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Kunkel Farm

Couple Turn Their Focus to Llamas

Imagine the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, but with llamas instead of various dog breeds. With growing numbers of 4-H’ers participating in llama demonstrations, that scenario could soon be easier to envision.

Fred Kunkel and his wife, Becci, have expanded their farming operation near Decatur, Indiana, to include llama breeding and training. Dad, Fred, continues to help out on the farm.

“This has always been a love of mine, and we’ve become more active in it in recent years,” Becci says. “I started showing llamas years ago with the Allen County 4-H program in Fort Wayne. I’ve continued to show over the years. We eventually bought our own llamas and expanded our herd.”

The couple say that llama demonstrations are a mix between equestrian competitions and dog agility shows.

“The llamas are on a lead and you guide them through a course with tires, jumps and other obstacles,” she says. “It is similar to training a dog or a horse. You start them young and gradually work up to training them to do more difficult tasks.”

Llama competitions include novice, advanced and youth divisions. Llamas are also divided into wool divisions for halter competitions, including light wool, medium wool, heavy wool, silky and suri.

“That’s how they are judged in halter classes. Instead of by breed, it’s by wool type,” Becci says. “It takes several years to train the llamas for advanced competitions. We specialize in performance courses that include obstacles, public relations and a pack course where the llama demonstrates its agility while wearing a weighted pack.”

The Kunkels participate in llama competitions across the country and assist 4-H members with in-state youth competitions.

Each year, about 40 to 50 youth participate in 4-H llama demonstrations in Allen County alone. The numbers statewide are “huge,” they say. Open llama shows can draw more than 400 llama competitors with participants from coast to coast.

“Llamas are pretty easy to take care of. They are herd animals and prefer being in groups of two or three,” Becci says. “They are becoming really popular in 4-H, and many clubs across the state have llama programs.”

While the Kunkels previously helped operate their family’s Adams County dairy, today they breed llamas, raise beef cattle and grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. The duo leases llamas to 4-H members for the show season, and accompanies members to county fairs and the Indiana State Fair. Becci is also a leader with the Allen County llama Lovers Club.

If you are interested in participating in your local 4-H llama competition, contact your local county extension office.

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