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American Farmers Raise Alpacas for Fun and Profit



From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

Alpacas are large animals with long, thick hair. They are related to camels and lamas. Most of them live in the Andean mountains of South America. But a growing number of them are being raised in the US. VOA recently visited an alpaca farm near Washington to find out why. Workers shear the alpacas on Sugarloaf Farm to keep the animal cool during the summer.

Shearing is the process of removing the animal's thick hairy covering, or fleece. Some alpacas quietly accept the shearing but others protest loudly. The shearing is also profitable for farm owner Kevin Brandt. He says demand is growing for alpaca wool. Mr. Brandt and his workers use equipment at the farm to change the fleece into yarn.

Mr. Brandt sells natural and colored yarn and other alpaca products in his store at the farm. He says more people are interested in alpaca yarn because it is considered hypoallergenic and is very soft. But that is not the only way he makes money from his animals. He also sells some as pets and offers a breeding service. Mr. Brandt says he entered the alpaca farming business because he and his family love the animals.

Experts estimate there are about 300,000 alpacas in the United States. Mr. Brandt says few alpacas live in places other than South America. The farm's website says 99 percent of the 3 million alpacas in the world live in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. Kevin Brandt believes, as more people learn about the enjoyment and money alpacas can bring, there will be more farms like this.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.

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