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Llama, alpaca educational workshop marks 10 years

Jun 2nd, 2017 | Category: Community, Features

JNK Llamas hosts owners, professionals

by Mary Vermillion

For 10 years, JNK Llamas has hosted a free informational day for the benefit of current and interested llama and alpaca owners and their animals. What stemmed from a rescue incident a decade ago, has become a continued community effort that welcomes questions and provides answers from seasoned owners and professionals.

The event presents basic care needs and more for llamas and alpacas, including shearing (above) and trimming (below). Photos courtesy of JNK Llamas

The event presents basic care needs and more for llamas and alpacas, including shearing (above) and trimming (below). Photos courtesy of JNK Llamas

Back in 2007, local volunteers and law enforcement officials rescued 41 neglected llamas from a property in northwest Whatcom County. Emaciated and ill, some of the animals had to be euthanized. Others died soon after being placed with foster families.

JNK co-owner Niki Kuklenski was among the first people law enforcement officials contacted. News coverage spurred calls from people wanting to adopt the rescued llamas or donate money to buy feed, halters, leads and other supplies. Kuklenski screened the calls and visited potential foster homes.

Realizing the new llama owners needed information to properly care for their adopted livestock – and determined to prevent similar tragedies in the future – Kuklenski and other volunteers used some of the monetary donations to create a workshop. The free Llama and Alpaca Information and Education Workshop is held each spring on JNK Llamas’ 5-acre farm just outside Bellingham. This year’s event in Saturday, June 24.

As word spread, llama owners and others curious about owning alpacas or llamas asked if they could attend. By the third year, up to 100 people showed up for what Kuklenski said is the only workshop of its kind in the nation.

“We want to get to interested people before mistakes happen and give people the tools to make good decisions,” said Kuklenski, who is also a substitute teacher with the Mount Baker School District. toenail trimming class web

Reservations are required for the day-long event, which includes lectures on basic care as well as hands-on exercises shearing llamas and trimming camelid toe nails. Kuklenski said the workshop is a success because it is purely educational; there are no animal sales or farm promotions. Donations cover costs.

She added all of the volunteers donate their time, gas, money and materials. “This is done out of the goodness of everyone’s hearts!”

While people successfully raise alpacas and llamas, it’s difficult to make money from fiber sales, breeding or packing, Kuklenski shared. And, as with any livestock, raising llamas or alpacas is a lot of work.

She and her husband Jeff show their llamas – a mix of smooth-coat classics and curly-coated woolies – at competitions and raise them for fiber, packing and cart driving, as well as selectively breeding and selling them. Their llamas are also trained therapy animals. The animal’s range of use is one reason why Kuklenski loves them.

She also likes their personalities. “They’re like a cat, a dog, a horse and a goat all rolled into one,” she said.

Kuklenski said the workshop is a success because it is purely educational; there are no animal sales or farm promotions. Donations cover costs. Photo courtesy of JNK Llamas

Kuklenski said the workshop is a success because it is purely educational; there are no animal sales or farm promotions. Donations cover costs. Photo courtesy of JNK Llamas

Today, 75 percent of the 50 or so people who attend the workshop own or are considering buying alpacas. For those who already own, “there’s always a story,” Kuklenski said. “They find out it’s not easy and definitely not a way to make money. They take the hit and learn to care for the animals, or they do what someone did to them and pass them off to the next person.”

Kuklenski spends $2,000 to $3,000 annually on each of the 20 llamas at her farm. “There’s a vet bill always around the corner,” she said. Other costs include high-quality hay and llama minerals, not to mention the time spent cleaning the stalls twice a day and training.

“Many people have a romantic notion of farming,” Kuklenski said. “It’s not glamorous. I can’t leave on a moment’s notice, but I chose this. And I love my lifestyle. We just want to encourage people to do their homework.”

 

Presenters: Vet information and more

Check in for the 10th annual event on Saturday, June 24 is at 8:30 a.m. A series of 45-minute classes begins at 9 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m. There are 15-minute breaks for coffee and opportunities to talk one-on-one with camelid experts. During the lunch break, participants can network with presenters and other guests as well as visit the resident llamas.

Classes include: Veterinary information with Dr. Mike Anderson of Kulshan Veterinary Hospital and conservation tips for confinement areas presented by the Whatcom Conservation District. Volunteers share grooming and shearing basics, pasture management, fiber demonstrations, toenail trimming (including a hands-on session), basic training and more. A special class on geriatric animal care was popular in 2016 and may be offered again this year.

RSVP is required. For more information and to RSVP, visit  http://www.jnkllamas.com/llamaalpaca-info-day.html. A Facebook event page is also available at: Llama and Alpaca Information Day. For email contact, send to info@jnkllamas.com.

 

 

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