I was incredibly apprehensive about getting alpacas. For all I knew, it was a smaller llama right? (FYI do NOT call an alpaca a llama to someone that is die hard about their alpacas, apparently it is extremely offensive. Pause for eye rolling). Anyway, we went to an alpaca farm where the owner was trying to find good homes for his alpacas before he moved to the east coast. In its heyday, his farm had over 40 alpacas but he was down to about 10. He was showing us five that he thought would be good for us to start with.
When we pulled up to his farm, I was surprised at the lack of fencing he had. He had fencing but in some places it was a single wire about chest high. Apparently, alpacas are extremely respectful of fencing. They don’t push on it, they won’t try and jump over it, and in some cases you could use a string to keep them in if needed. I also noticed how extremely clean everything was. Did you know that alpacas, as a group, designate a single spot as their “potty spot”? As a result, they keep their pens extremely clean.
Once inside, you could tell this guy was extremely passionate about his alpacas. They all were named after different Italian artists and he knew each personality. He entered his alpacas in shows, submitted their fibers (not hair) into competition, and he took them to different 4H groups. Finding these guys a good home was something he was taking very seriously and I needed to make sure he would feel comfortable giving us his highly prized animals.
After looking around his farm for a while, getting to know the alpacas, and asking a thousand questions, INCLUDING how much do they spit and when (they really only spit at each other unless you get in their bubble, they will tell you to back off, ask my mom, she tried to hug one of them), we agreed for him to come to our ranch and see if he thought the place would be suitable for them. He would bring the five boys and if everything checked out, they would stay with us.
A few days went by and it was finally the day that our ranch would be checked over to see if we could house these animals. The boys showed up in their trailer, making little humming noises and looking around curiously. The owner walked around and checked the fencing, feed, housing, etc. and told us this would be perfect! I was WAY more excited than I thought I would be but I felt like I passed a test. He told us that they had never seen goats or miniature donkeys before so that will take some getting used to but they aren’t vicious animals, they just have to figure each other out.
The biggest thing I was concerned about was shearing the alpacas. How do you even find someone to do that? I read and watched videos of horror stories of shearing gone wrong! Luckily, the owner of the alpacas said that they weren’t moving for a couple of months so we could bring them over for “shearing day.” The guys that he uses to shear flies in from New Zealand every year for a few months and shears different animals in the area. That was a relief, the day was set and I was very curious as to how “shearing day” was going to work.
“Shearing day” is an event that takes planning, organization, and a ton of people. 2017 was my first year shearing at our ranch and that event deserves its own blog post, so stay tuned for that story!
Shearing day 2016 was no exception but for the purposes of this story it is how shearing day ended that is important. Everyone was exhausted, dirty, and starving and the alpacas were even funnier looking then they were before! As we were leaving, the owner of the farm came up to us and said, “Look, the guy that was supposed to take those three alpacas [pointing to two white ones and a black one] fell through and he can’t take them anymore. Any way, I can talk you into taking those three as well?” Mark and I just looked at each other and shrugged, “meh what’s three more?”
We loaded all eight of our male alpacas into the trailer and headed home with the back of the truck full of fiber. I didn’t know how at the time, but I knew these boys would become a very intricate part of our ranch.