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Spin Class

Alpacas’ fleece spun into yarn

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Alpacas’ fleece spun into yarn

Morgan Stevenson (left) shows the Southern Illinois Summer Agriculture Institute group of teachers how to offer a snack to the 120-pound animals, while Jessica Grammer and Stephanie Rhodes watch.

MAKANDA, Ill. — Alpacas at the Rolling Oaks Alpaca Ranch in rural Makanda were just as curious about some visiting teachers.

As part of the Southern Illinois Summer Agriculture Institute, the teachers stopped by the farm where mother-daughter team Judy Hoepker and Morgan Stevenson currently have 20 alpacas for their fine, soft fiber.

The women spin the hair into yarns, which are rated among the softest and warmest, and further work the yarns into skeins of yarn, shawls, clothing, wall hangings, felted soaps, toys and other cuddly items.

While the teachers explored the “food, fuel and fiber” aspects in agriculture, alpacas in the United States mostly are used for fiber. Indigenous to South America, the animals also are a food source in Peru and Argentina.

The group also was introduced to Black and Red Angus at the Settle Cattle Co. in Williamson County, milking goats at River to River Farm in Johnson County and the Southern Illinois Equine Sale Barn, also in Johnson County.

And they learned about the Illinois Beef Association and its checkoff from longtime livestock educator and rancher Ed Billingsley.

Karen Binder can be reached at 618-534-0614 or kbinder@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Binder.

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