10 Reasons to Raise Alpacas

Why did we start raising alpacas? We fell in love with them, and the alpaca lifestyle! There are soo many more reasons to choose to start an alpaca farm…here’s just ten of them!

1. Love of the Animals

Like I said, we fell in love with the animals! When we visited that first alpaca farm and saw those intriguing looking animals, it was love at first sight! There is a peacefulness about these gentle animals, with their long elegant necks, large eyes, long lashes, and gentle humming. Alpacas continue to transfix us, making them irresistible for those of us who have taken the “taken the plunge.” 

We raise both suris and huacayas!

2. The Love of Luxury Fiber

As I sorted through the crop of fiber after our first shearing, I knew I wanted to learn how to use such luxurious fiber. It is very high quality, super soft, fluffy, lustrous, and silky. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is not prickly and has no lanolin, making alpaca fiber hypoallergenic.

Suri Fiber

The fiber can be sold raw off the animal, carded and spun into yarn, crocheted, knit, or woven into countless products, or felted. The possibilities are endless!

Huacaya Fiber

In both our Online Store and in our Farm Store, you can find anything from raw fiber to finished garments made directly from the fiber of alpacas. Though we do breed and sell the alpacas themselves, today the fiber is my main reason for raising alpacas.

3. The Desire for a Rural Lifestyle

Having alpacas gives us a reason to get outside, be in the outdoors, and enjoy the beauty all around us. Though we live right next to a major highway, there is something much simpler about living on a farm, raising animals, caring for their basic needs because they depend on us to do so, and sometimes getting dirty. It’s a slower pace. I love living with nature all around us, and looking out my window seeing alpacas graze in the pasture just makes it all that more enjoyable. Alpacas are gentle, inquisitive creatures that make us want to take time out to watch and enjoy them.

Our dogs Lizzie and Louie have a lot of courage on the other side of the fence!

4. A Great Family Endeavor

Living on a farm of any kind teaches kids responsibility, and alpacas are good with kids. When visitors come, we suggest they crouch down, so they are more child size because alpacas are less intimidated by children and more apt to approach them. There are tons of ways kids can help to take care of the alpacas, from filling water buckets, to scooping poop, to halter training…there is always a task with which they can help. Giving chores to your children will instill work ethic and responsibility to take into adulthood. Not to mention, they will treasure the bonds they make with the alpacas!

Raising alpacas is great for the kids
My grandson in the middle of things, loving the attention from the alpacas!

If your children participate in 4-H, they can now do alpacas as a 4-H project! When my children were growing up there was not a 4-H group dedicated to alpacas, now it is becoming much more common. The Richland County Fair in Ohio even has an alpaca barn and hosts an alpaca show every year. 4-H is an awesome program for kids to make friends, build leadership skills, learn about the projects they’ve chosen, and participate in the yearly fair. Find out more about Getting Your Children Involved in 4-H.

Alpaca 4h group at the Richland County Fair in Ohio
Richland County 4-H Club

7. Easy to Care For

Compared to other farm animals, alpacas are low maintenance. They are also very adaptable to different kinds of weather and climates. If you have one acre of land, you can comfortably keep six to ten alpacas. Alpacas require regular feeding and easy access to plenty of clean water, as well as adequate shelter from the elements. They spend most of their time grazing in the pasture. Additionally, plan on annual shearing, de-worming, toenail trimming, occasionally teeth trimming, and annual vaccinations.

8. Alpacas Provide Stress Relief

Even though alpacas have some quirky behaviors like spitting when they are unsatisfied, more and more animal lovers are opting to raise them because they are easy to look after, intelligent, and tidy. Time spent with alpacas is stress-relieving — perfect for forgetting about all the troubles of the world!

Suri alpaca at Alpaca Meadows
Not a good look for such a pretty girl!

8. Alpacas are Trainable

Alpacas are perfect animals for training using a halter and leash. Though fearful initially, I’m always amazed how quickly a weanling begins to trust and learn once halter training begins, and how quickly they begin to trust and do what you’re they’re being asked. Alpacas can be taught to maneuver obstacles courses, walk across bridges, over teeter totters, through streamers, and even crawling in and out of mini-vans!

Sisters Amelia and Annalise are out for a walk with me!

9. Alpaca Manure is Great Fertilizer

We absolutely love to use the alpaca poop as fertilizer! In my opinion the smell is not as strong as cow manure and our plants grow like crazy! We take it straight out of the pasture and into the gardens. Free fertilizer is a great perk of alpacas.

Speaking of manure…interestingly enough all alpacas poop in the same place…yes, they have communal dung piles! When it comes to cleaning out the barns or the pasture there are just a few large poop piles where they all do their business. I know, it’s weird, but that’s just their nature and it makes for pretty easy clean-up.

Alpaca Manure for fertilizer
I always treat my flowerbeds to alpaca manure

Alpacas are grazers and they love a nice green pasture. Typically we will let them in one pasture for a few weeks, let them eat it down, and then move them to another pasture to let that one grow back a bit. Rotating pastures also helps with parasite control.

