- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

The import ban on Canadian cattle is leaving more than just cow breeders a little mad. Llamas and alpacas, the fluffy animals known for their soft fur and elongated necks — and not their taste — are included in the current ban on ruminants — or cud-chewing animals — from the north.

Local alpaca and llama raisers say the ban has slowed sales considerably.

Gail Campbell, who owns Ameripaca Alpaca Breeding Company Inc. in Galesville,, Md., sent almost 100 alpacas to Canada in 2003 to keep them cool before the ban was enacted.

“Basically I have all these animals stuck up there for absolutely no scientific reason and I’m just feeding them,” Ms. Campbell said.

Llamas and alpacas are natives of South America and are most commonly used for their wool or as pets in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2003 applied the ban to 183 species of ruminants, defined as animals that chew a cud and have multiple stomachs, after a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was discovered in Canada.

Alpaca and llama owners said the ban should not apply to their animals because they are not used for meat such as cows and they chew less grass than other ruminants.

In December, the USDA announced a new minimum-risk rule that was scheduled to reopen the border between the United States and Canada on March 7 for cattle under 30 months of age, some cattle products and other animals, including alpacas and llamas.

The Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America, a Montana group of cattle raisers stalled the border’s reopening by filing an injunction against the new USDA rule.

The organization opposes the rule because it fears letting any cattle in would pose a threat to stock in the United States.

The Department of Justice filed an appeal March 17 on behalf of the USDA. But, until the legal matter is resolved, the original ban on ruminants remains in place.

Now alpaca and llama owners who have purchased animals in Canada, or shipped their stock there to keep them cool before the ban was enacted, are stuck in wait-and-see mode.

There were 16,887 llama and alpaca farms in the United States in 2002, according to the Census of Agriculture report issued the same year by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Ms. Campbell said she has lost about $500,000 in the past two years because she has not been able to sell the animals in the United States.

Although many alpaca raisers will purchase their animals in Canada or store them there because of a cooler climate, they typically try to sell them in the United States because the market is better.

“It’s really hurting me because I have plenty of buyers down here but I can’t get [my alpacas] down here,” Ms. Campbell said.

The USDA decided to reopen the boarder to the animals because the animals do not pose a threat to the food supply, according to Jim Rogers, a spokesman for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

A group of grass-roots alpaca and llama raisers started an online petition demanding the USDA create a new rule pertaining specifically to their animals.

The petition currently has about 800 names, according to Richard MacKinnon, an alpaca raisers from Nova Scotia who started the petition.

Before the ban Mr. MacKinnon was making $250,000 a year in alpaca sales. Last year his sales totaled about $25,000, he said.

“Basically we’re living off our savings,” he said. “We have made a few sales to people [in the United States] in the last couple weeks who are willing to wait for the border to open but we’ve had to reduce prices to do even that.”

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