Alpaca farms once again will open their gates to people curious about these South American creatures.
One site near Modesto and another near Stevinson will take part in the annual National Alpaca Farm Days, set for Saturday and Sunday.
The event will feature tours and sales of fleece products.
The website for the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, the event sponsor, includes these locations:
• Lilly of the Valley Alpacas, 2912 Church St., at Milnes Road east of Modesto; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; (209) 577-3638 or www.lovalpacas.com.
• Macedo's Mini Acre, 20721 Highway 140, Stevinson; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days; (209) 648-2384 or www.macedosminiacre.com.
Alpacas are native to the high plateaus of the Andes, where they have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years, according to the association. Since the 1980s, they have been popular in the United States as pets, fiber producers and breeding stock.
The United States had 121,904 alpacas at 8,708 ranches as of 2007, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture. Figures for 2012 are expected soon.
Stanislaus County had 272 of the animals on 11 ranches. San Joaquin County had 137 on 11 sites. Tuolumne County had 50 on four sites. Figures for Merced County were not available.
Alpacas live an average of 20 years and weigh 100 to 200 pounds as adults, according to the association. They eat pasture grass, supplemented by hay and vitamin-mineral pellets.
An adult can produce about 3 to 6 pounds of top-quality fiber and about the same amount of lesser fiber each year. The fiber comes in 22 natural colors and can be dyed.
More information is at www.alpacainfo.com.