by Mallory Moad
What’s curious, quiet, and soft as a cuddly plush toy? An alpaca!
I first laid eyes on these charming critters in Reedley’s Fiesta Parade, accompanied by a sign that displayed contact information for free alpaca farm tours. My immediate reaction: Let’s go! I made the call and on April 7 was on my way to the Triple J Alpaca Farm for an up-close-and-personal encounter.
In 1984, Roger Hoeflinger had a similar response after seeing a television program about alpacas. However, he did more than just go on a tour. He and his wife, Maxine, spent 10 years doing research, gazing longingly at a photo of an alpaca on their refrigerator, and thinking with increasing seriousness about going into the business of raising alpacas. In January, 2008, they made the leap, purchased two animals and created Triple J Alpacas—-named after their offspring – Jeremy, Jonathan and Jennifer.
Alpacas are raised for their fleece. The herd of 26 at Triple J are of the Huacaya (wah-KI-ah) variety, whose coats are dense and soft. When I reached to pet the head of one of these docile creatures, I expected it to feel like a sheep, not a teddy bear. Everyone had gotten haircuts shortly before my visit (they are sheared every 12 to 18 months) and with their long necks, fluffy legs, and poofy topknots, they looked like a cross between a giraffe and a poodle (or maybe something out of Dr. Seuss). The fleece is spun into luxurious yarn that is knitted into cozy socks and scarves and woven into rugs.
Alpacas are part of the Camelid family which also includes llamas and camels. Yes, they spit, but only when really ticked off and mostly at each other—if what I observed is typical behavior. They are mischievous and very curious. Feeling a tug on my sleeve, I turned to come eye-to-eye with a sweet, shaggy face. A gate left open spells trouble.
The entire population of Triple J once ended up wandering willy-nilly in a neighboring vineyard. Unlike sheep, alpacas are independent thinkers and difficult to herd. “It’s like herding cats,” Roger says. They eat hay and have such effective digestive systems their by-products don’t have an offensive odor. In fact, alpaca poop makes a high quality fertilizer. Roger has been known to donate truckloads of the stuff to a local community garden. They’re soft-spoken animals who don’t bray, moo or go “baa-aa-aa.” Instead, they hum.
About the positive experience of raising alpacas, Roger commented, “We see how God has placed us in the position to take on this new venture, working with one of His most unique creations, to smooth out the stress points in our lives.” In agreement, the alpacas say, “Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.”
My name is Mallory Moad, and I believe there are plenty of things in the Central Valley to “hummmmmmmm” about.
For more information about Triple J Alpacas, alpacas in general, or to schedule your own tour of the farm, visit www.triplejalpacas.com.
Triple J Alpacas
Owners: Roger and Maxine Hoeflinger
888 E. Davis Dr.
Dinuba, CA 93618