January 25, 2009 - Alpacas at Stonehenge in Blairsville, Georgia
Lee and Joanne Mansfield, owners of Alpacas 4u2c, recently visited Stonehenge Assisted Living facility in Blairsville, Georgia. They didn't go alone. Zoey, a young female alpaca, went, too. She was a polite girl while visiting with the residents at Stonehenge . Zoey especially loved the Stonehenge ladies (and they loved her, too).
Joanne says, "What a wonderful time we had at Stonehenge ! Zoey always gets a smile out of people."
Zoey, Joanne, and Lee enjoyed meeting with the residents. They also enjoyed the friendly staff members. Joanne adds, "Shawn Burrell, Kathyrn Houston, and Dee Rennie made the visit possible. The staff at Stonehenge love doing things like this for the residents in their care. I hope they let us come back after the shearing so everyone can see Zoey without her winter coat."
During the visit a drawing was held. Mr. Norman won a pair of luxurious alpaca socks and Miss Virginia won an alpaca toy.
April 24, 2008 - Yearly Shearing at Alpacas 4U2C in Blairsville, Georgia
Twenty-four alpacas recently went through the necessary ordeal of yearly shearing. At Joanne and Lee Mansfield's Alpacas 4U2C farm, expert shearer Jamie Jones and headman Matt Stone arrived with the equipment and the experience to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
The process is painless, although a little stressful for the alpacas (and owners). The animals are wrestled to the ground and legs are strapped to pulleys. Jamie removes the alpaca fiber with large clippers, Matt helps handle the animals, Lee clips toenails and grinds down teeth, and others lend a hand wherever needed. Some of the younger animals are micro-chipped. It is a team effort.
Each animal takes about 10 minutes. They come into the barn all fluffy and "hot" then exit with a "cool" outlook for the summer months. Alpacas must be sheared to withstand the summer heat or they will die. Of course, they are also sheared to collect the valuable fiber. Approximately five to ten pounds of fiber is collected from each adult alpaca.
Each animal's fiber is bagged separately. The fiber is weighed and sent off to a mill in Blue Ridge where is it made into yarn. Some of the fiber is sold raw to spinners or made into other products. Joanne even knits with some of it.
The fiber from the alpaca's back is called the first cut (blanket cut). It is usually used for high quality yarn. The second cut from the neck is used for felting. The fiber from the legs, fiber that is dirty, and fiber that is too short is thrown away.
Shearers Jamie Jones and Matt Stone leave their Indiana hometowns in early March and get back sometime in late June. Jamie has been shearing alpacas for five years. He says, "I do shearing all over the United States . Most alpacas are in Ohio , Colorado , and Washington State . We are on the road the whole time." Matt adds, "I send a lot of photos home to my girlfriend." Jamie and Matt travel from farm to farm and can shear up to eighty alpacas a day. It is hard work but a pretty good way of making a living.
Joanne says, "My baby is Mr. Cooper. His mother died and I had to bottle feed him." She goes on to point out different alpacas. "There's Sugar, Dexter, Little Miss Daisy, Abby, Nightingale, and Moorea. We shear the light colored ones and babies first. A full grown female alpaca weighs from 150 to 180 pounds. The males get closer to 200 pounds. They can live for 25 years." The Mansfield 's business card says it all, "Our alpacas are not our whole life, they just make our life whole!"
Thanks to all the friends that came to help including Larry and Cathi Dietsch from Destiny Alpaca Farm and Brad and Kim Taylor from Duncan Ridge Farm. Having a team on hand makes the process much easier.
September 27, 2008 - Alpacas 4U2C celebrates National Alpaca Farm Day
Blairsville's Alpacas 4U2C recently participated in the 2nd Annual National Alpaca Farm Day Celebration. Visitors were treated to tours of the facility, live demonstrations, refreshments, and a close-up look at the beautiful alpacas.
There was lots of stuff to see and do throughout the day. Martha Owen, from Yarn Circle in Murphy, North Carolina , demonstrated various spinning techniques. Visitors watched as she turned alpaca fiber into plush yarn. Elizabeth Johnston came all the way from Scotland to participate in the celebration and amazed spectators with her knitting skills. A regular visitor to the 4U2C Alpaca farm, Gail Gilbert joined in the fun with an attractive sand art and terrarium display.
Owners Lee and Joanne Mansfield explained various aspects of raising alpacas and had lots of information available. There are two kinds of alpacas and they are characterized by different types of fibers. Huacaya fiber is short, dense, crimpy, and gives a woolly appearance. Suri fiber is silky and resembles pencil-like locks. Alpacas have soft padded feet with two toes. They do not have horns, hooves, claws, incisors, or upper teeth. They eat grass and chew cud. Adult alpacas generally weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. Average alpaca height is 36 inches at the withers (where the neck and spine come together). Alpacas have three stomachs and they are adaptable to most any climate.
Alpaca are members of the Camelid family. They are native to the Andean Mountain Range of South America and are primarily found in Peru , Bolivia , and Chile where they once provided clothing and transportation to the Incas. Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984, although they have been domesticated for over 5,000 years. Current figures note about 50,000 registered alpacas in the U.S.
