Raising Alpacas in Colorado

By Joann Lucas

After trying my hand at raising cashmere goats and realizing that having to catch them several times in the spring when they were shedding in order to harvest the wool by brushing them (which none of us liked) I decided to go in a different direction. Stella I visited several alpaca breeders to learn more about these gentle, eco-friendly animals. Their fleece is prized for it's warmth and softness, many people who cannot wear sheep's wool can wear alpaca wool. Another plus is that they are shorn once a year, you have a sheerer come in and in less than 10 minutes, the fleece is off, the animal is given their yearly shots and hoofs are trimmed. I found 2 young beauties and brought them home. My girls came with the names of Stiletto and Tiara, Stiletto because she has 4 brown feet on her cream colored legs, giving the impression that she is wearing high heels and Tiara because of her medium brown top-knot tinged with black, looking like a crown. Bella They now go by the names of Stella and Bella. They quickly settled in to life at Gene Acres. My barn cat however was totally freaked out, for several days she would not even come close to the barn, it took several weeks for her to fully adjust. This past spring, the girls were shorn and I got 4 bags of their fiber. They looked so skinny afterwards since the fiber is 4-5 inches long.  I've found the girls love horse treats, when they see me, they will come running in hopes that I have some, Stella will look at me, then at my pocket that usually holds the treats and then back at me, hard to resist those big brown eyes. In the summer they get hot and LOVE being cooled off with water.  They will splash in a kiddie pool and stand over a sprinkler.  Stella's trying to figure out how to get the water to come out of the sprinkler head and will move it around, even dunking it in their water trough. After their kiddie pool sprung a leak Stella would climb in the water trough and lay in that, cooled her off but Bella didn't appreciate the dirty water. They were bred this year, so sometime around July 1, 2012 give or take a week or two we Stella Closeup should have a couple of little ones running around. They are pregnant for 11 to 11 1/2 months.  I had a vet come out to do an ultrasound to make sure they were pregnant, and sure enough we saw the little ones in there. It's hard to determine what color you will end up with, it's not uncommon to breed 2 white alpacas and end up with a dark brown baby, or cria as they are called. Last week I went with a neighbor when she went to buy an alpaca and she ended up with 2 and I came home with another one, they are addictive and you can't have just one or two. Our new one's name is Morticia, she's black with a little white on her face and front legs. She should be pregnant also with her cria due a few months after the others. A super close up of the carder I found a "carder" on craigslist, it's used to process the fiber so you can make felt. Someone with more experience with fiber felting can make rugs, hats, fine scarfs and much more. Right now I am in the learning stage so my felting will consist of making beds for the barn cat. She will appreciate it no matter what it looks like! Gene is trying to get me to make him a nice little alpaca toupe. Maybe next year. Stella & Bella The Carder1