Four kids from local 4-H clubs came to Alpaca Meadows this summer, adopted alpacas to work with and prepare to show at the Richland County Fair. This gives kids an opportunity to learn about alpacas and select alpacas as a 4-H project, without the commitment of owning one. Kat Krietemeyer showed Shiya, Anna Irwin showed Annalise, Arica Uplinger showed Amelia, and Carson Abbott showed Alvira. Impressive how well they all cleaned up for the fair!
Though nervous about how to re-open our farm in a safe way during a pandemic, I’m happy we were able to offer this opportunity to a few kids whose activities have been cancelled everywhere they turn (along with the rest of the world). Parents and kids seemed to all enjoy the diversion and a chance to focus on something besides what’s going on in the world right now. Enjoy the highlights in the video below.
This was a dedicated group of kids and parents, who came usually three times a week, and worked with their alpacas. Alpacas have no way to protect themselves, and for this reason they are naturally fearful. Building trust is key. Alpacas are smart and can be halter trained fairly easily, as they begin to trust their handler and feel safe. It is always fun to watch the bond develop between the 4-H kids and their alpacas. Each is required to do certain activities according to how many years they have done alpacas as a project. There is a Llama and Alpaca Resource Handbook available to learn more about them, and a Llama and Alpaca Project and Record Book for recording your experience.
For kids who have never worked with our alpacas before, we go over a very important rule on an alpaca farm, and that is when you open a gate, close a gate! Other basics include feeding, how to herd alpacas into a catch pen, and the importance of properly fitting a halter.
We also introduce them to a rake and a shovel so they can help with some of the chores.
Once we’ve gone over the basics, we try to take a step back, and let the older kids teach the younger ones. A big part of the 4-H program is to build leadership skills. For the kids who have some experience handling and training alpacas, they have an opportunity to share what they’ve learned, and to shine. Younger kids find mentors they respect and look to for guidance.
Some kids work with the same alpaca year after year. Others choose new challenges. Anna, in her first year doing alpacas as her project, chose Ophelia to work with, who is just over a year old. They were the perfect little couple.
Anna worked with Ophelia all summer, and the week before fair, we were forced to make the tough decision that Ophelia should not go to the fair. Parents and kids had noticed for several weeks that Ophelia was not wanting to participate, didn’t have much energy, and finally refused to walk. I noticed for several days that she had been laying away from the rest of the herd and keeping to herself, usually a sign that something is wrong. I was so impressed that one of the older girls, Arica, had already body scored Ophelia and determined that she seemed thin. She also checked her eye membranes and discovered they were very pale. The kids had already talked among themselves about Ophelia and discussed with Anna the need for a Plan B.
Yes, it was disappointing, but I was so impressed that this group of kids worked through the problem together. They consoled Anna, helped her choose a different alpaca, and came out to the farm for extra sessions so that Anna could work with Annalise. Another life experience, dealing with the unexpected, being disappointed, and learning to be resilient when faced with life when it doesn’t go as planned. Ophelia is being treated for anemia and doing much better. I expect Anna will probably be taking her to the fair next year!
I love the 4-H Program! It gives kids an opportunity to explore so many different projects and areas of interest, build leadership and life skills through hands-on learning. For kids that may not excel in school or sports, and those that do, it helps them find other avenues that might interest them, often times becoming passionate about these new opportunities. Find out more about the Benefits of 4-H and Getting Your Children Involved in 4-H!
The fair was closed to the public this year, due to coronavirus, open to 4-H kids and their families only. It was not a normal fair, but the kids made the best of it!