Alpacas live about 20 years. They are alert, intelligent, and curious. Alpacas are social animals that seek companionship and communicate by softly humming. They also communicate with neck posturing, ear and tail positioning, and head tilt.
Alpacas are sheared every 12 to 18 mouths. Alpacas require minimal fencing and can be pastured at 5-10 animals per acre. They are very disease resistant as long as they receive annual vaccinations and parasite control. Alpacas also need occasional nail and teeth trimming.
In ancient times, alpaca fiber was known as the "Fiber of the Gods." The fiber is as soft as cashmere and lighter and warmer than wool. It is hypo-allergenic and contains no lanolin. Alpaca fiber comes in 22 natural colors!
Alpacas offer a very attractive business and farming opportunity. They are a small and relatively easy livestock to maintain. Most people start their herd with good quality, bred females, costing $10,000 to $30,000. Alpaca fiber (raw fleece) is usually sold to hand spinners and fiber artists. Knitters often purchase alpaca yarn. Fiber mills collect alpaca fiber and process it on behalf of the producers. Raw alpaca fiber costs from $2 to $5 per ounce. Each stage of the process (cleaning, carding, spinning, knitting, finishing, etc.) adds more value to the fiber and hand knit goods are very desirable in today's marketplace.
Lee and Joanne Mansfield send a lot of fiber to Georgia Mountain Fiber in Blue Ridge , Georgia for processing. Operations Managers Michael and Deb Lipinski were at the 4U2C celebration to explain about handling the fiber once it gets to the mill. Processing the fiber involves washing, conditioning, carding, felting, drafting, spinning, and plying. Georgia Mountain Fiber uses state of the art processing equipment, incorporating the latest innovations in design to ensure consistent, high quality yarn, roving, and felt.
Joanne and Lee love talking about alpacas. They say, "We were almost ready to retire when we decided to raise alpacas in our backyard. Some of our alpacas are for sale, plus we have raw fleece, yarn, and other alpaca items for sale. Come on out and visit us sometime soon!" Alpacas 4U2C is located on CJ Calico Lane in the Trackrock area of Union County .
Alpacas 4U2C in Blairsville, Georgia celebrates with Ribbon Cutting
Joanne and Lee Mansfield recently celebrated becoming a member of the Blairsville Union Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon cutting. Everyone enjoyed the visit to the farm and a chance to see the award winning alpacas.
Jewels, a beautiful alpaca, cooperated by posing for the camera. Joanne and Lee shared all kinds of interesting stories and facts about the alpacas. Alpacas are raised for their soft, luxuriant fiber. They are sheared like sheep and the 22 natural colors include white, beige, fawn, brown, black, gray, and silver.
Alpacas are easy to keep. They are friendly and may reach over the fence to kiss visitors. The alpacas hum at night. Joanne says she loves to sit on the front porch and listen to the humming. They love carrots and apples, but their regular diet consists of hay and grass. Alpacas are alert, intelligent, and curious. They are social animals that seek companionship.
The community would like to welcome Alpacas 4U2C as the newest member of the Chamber of Commerce.
4U2C Alpaca Farm in Blairsville, Georgia Welcomes Visitors
"Our Alpacas are not our whole life, they just make our life whole." say the owners of 4U2C, an alpaca farm near Blairsville, Georgia. Joanne and Lee Mansfield currently have 12 alpacas in their pasture.
These alpacas are not considered livestock. The Mansfield's treat them like big pets - almost members of the family. Abby, Nightingale, Sugar, Moorea, Mr. Nibs, Thunder, Sir Wilson, Dakota, Mo, Lizzy, Haylee, and Lightning are beautiful animals.
The alpacas are valuable but not considered rare. One alpaca recently sold for $600,000 but prices start at $15,000. The Mansfield's have a friendly guard dog named Maggie. She lives in the alpaca barn and runs off stray dogs, coyotes, and anything else that bothers the herd. There are alpaca farms all over the United States especially in Ohio, California, and Washington. (Alpacas are originally from South America and are related to llamas and camels.)
Alpacas are raised for their soft, luxuriant fiber. They are sheared like sheep and the 22 natural colors include white, beige, fawn, brown, black, gray, and silver. Joanne and Lee have many items made from alpaca fiber such as sweaters, scarves, and stuffed animals. The fiber (fleece) is felted, crocheted, and knitted. The finished products are softer than cashmere and wear beautifully. In ancient times, alpaca fiber was known as "Fiber of the Gods."
Alpacas are easy to raise. They are friendly and may reach over the fence to kiss visitors. The alpacas hum at night. Joanne says she loves to sit on the front porch and listen to the humming. They love carrots and apples, but actually eat a diet of hay and grass. Alpacas are alert, intelligent, and curious. They are social animals that seek companionship.
Members of the camelid family, alpacas have an average weight of between 150 and 200 pounds. They were first imported into the U.S. in 1984. Current figures state that there are about 50,000 registered alpacas in the U.S.
The Mansfield's welcome people to visit their farm. "Take an hour or two and spend some time with the alpacas."