Alpacas shorn for summertime

Haircut day no shear delight for animals at Woodland alpaca farm

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

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WOODLAND — Shearing wool from the 37 alpacas from the Columbia Mist Alpacas farm in Woodland is a sign of warmer days and new textile projects, its owners said Sunday. It will also keep the animals cooler this summer.

But tell that to the alpacas, whose unsuccessful escape strategies included spitting, kicking and squealing as they were sheared one by one with an electric trimmer. Some required three people to hold them still through the process.

“For most of them, this is pretty strange. It only happens once a year,” said Daryl Gohl, co-owner of the farm. “They want to be in control.”

After a few minutes, each alpaca was freed. One stubbornly refused to stand up and had to be pushed out of the shearing area. Others ran into a nearby field and rolled around in the grass and the wildflowers.

With less hair, “They haven’t felt that feeling for a while,” Gohl said.

His farm spent most of the day shearing the gentle, llama-like creatures, clipping the fur off 59 alpacas, including those from two other farms. Gohl doesn’t do the shearing himself; he hires a skilled shearer from Sisters, Ore.

Some of Gohl’s family and friends also come over to help corral the alpacas, use a blow-dryer to remove dirt from their coats, hold them during each shearing and bag up the wool as it falls to the floor.

The farm started in 1998 after Gohl and his wife, Ruthie Gohl, quit their corporate jobs in the health care field. Now the couple takes it upon themselves to mentor fledgling alpaca farmers and to use some of their proceeds to help pay for charitable projects, such as building new wells in developing countries, Daryl Gohl said.

“More people are wanting to get out in the country and have a different lifestyle,” he said of alpaca farming. “We take great joy in helping and mentoring people to start new farms.”

Since starting the farm, the Gohls have nabbed many prizes for their well-bred livestock. They’ve attended more than 20 alpaca shows, won about 175 ribbons, and one of their studs ranked No. 2 out of 15,000 nationwide for the fineness of his coat, Daryl Gohl said.

The alpacas were sheared Sunday in order of color, with the lightest ones going first. The bags of fur will be sorted based on which parts of the animal they came from and how coarse the fibers are. Some of the fibers will become felt for pillow cases, cable for throw rugs, and yarn for afghan blankets — all items sold in the Columbia Mist Alpacas boutique.

“Every bit of the fiber, unless it’s soiled, is used for some type of product,” Daryl Gohl said.

Also shearing their alpacas Sunday were the Woodland-based Majestic View Alpaca farm, owned by Scott and Angela Black, and Frieda Schieber’s Shalom Alpacas farm in Monroe.

Alpaca farming can be a lucrative business. Show-quality females sell for $7,000 to $10,000, while a show-quality male that’s able to produce baby alpacas that are just like him can sell for up to $80,000, Daryl Gohl said.

Alpacas that aren’t show-quality can be sold as pets for about the price of a dog, he said, but they have to be sold in pairs because they’re social animals.