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.
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.
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
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.
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.