When it turns spring, it's time on the Davidson ranch to shear the alpacas.
Pam Davidson for the last 10 years has owned more than a dozen alpacas, an animal native to Chili, Peru and Bolivia, on her farm outside of Chinook.
It's been a great experience, she said, naming them, raising them and selling their fiber to crafters who make gloves, sweaters and hats.
Last year, because of bad weather, the Davidsons could not shear their animals. So they had a good coat on when it came time for Pam, her husband, Jerry, and two helpers to undertake the task this year.
They have to convince, coax or drag the alpacas from the barn to the shearing shed. Depending on the animal, they have varying degrees of success.
The quiet, soft animals are sometimes less than excited when it comes to getting their coats sheared, although, Pam said, they will enjoy the summer more without it.
"This one head-butted me three times," said Jordan Van Voast, a Montana State University-Northern football star and one of Davidsons' helpers. He goes at his task with all the enthusiasm he shows when he takes on Carroll College.
Once inside the shed, Van Voast, D.J. Pasalo and Kristina Lozano hold the alpaca down while Jerry does the shearing. Usually, once the shearing begins, the animals calm down On this day, though, an alpaca named Buster Brown needs a little convincing
Before the shearing begins, Pam checks the teeth, administers the shots and gets the alpacas ready to shear. Despite the few minutes of trauma during shearing, alpacas are easy to handle the rest of the year, Pam said.
Pam said she decided to raise alpacas after having sheep for some time.
"Sheep were so frustrating," she said. Not so with alpacas.
"With these babies, we have no vet bills," she said.
Except for one baby alpaca, who tripped in a gopher hole and broke her pelvis, none have ever had to see the vet.
But since she started in the business a decade ago, the recession has really hurt the business.
Fewer people have been interested in buying the fiber, and few people want to buy the animals.
But a number of steady customers remain.
People like the feel of gloves, hats and coats made from alpaca fiber, she said.
"It is so warm, yet so light," she said.
The Davidsons also have two lamas.
They are just as fun, she said. And they are not as cantankerous when it comes time to shearing.
"They just stand there and let you shear," she said.