Alpaca shearing 2

By Kathryn Menue


POPLAR GROVE – Alpaca Pines in Poplar Grove continues to expand to produce homemade alpaca fiber products and to offer a safe haven to alpacas and now one llama. They have two different breeds of alpacas: the Huacaya and the Suri.

“Me and my wife wanted to do something together. She’s a vegetarian so raising beef wouldn’t work,” Bob Donley, owner of Alpaca Pines, said. “We started with two alpacas and now we have 36 alpacas and one llama.”

Alpaca shearing 4With a continued dedication to the animals and a drive to expand their farm, the Donley’s are excited to announce that they are ready to open their farm to the public for the summer season.

In preparation for their opening, they dedicated Thursday, May 5 to shearing the alpacas of their fiber coats.

The alpacas and one llama are sheared once a year in the spring. At this time, the Donley’s also are able to give the animals their deworming vaccination, cut their nails, and check their teeth.

This is also the perfect time to introduce the male babies (Crias) into the herd. When the alpacas are sheared, they lose their distinct scent and they all look different. So, when the Crias are introduced to the herd, the herd will not pick on them. Any other time of the year though, they would.

In order to complete the shearing process in a timely fashion, the Donley’s hired Top Knot Shearing to assist in the process.

Top Knot Shearing comes from Colorado and travels the United States over a two month period to aid farms with shearing. They travel over 15,000 miles and visit 200 farms in 60 days.

Alpaca shearing 3The shearing process consists of shearing an alpaca with three different cuts in a 10 minute period. First they shear in the middle area or the “premium/prime” area known as the “blanket.”

“This is where your good sweaters and stuff come from,” Bob Donley said.

The other two cuts are on the legs and neck.

The process takes a few hours and produces about seven pounds of fiber from each alpaca, which would produce nearly 260 pounds of fiber from Alpaca Pines.

Luckily, the Donley’s had son Christopher and intern Leah Lowenstein to help out with collecting all of the fiber.

Not only do the Donley’s shear the alpacas for the fiber, but for the alpacas’ best interest as well.

“If you don’t shear them, they’ll get all matted and hot and lice,” Vicki Donley said. “It’s to keep them comfortable too.”

Alpaca shearingEach alpaca receives a special trim based on their needs. For instance, older alpacas’ fiber is left longer due to the fact that alpacas do not grow as much as they age.

When sheared, alpacas retain some fiber in order to protect them from flies and so they have enough fiber to keep them warm next winter.

This fiber then goes to a fiber mill to be processed into yarn for embroidery, weaving, and other projects. The white fiber can be dyed for any project.

To cut out the middleman, the Donley’s planned to receive their very own fiber mill around May 14.

In preparation for the fiber mill, Bob built a building over a one year period to store the fiber mill. The building will also contain their fiber shop to sell their products.

Currently, Vicki Donley sells products in the Boone County Farm Stroll, at Alpaca Pines’ Alpaca Days, and at the markets in Genoa and Huntley. With their own store, they will have a nice facility to see their products in all the time.

They sell yarn, cat beds, dryer balls, drop spindle kits, hats, scarves, sweaters, kitty toys, socks, and much more.

Starting the week after May 14, people can begin to visit the fiber mill and shop, or they can visit with the alpacas and bond with the many different personalities that reside in the barn.

“They’re beautiful animals,” Vicki Donley said. “They have different personalities like cats.”

For example, the alpaca Black Touch is very vocal and a little snooty. Annie is an award winner.

Most of the alpacas are rescues.

For instance, Cupcake and Brownie came to Alpaca Pines with their coats matted with burs from improper care.

Pringles the llama came to Alpaca Pines after years of poor care.

To learn more about Alpaca Pines, like them on Facebook at Alpaca Pines, go to their website at, or call Bob or Vicki Donley at (815) 621-8116.

Alpaca Pines is located at 21756 Beaverton Road in Poplar Grove.

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