With names like Pearl and Sandy, each of Lou Ann Sekely’s 18 alpacas follow her around like pets.
Ms. Sekely, owner and operator of Alpacas of the Crystal Coast, enjoys sharing information about her beloved animals. That’s why she plans to open her farm to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2-3 for Alpaca Farm Day.
The farm is at 180 Morado Bay Drive in Ocean, which is west of Newport off Highway 24.
As well as educating the public on the animal akin to a llama or camel, farm owners Ms. Sekely and her husband Dave will demonstrate how they create products and yarn from the thick fleece sheared from their alpacas.
“People can see a spinner in action and there will be activities for the kids,” she said.
Ms. Sekely’s store will be open for those interested in purchasing alpaca products, which include socks, hats, scarves and soft stuffed animals.
In addition to learning about alpacas, Ms. Sekely is hosting two nonprofit animal welfare groups, with the entry fee Nov. 2 being a donation for the Carteret County Humane Society Animal Shelter in Newport.
Shelter pets will be on hand for those interested in adopting a new furry friend. A list of needed items can be seen at cchsshelter.com or on the shelter’s Facebook page.
On Nov. 3, the entry fee will be a donation for Misplaced Mutts, with volunteers showcasing animals fostered by that organization that are up for adoption. More information about the nonprofit can be found at misplacedmutts.com or on the group’s Facebook page.
Monetary donations for both organizations will also be accepted.
As for Ms. Sekely, she can be seen selling her alpaca-fiber products on numerous Saturdays at the Olde Beaufort Farmers’ Market and at various arts and crafts shows throughout the year. By request, Ms. Sekely teaches workshops on making scarves and other items from alpaca fiber. She sells fiber to felters and yarn to knitters, as well.
Ms. Sekely said alpaca fiber is softer, warmer and stronger than wool from sheep.
“It’s also hypoallergenic,” she said.
An alpaca is a domesticated species of South American camelid. They are normally found on the high plateaus of the Andes Mountains in Peru, Bolivia and Chili. The alpaca resembles a small llama and comes in two breeds, the Suri, which has a shiny, curly coat, and Huacaya, which has long, soft fur like a Teddy bear. The Sekelys own the Huacaya type.
While Ms. Sekely does her own dying of white fleece, she also owns alpacas that have coats with various colors, from black and dark brown to a light beige or reddish tint.
A shearer comes each spring from New Zealand to sheer the animals. She sends much of her darker fleece to New England for processing, where they make hats, socks, shoes and other products. She prefers to keep the white fleece to dye and create her own products.
Fleece is labeled in one of three categories, depending on the quality. Prime is considered the softest, with thirds the coarsest. Seconds are a mixture of both.
Because alpacas are accustomed to high altitudes and cooler weather, they’ve had to adapt to warmer climates such as those found in Carteret County. The Sekelys keep careful watch on their herd and use fans to help keep them cool. The herd consists of 11 females and seven males.
Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burden, but bred specifically for their fiber. They are social animals and cluster in herds.
Ms. Sekely said each of her alpacas has a unique personality, so she’s named each one according to their character or something special about them. It’s common to see her feeding them carrots and talking to them.
An adult alpaca is generally 3 feet at the shoulder and 4.5 feet at the head. They weigh 150-185 pounds and are known for their four long teeth on the bottom that can create an almost humorous expression.
They have a gentle and submissive personality, which makes them easy for shearing. Alpacas will occasionally spit at each other when they are competing for food or trying to establish a pecking order. They normally don’t spit at people unless they have been abused.
Their average lifespan is 18-20 years. The average gestation period for a pregnant female is 11 months.
To get to the farm, take Highway 24 about 3 miles west of Croatan High School. Turn south on J Bell Lane at the Speedway gas station. Stay on the pavement until the brick gate for the Morada subdivision and then turn right. Park along the dirt road and walk to the farm fences.
To schedule an alpaca-fiber workshop, call Ms. Sekely at 252-503-8948 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.