Ag-Ed. program at RHS to receive donation of two alpacas

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Thu., Mar. 31, 2011
Sunset Hills' 'Jedi Master' is a white, full Accoyo male who will be arriving at Rockville High School soon. Photos courtesy of Sunset Hills Farm Alpacas.
Sunset Hills' 'Jedi Master' is a white, full Accoyo male who will be arriving at Rockville High School soon. Photos courtesy of Sunset Hills Farm Alpacas.

The Agricultural Science Department at Rockville High School will soon welcome two new members, who are transferring from Pennsylvania.

At the Board of Education meeting last week, Vernon Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway announced that the Sunset Hills Farm Alpacas of Butler, Pa. (about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh) has offered to donate two alpacas to the RHS program. The animals are valued at approximately $5,000 apiece.

Conway added that the school system will have to pay for the shipping of the alpacas.

“I don’t know why they can’t walk here,” Conway joked.

Ag-Ed. instructor Calvin Broderson said the recent renovations to the department will accommodate the two new additions, which will be housed at the school year-round.

Brodersen said the alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains in South America, and generally reside at altitudes of around 13,000 feet.

“They’re very efficient animals, and are prized for their highly-valued fleece,” he said. “Their fleece has superior qualities to wool and cashmere, in terms of warmth and softness.”

Sheared every year, the alpaca fleece could be used for projects, or sold.

The alpacas are also docile, with a great temperament, which will make them easy for students to work with, Brodersen said, adding that the animals are also very clean.

With more than 100 farms in Connecticut housing alpacas, Brodersen said it will be good for the students to learn the care and maintenance of the animals, as it is an increasingly popular business.

Karen Stefaniak, marketing and public coordinator for Sunset Hills Farm Alpacas, LLC, said it was a close, personal connection of Laurye Feller, business manager at Sunset Hills, that led the farm to contact Rockville High School. Feller, who is a Connecticut native and lived near Rockville at one time, has a special place in her heart for her best friend’s son, Christopher Stauder. Stauder, who Feller believes has excellent skills in many areas but especially with alpacas, stayed and interned at Sunset Hills Farm last summer and told Feller that he would love to have some alpacas for his FFA program at RHS. Feller decided to contact Brodersen to donate two alpacas to the school’s program.

“We wanted to be able to assist educational and rehab therapy programs so that individuals would have the ability to learn to care for alpacas and find out just how therapeutic and special they are,” said Feller. “We believe in giving back to the community, especially to those who are learning animal care.”

“Panama Jack” is a young, dark brown, one-and-a-half-year-old male. His mother is Sunset Hills’ black beauty alpaca, known as “Starry Nights’ Kuna.”

“He’s so sweet and friendly,” Stefaniak said, “that we’ve used him as our P.R. guy – taking him to the Mother Earth Fair and the alpaca farm tour day for people to pet. He also comes from a very high-quality genetic line. We're going to be sad to see him go, but we know he's going to a good home.”

“Jedi Master,” also a male, comes from a family of alpacas with “Star Wars”-themed names.

“He's a young, white, full Accoyo male,” Stefaniak said. “He's good-spirited. His sire is the famous Caligula son, Jedi Accoyo of the USA.”

Stefaniak said Sunset Hills, which has been in business since 1997, typically maintains a herd size of 140 alpacas. With 20 to 30 births per year, it becomes less possible to keep all of them.

“That’s why we love for people to have our alpacas,” Stefaniak said, “as pets, as part of their programs, or to start their own farms.”

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