What do you do when your alpacas need cooling off? You call a professional. Alpacas are not to be confused with llamas even though they are both a domesticated species of the South American camelid. Alpacas are bred for their fiber, (fiber is what they call the alpaca’s coat), not as pack animals, and alpacas are significantly smaller than llamas. April is alpaca shearing season, and Whirlwind Alpaca Ranch is one of the largest, high-quality alpaca ranches in Missouri, located in Lebanon.


What do you do when your alpacas need cooling off? You call a professional. Alpacas are not to be confused with llamas even though they are both a domesticated species of the South American camelid. Alpacas are bred for their fiber, (fiber is what they call the alpaca’s coat), not as pack animals, and alpacas are significantly smaller than llamas. April is alpaca shearing season, and Whirlwind Alpaca Ranch is one of the largest, high-quality alpaca ranches in Missouri, located in Lebanon.

Owner Liz Mitchko moved to Lebanon in 1996 from Houston, Texas, at which time she began getting the ranch ready to accept the alpacas she was boarding. Her parents, Linda and Walter, moved to the farm in 2004 from Long Island, N.Y. Mitchko and her parents travel extensively showing many of their animals. They conduct alpaca educational programs at their farm and in city festivals and expositions. These programs include alpaca care and the fiber arts.

Whirlwind Alpaca Ranch has won many top awards for the alpaca fiber they produce, and Mitchko knows every name of the 100-plus animals she owns. Baby alpacas are referred to as crias.

Having the animals sheared before the weather gets to hot protects the animal from the heat and ensures the best fiber. Edmund Dunham, of Dunham Shearing Service Inc., who has sheared for 36 years, comes to Missouri at the beginning of shearing season for his first stop. He also travels to Alpaca farms in Oregon, California, Idaho and Washington. He shears approximately 100 animals a day, approximately 3,000 during the month of April. Shearing season ends in early July. Dunham said he considers the shears to be the most dangerous part of his occupation, saying the shears are “unforgiving."

“I love my job, and the move to the USA was very good for me, and I want to thank everyone for being so friendly,” said Dunham, who is originally from Australia.