PDT Staff Writer
There are a lot of animals at the Scioto County Fair - big ones, small ones, fast ones and slow ones, and then there is the alpaca.
“He is my baby. He is my little baby. I love him so much,” Savanna Twiddy of Wheelersburg, the owner of the grand champion alpaca said as she hugged her alpaca friend Taz. “I am very very attached to Taz. This is my third year with him, but this is my fourth year in doing alpacas.”
Savanna met Taz when he was really really young and at first his care was a lot of work, but as their friendship grew, his care became easier.
“They have to get used to you, and work next to you and get used to your touch,” The South Webster student said. “But right now he is perfectly fine.”
Unlike most animal projects, this one does not end in a sale. The alpaca is judged on how it maneuvers and how it works with its owner.
“We go through an obstacle course, like a bridge, a tunnel that we take him under, weave poles, a jump, and we back him up. We lift his foot. We show his teeth, and a couple of other things,” Savanna said. “In showmanship you stand there, the judge looks at your animal to make sure that you are comfortable with your animal and your animal is comfortable with you.”
Sheila Johnson raises and breeds the docile creatures with the oversized eyelashes on Miller's Run Fallen Timber Road, and provides the ones shown by 4-H'ers. But she says they have their very own personalities.
“They spit, kick and run,” Johnson, who operates Scioto Valley Alpacas, said. “They don't like to be touched on places like the back side. If you do, they might kick you.”
Savanna said she had to get Taz to trust her before she was able to be close to him. And she said there is a place right on the top of his head that he likes to have rubbed.
“I'm down to 13 right now and that's where I'd like to stay,” Johnson said. “I had as many as 52 at one time.”
Johnson said alpacas are sheared for their fiber, which can be woven into many different things.
“I actually process the fiber, so I'm the one that teaches the kids to all that, process the fiber and spin it into yarn,” Johnson said. “The kids, if they're interested in processing it, we teach them to do it. You have to clean the fiber and sort it. It has to be a certain length. They blend it together before they spin it. And then you can do anything with it.”
Rachel Jordan is an alpaca owner, and she first got into alpacas because, “I think they're cute animals. You feed them hay and 12 percent sweet feed.”
Johnson can describe the alpaca fibers in a single phrase.
“It's warmer than wool, softer than cashmere and hyper-allergenic,” Johnson said. “There's no oil or lanolin in their fibers.”
Savanna hugs her grand champion, and says she will most likely return next year and will again most likely be accompanied by her friend Taz.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.