Twins surprise owners to kick off Alpaca Farm Days

David Carney brings day-old twin alpacas, Zephyr and Solara, into the barn Saturday as part of a weekend event at the farm southwest of Touchet. Twin alpacas are very rare, about 1 in 1,200 births, and healthy twins even more rare, according to Carney.

David Carney brings day-old twin alpacas, Zephyr and Solara, into the barn Saturday as part of a weekend event at the farm southwest of Touchet. Twin alpacas are very rare, about 1 in 1,200 births, and healthy twins even more rare, according to Carney. Photo by Greg Lehman.

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TOUCHET — National Alpaca Farm Days kicked off with a double surprise at the Double D Alpaca Ranch when two knobby-kneed, wobbly bodied, bobbleheaded crias were spotted by co-owner Dave Carney.

“I drove by and spotted the head pop out of the grass,” Carney said. Then he did a double take when he saw two cria, or baby alpaca, heads pop out of the grass.

“I saw the other head pop out of the pasture and my first thought was immediately where is the other mother,” Carney said.

Sometimes — though never at the Double D Alpaca Ranch — alpaca owners are unaware that a female is pregnant until the surprise birth. But it was the second baby that caught Carney and wife Donna Anderson off guard.

“I was in shock. It is unheard of,” Anderson said, noting that one in 1,000 alpaca births end up with twins, and in the vast majority of those cases the weaker twin dies.

The couple estimate that Solara, a 12-pound female, and Zephyr, a 10-pound male, were born around 9 a.m. on Friday.

Anderson and Carney were running errands at the time, so they can’t be sure of the exact time. But they are certain they will do their best to keep both alive and healthy.

“I am giving him (Zephyr) a little extra because I don’t want him competing for milk,” Anderson said.

As she spoke, the healthier Solara snuggled next to her mother, while Zephyr slept near a watering trough.

Another rarity at the Double D Alpaca Ranch is the type of alpacas raised.

“We are Suri snobs,” she added.

Suri alpacas make up less than 10 percent of U.S. alpacas, with Huacaya alpacas making up the other 90 percent, Anderson said.

The main difference between the two is the wool, although the Huacayas are said to have smaller ears and a shorter nose.

Breeders of both types can be found in the Walla Walla Valley, and Wheatland Alpacas of Walla Walla will also be opening up their doors for National Alpaca Farm Days.

When it comes to the wool, Huacayas tend to be fluffier and Suris tend to be longer and finer. And both types were purchased by spinner and knitter Kim Funderburk of Walla Walla.

“I spin it raw, right off the fleece,” Funderburk said, pointing out that alpaca wool doesn’t require the laborious washing that sheep wool does. Then she diplomatically stated, “I pick both because this (holding Huacaya wool) is loftier and fluffier. But this (Suri) one will be silkier.”

Carney and Anderson moved their alpaca farm from Tigard, Ore., in December of last year, bringing 30 animals with them.

In addition to using the wool to create mostly clothing articles or skeins of yarn, the couple also sell alpacas, usually around $4,000 to $6,000, with the price varying depending on the quality of wool.

The higher-priced animals, Anderson explained, tend to have championships in their lineage and score high on the EPD or Expected Progeny Differential ranking, which measures a number of desirable traits of the wool fiber and animal.

Double D Alpaca Ranch will be open to the public today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the twins will be out for viewing. They are located at 2771 Byrnes Road north of Touchet.

Wheatland Alpacas will be open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are located at 2010 Stovall Road.

Both farms have stores where alpaca wool articles can be purchased.

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