Alpacas in the pasture
The girls enjoying a pretty day and a green pasture

10. The Cutest Babies Ever

One of the greatest joys of raising alpacas is the babies, called crias. Seeing them born is extra special, and watching themrun in the pasture just brings a smile to my face. Females can be bred once a year and have a gestational period of 242-345 days. Working with the animals starting from when they’re crias makes for a great owner/animal relationship and deepens trust…and the babies are sooo cute!

Alpacas are herd animals so if you want one, you’ll need to have two. This is actually a great thing because they don’t really need us. If your animal has at least one companion you don’t need to worry about not having enough time for them or keeping them engaged or entertained. Just get them some buddies and they will be just fine.

Want to know more about alpacas and our farm? Check out our website.

save the planet, wear alpaca!

Training Day

Blue Skies at Alpaca Meadows

What a beautiful Sunday morning in Ohio…started out cloudy after rain during the night…then blue skies, sunshine, and a very pleasant temperature.

Weanlings in Training at Alpaca Meadows

I decided to do some work with our babies this morning before it got too hot.

Aurora at Alpaca Meadows

They are not so much babies anymore, still young though, at nine and ten months old.

Miami and Shining Star

I really don’t like separating moms and babies at weaning time because it is such a sad time for them. Sometimes we have reason to wean them such as moms not keeping their weight on because of a cria that is demanding too much from her.  Sometimes we wean them because they have been sold or are going to a show.  We want to be sure our little ones are eating on their own, gaining weight like they should, and adjusting to life on their own without mom.

Alpacas Bonding

What I do enjoy very much about weaning time, is that these precious, now very needy babies, become  interested in bonding with us!  This is when we begin halter training and through halter training they learn to trust us and to feel safe.  A herd that feels safe and trusts us is so much more enjoyable than one that doesn’t.  Our alpacas are much calmer and I believe, happier, because of how they are handled.  If their stress level is minimal, they also produce a lovelier fleece, and because they are fiber animals this is important!

Alpacas Exploring the Pasture

I am always amazed at how quickly alpacas learn.  I  just take baby steps with them.  The first day I just put on the halter, then off again, then on and off, several times.  The next day they wear the halter while they eat.  On another day I add the lead.  I always work in a small square pen, standing back behind the alpaca allowing them to initiate movement, and leaving an opening ahead of them so they don’t feel trapped.  I add a few more minutes to our training session each day and always have a buddy in the pen so the alpaca in training is not alone.

Alpacas In Pen

They then graduate out of the pen to a small pasture, or narrow runway if there is one available.

Miami With Head Down

I use a very long lead, giving them plenty of distance from me. Miss Miami is very fearful and with head down and feet planted, she refuses to move.  Rather like a stubborn child, wouldn’t you say?

Training Miss Miami

Slightly tugging and then releasing, tug and release, tug and release, tug and release, she learns that what I’m asking her to do isn’t so bad.

Training Miss Miami

Finally, she is able to pick her head up off the ground …

Training Miss Miami

… and stand up!

 

If you ever have a chance to attend a Camelidynamics Clinic, they are very worthwhile and actually make owning alpacas much more fun!  Marty McGee Bennett has been to our farm twice now presenting clinics.  She travels all over the world teaching alpaca owners how to train and handle their alpacas, and she has a sense of humor!  She has written a book called The Camelid Companionthat I highly recommend, and also has a website with lots of helpful information.

Training Miss Miami

Her advice is very practical…it makes sense…and it works!

Aurora and Crassy

I worked with Aurora and Miss Miami this morning, Miami being my biggest challenge.  I could see how fearful she was, understandably so, both she and Aurora lost their mothers in the dog attack on our farm this Spring.  I knew I had my work cut out for me with her.

Aurora and Miami on Double Lead

I decided to take them out of the pasture.  I hooked the two of them together on one lead, which meant they had to figure out how to walk together.

Alpacas Trusting

They were very hesitant in the beginning.  It wasn’t long before they wanted to be right next to me, now trusting that I would keep them safe.

Backyard at Alpaca Meadows

We walked through the backyard…

Path-Through-Field-at-Alpaca-Meadows

…down a path through the field…

Blackberries at Alpaca Meadows

I offered them some blackberries,but neither were at all interested.  They took in the sights and the sounds, but were very much on their guard.

Next to Hay Field

We walked next to the hay field and then through the hay field, stopping to let them eat, but again they had no interest.

Hay Field

Everything was too new, too scarey.

Walk With Alpacas

I suspect that eventually they will indulge in such treats, and then our walks will be like going on a picnic!

Walk With Alpacas

It was a successful outing and I felt like I made progress with these two!

Aurora, Miss Miami, and Julie

I enjoy the training and gaining their trust.  When I feel like they are at ease with the halter and with me, I will put them back in with the rest of the herd and they will reunite with their family and friends, having gained more of a sense of calmness about their world around them.



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