LEARNING — 4-Hers spent time this fall learning about llamas and alpacas during a clinic hosted by the Good family. Youth can take part in this newer project for the 2018 Howard County 4-H Fair.
LEARNING — 4-Hers spent time this fall learning about llamas and alpacas during a clinic hosted by the Good family. Youth can take part in this newer project for the 2018 Howard County 4-H Fair.

Almost 30 years ago, Purdue Extension in Howard County made an attempt to support a llama and alpaca project. 

It wasn’t the time for the area since people were not receptive to them then. Today, according to Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development and Interim County Extension Director Josh Winrotte, the culture around the companion animals has lightened, opening the door for the project to go again.

“We’re starting to see companion animals as something that’s viewed as acceptable for traditional farming families. So it’s great for us to be able to offer a project that not only appeals to people who have production animals that want a different kind of animal on the farm but also appeals to people who have never had livestock before,” he said.

4-H participants will not be required to own an alpaca to participate in the project, as they can be leased, like horses. Winrotte said agreements between the 4-Her and owner are filed with the extension office as part of the project. 

“One of the nicest aspects of llamas and alpacas are they are extremely clean animals,” said Winrotte. “They’re hyper allergenic, so you don’t have to worry about the kids being allergic to their fur or dander.”

This fall, an alpaca workshop was hosted by 4-H volunteers, the Good family. They will host another workshop in the spring to teach participants about these unique animals.

“My daughter actually wanted a horse, and my husband grew up with a pony and said they were a lot of work. So we did some research to see what other larger animals we could have. We have the space with our barn and our property, and we decided on alpacas because they seemed to be really easy to handle. They’re gentle,” said Candace Good. “Having an animal is hard work. You’ve got to take care of them every day whether it’s raining or cold. You have to watch out for them, pay attention to how they seem to be acting.”

Jolie Good, a seventh-year 4-H member, is excited to see this project added to the list of available projects for the 2018 fair. Her family researched alpacas and chose to raise them to help teach responsibility and patience.

“Alpacas are really cool,” Jolie said. “They’re kind of skittish, so when you introduce them to a new obstacle, it’s challenging at first. And then it’s fun to see them succeed later.”

Lynnae Bentch is volunteering with the alpaca project as an adult after showing them as a youth.

“I love that Howard County is starting a program here,” she said. “They are unlike any other animal that you see at the fair. They are so foreign to so many, so many questions are asked about them.“

 Winrotte said there are some details that had to ironed out in order to add the project to the fair schedule in 2018.

“Any time you introduce a new project, there are a lot of moving parts to get together. One of the things we are finding with llamas and alpacas is finding a way to fit them into the current schedule with the fair. The Lions have been very gracious to provide alternate locations for them to stay, so the horses and the llamas will continue to share a tent like they did last year for our exhibition,” he said.