Before she can even open the gate to the pen, Francis Johnson is practically surrounded. It's mealtime and her alpacas know it. In the same family as llamas, the alpacas look like miniature versions of their animal brethren. She pets them"”even with a little mud and plant matter on their coats they're still as soft as cashmere"”and they follow as she heads to the food bin. There's only one of her and nine of them, mother alpacas with their children, sticking their long necks in her way as they try to score a pre-meal munch.

"I should have closed the gate," she laments, meaning the gate that closes off the feed bin. But it's too late for that. She strategically places the bowls so that no hungry alpaca is shut out from their mid-morning breakfast, deliberately placing a bowl on the far side of the fence so that a recuperating mother eats her specially prepared diet and not someone else's. They grunt and moan, sounding not unlike camels, either because they're nervous, or because mothers are trying to call over their babies, or for any other reason. Some of them are bossy, others are shy, but all of them have clear personalities. Johnson even boasts that her farm is home to "the friendliest alpaca in the world," named Trillium.

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