North Texas llamas give wool to fight Gulf spill



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Posted on May 6, 2010 at 8:49 PM

Updated Thursday, May 6 at 11:45 PM

GRANBURY — A woolly llama named Candycane rests her chin in a metal bracket and hums softly as her owner shears her like a sheep. 

She is doing her part — gladly giving the woolly shirt off her back — to soak up leaking oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Llamas don't have any oil in their hair at all," explained Steve Berry, as he guided the clippers across Candycane's back.  "It not being oily, it's a perfect absorbent for what they do with it."

Berry is part of the South Central Llama Association, which put out a plea for llama fiber.  He's got a small herd of his own, but he shears for other owners, too.  

Last weekend, he gave 35 "haircuts."

"We had around 200 pounds of wool from one Sunday afternoon we're going to box up and send down there," he said.

Berry and his wife stuff the wool into large cardboard boxes.  The material is bound for New Orleans to be made into absorbent pads or booms. 

Llamas have to be shorn once a year to keep them cool in the Texas heat.

Each llama provides four or five pounds of fiber. Each box of wool represents  four or five  llamas.

And there are a lot of llamas in North Texas.

"I shear around a thousand just in this area every spring myself," said Berry, a retired Arlington firefighter and current Hood County Commissioner. 

He sells and shows llamas, but says a growing number of rural Texans like them because they're gentle, interesting, smaller than a horse, but big enough to drive off predators. 

They do spit,  but Berry says they also provide an agricultural tax break because they're considered farm animals.

And now, they're providing some North Texas ranchers with a way to pitch in against an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.