to 6 figures, depending on their genetics.

Prior to this, Baxter had been in real estate for 25 years.

Baxter breeds and sells the alpacas. She is raising them for the fleece, which is extremely soft.

They are sheared one time a year at the beginning of May as they are cold winter animals and need the fur in colder weather.

She shears the babies, known as “crias” and has a helper who sheers the alpacas in about seven minutes. The fleeces are sent to be processed into products that are sold at the farm.

The fur is hypoallergenic and odor resistant and is made into scarves, hats socks and yarn.

An old chicken coop was turned into the farm store where products, including alpaca figures, are for sale.

Alpacas are grazers and eat one and a half percent of their body weight per day. Although curious and calm they don’t really like being pet. They do however enjoy being hand fed carrots. Males and females are kept in separate areas of the farm but all are free to graze throughout the property.

Alpacas are pregnant for 11 1/2 months and only have one per litter. There are 22 colors including shades of white, brown, black and some with mixed coloring.

While visiting the farm suddenly all of the Alpacas ran and stood facing the same direction, after an “alert.” Baxter explained that the Alpaca makes a sound that alerts the other that something is not quite right. The culprit was a female turkey who sometimes visits the farm. Alpacas will also make a group with all the young in the middle and kick outward to protect them.

Baxter noted. “I really enjoy the animals, they’re easy to keep. I never expected to live with livestock. I feel the animals are therapeutic and calming.”

It takes Baxter about two hours a day to do the chores to care for the Alpaca’s. This includes providing fresh water and hay and cleaning up the communal dump piles. The manure is also for sale at the farm.

Many of the alpacas are named after cocktails including Luna, Midnight Moonlight, Angel Face, Dixie Whiskey and Kingsley.

The Alpaca Farm is open by appointment Friday through Monday for tours at a cost for people 3 years old and older. Reservations can be made at pohopococreekalpacas.com.

National Alpaca Day is held yearly on the last weekend of September. This is a free event at the farm. Vendors will be there, as well as activities for kids. Visitors will have an opportunity to feed the animals and enjoy some food provided by Baxter.

Also on the farm is the Chestnuthill Countryside Manor where Baxter lives and rents rooms or the entire 5-bedroom house. The house is a stone 6,400 square home on a hill overlooking the farm.

For further information go to PohopocoCreekAlpacas.com or email pcalpacas@gmail.com

Alpacas at Pohopoco Creek Alpacas in Effort gather after an “alert” for a turkey nearby. LORI R. COOPER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Mary Baxter displays wares in the farm store at Pohopoco Creek Alpacas.
Cheyna takes a break at Pohopoco Creek Alpaca Farm.
Products made from alpaca fleece on sale in Mary Baxter's store at Pohopoco Creek Alpaca Farm.