Living the alpaca life

Living the alpaca life

March 21st, 2011 by By Angela Lewis in News

Susan Goodwin gets a nuzzle from Raven, a 1-week-old alpaca, at Foster's Trail & Alpaca Farm in Bradley County. Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Raven made her entrance into the world nose and feet first, "a perfect textbook birth," said Susan Goodwin, owner of Foster's Trail & Alpaca Farm.

The newborn alpaca weighed 18.1 pounds. After spending bonding time in the barn, Raven and her mom, Vanessa, went to the pasture to rejoin their herd.

"All the adults and babies in the pasture rushed over to say hello to the new arrival," Goodwin said.

She finds alpacas to be therapeutic and loves having them around her while she does farm chores.

Goodwin, originally from Cleveland, Tenn., lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years with her husband, Peter. They moved back to Bradley County in 2006 to find a more relaxing lifestyle.

They saw a news story about alpacas six months later and "knew it was a perfect fit," she said. They started the farm the following May.

There are 35 alpacas on the property including seven boarders, Goodwin said, each with distinct personalities, quirks and habits. Alpacas are docile and curious and love small children, Goodwin said.

"They will go up and smell their hair and nuzzle their necks," she said.

Alpacas have a herd mentality, so you need three or four to start a farm, Goodwin said, adding that "there is comfort in numbers for them."

The huacaya alpacas that Goodwin raises - one of two kinds of alpaca - are indigenous to South America and raised for their fleece. The luxurious, soft fiber is comparable to cashmere and is hypoallergenic, she said.

Shearing day will come in April, when a team of people will create an assembly line to make the shearing run like "clockwork," Goodwin said, adding that it takes only seven minutes to shear each alpaca.

Each will produce about 5 pounds of fiber that will be processed into yarn and sold in the farm's store, The Fuzzy Lilly. Goodwin also makes hand-felted scarves for the store.

The Goodwins breed and sell the alpacas, as well as show them nationally. Raven, who at 1 week old already has been "leading the gang and romping around the pasture," will begin her show career in the fall, Goodwin said.

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