At Royal Fortress Meadows, Trevor and Kimberley McKnight take great care and planning in their alpaca breeding program.
What is “Cria-tion time” you ask? Also known as a “cria crop,” it is the time of year alpaca babies are born. A cria is the name for a baby alpaca.
With an 11.5-month gestation, the McKnight’s eagerly await the arrival of each new generation to see the results of their intensive breeding selection tactics. These labours (or shall we say the labours of the “hembra,” female alpaca) are brought to fruition during the birthing season, which extends from spring to fall. Who wouldn’t be excited to see inquisitive, adorable, fluffy cria pronking all over their pastures?
Trevor and Kimberley McKnight began their alpaca venture by purchasing seven alpacas in 2007. Not yet owning a farm, they boarded their animals at Poots Corners, an alpaca farm outside Palmerston, until selling their house and finding property. Taking two years for the young family to uproot themselves from sub-division living in Elora, they found a 10-acre farm to call their own minutes outside Drayton. You may drive by their farm every day. Nestled in between Barbara’s Dog Grooming and Country Air on Wellington Road 7, they have a seasonal store and regularly welcome farm visitors. An official farm sign doesn’t mark their lot yet, but look for the “Alpacas for sale” sign that marks their laneway. Come fall, they’ll have their “Alpaca Store” sign up getting in gear for the cold winter months ahead, inviting clients to stay warm with soft, luxurious alpaca garments.
Through their involvement with the alpaca industry, they are active members of Alpaca Ontario and Alpaca Canada. You will find Trevor, Kimberley and their three young adult children volunteering at alpaca shows. They have enjoyed vending at the Guelph Farmer’s Market in years past, as well as educating the public with their alpacas on display at the Fergus Fall Fair, Drayton Fair and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. Kimberley has enjoyed the privilege, along with another local alpaca farmer, of educating the area youth for Agriculture Awareness Day, teaching young people all about the animal and farming. One of the most memorable community events that they’ve participated in was assisting a Guelph grocery store with the fundraising to support a local school. They greeted customers at the door with two friendly alpacas … The alpaca’s were a winsome hit.
Here in southern Ontario there are many opportunities to participate in the show ring. The Alpaca Ontario Spring Show, Rockton Fair and Canadian National Calvalcade of Champions are all held locally within an hour’s drive. Quite pleased with their results, they’ve brought home ribbons upon ribbons, including Colour Championships. Alpacas are judged according to their conformation and characteristics of their fleece.
Alpaca farming creates two end products: the exceptional breed standard itself and the crop of exquisite alpaca fleece. To advance their methods, the McKnights have enjoyed travelling all over the continent seizing the best of educations from world-renowned leaders in the alpaca industry. Learning from expert breeders, scientists, show judges, fleece experts … all these areas of interest continue to develop and improve their breeding program, fleece and farm management.
While a cria crop sparks excitement with the arrival of every new birth, spring brings its own special crop … it’s time to shear the luscious fleece off the alpaca herd. Trevor and Kimberley shear their herd of 45 animals themselves after taking an alpaca shearing course from an expert shearer four years ago. The difference with the McKnight’s shearing from that of other alpaca farms, is that they choose to shear their animals on the ground as opposed to using a specialized shearing table. “The animals are less stressed on the ground, and this way just Kim and I can do the shearing ourselves rather than recruiting four other people to help,” says Trevor.
The McKnight’s invite those interested to come for a farm visit. Call or email first to make an appointment. But most of all, they invite you to try wearing something made from alpaca fibre.
“Alpaca socks, mittens, and hats are all garments that will spoil you with their extreme softness, as well as keep you dry and warm come the cool months ahead. Once you’ve tried alpaca, you’ll never want to wear anything else,” the McKnights state.