Sam and Cooper Banning opened up their farm to share their love of the alpaca with the Ellis County community Saturday during the national observance of Alpaca Farm Days.

Guests to the ranch were educated about the important role the animal plays in society.

“This is national Alpaca Day and everybody across the country opens up their ranch or farm for a day for the public to come in and view the alpacas and learn. Most people have not seen them and don’t know what they are,” Cooper Banning said.

“Alpacas are used for their fleece and it is hypoallergenic. They actually come in about 22 different colors. Their fleece makes anything from socks to wedding dresses to men’s suits out of it. That is the higher end market.”

Cooper said the animals are sheered once a year and generally produce from four to eight pounds of fleece. A common misperception is that alpaca’s are often mistaken for llamas in appearance. While both animals come from countries in South America, one of the main uses for llamas is as a pack animal. Llamas are also physically larger in appearance.

“I have between 30 and 35 animals and they have a life span of about 25 years,” Cooper said. 

Alpacas came to the United States in the mid-1980s and they have just grown and established themselves,” Cooper said.

“There are special feeds that you make for them but they mostly eat hay. The boys have a little bit more of a personality than the girls and interact more with each other.”

Visitors to the ranch learned about the alpaca’s purpose in helping to provide wool to the textile industry. They were also allowed to get up close with the animal gaining its trust by feeding it pellets. Along with the animals many products such as gloves, hats and clothing made from alpaca wool were on display.

Visiting the farm was Rodney and Alyson Hopper and their two children, Davis and Ava.

Rodney said his children have a love for all types of animals and didn’t know that the alpacas were a little smaller then llamas.

The Banning’s farm Alpaca by Choice is located at 3745 Farm-to-Market 1446 in Waxahachie. For more information about the farm, call 817-798-2080 or go to www.alpacasbychoice.com.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1451.