OLIVEBURG — LaCroix Alpacas joined other vendors at the Autumn in the Park vendor fair, making this the first vendor fair in which Patti and George LaCroix have ever participated.
The LaCroix have been raising and breeding alpacas for many years, but this was the first time they ever ventured into the world of artisan and vendor fairs. Patti is the driving force behind the alpacas and their products, while George is happy to help her with her passion.
“This was a nice first time experience,” Patti said, adding that she will plan to take part in more vendor fairs in the future.
LaCroix bought her first alpaca in 1998, before the couple even owned the farm they have today. Now, they have a small herd, she has done much research on alpacas and continues to breed quality alpacas for others looking to start a herd in the area. She also offers to mentor those who come to have an alpaca bred from their herd.
LaCroix had never lived on a farm or done farm work prior to getting her own alpacas. She bought an alpaca and began learning all she could, remarking that she should have have done a bit more research before taking the plunge all those years ago. Today, she can teach others how to care for alpacas, how they differ from other animals, and what makes them special to her.
“I don’t come from a farming background, and my family worried about me because I never told them I was interested in having a farm,” LaCroix said.
LaCroix advises research before trying to raise the animals. Meningeal worm comes from white-tailed deer, and affects the nervous system of the animals. This is the main concern when raising alpacas. LaCroix said many people don’t know about it, but they can prevent it with a monthly subcutaneous ivermectin shot, and it’s very important for the health of the animals.
“I had a lot to learn about life... I wish I had done more research simply because that would have been wise, but I wasn’t wise,” LaCroix said of her venture.
The LaCroix have a farm for their alpaca herd with plenty of space and shade trees in Oliveburg, a small community just north of Punxsutawney on Route 36.
There are alpaca fiber cooperatives, and LaCroix can buy products wholesale as an alpaca breeder, or she can send her fibers to the cooperative to buy products that way. She does not make her own products, but contributes her fibers to the co-op and products are returned which she can then sell.
“The fiber is so luxurious, and its hypoallergenic and warm, more durable and warmer than wool,” Patti said. “You can do so many things with alpaca, I’ve read articles of people who use the fibers for fishing lures, rugs, wedding dresses, baby garments.”
LaCroix also said Alpaca fur does not have lanolin in it, which is an oily substance that has to be washed out of wool.
The couple has a small herd of five alpacas today, but they used to have a herd as large as two dozen. A herd this size was a bit too much for work for Patti, and didn’t give her time to do much else. They have three males and two breeding females. The females will be giving birth in July, after an 11 month gestation period.