Our interest in alpacas began in 2008 when we went to the New England Coastal Classic Show in New Gloucester, Maine, Having bred Irish Setters for many years and attending shows, we thought this might be a fun thing to do on a Saturday. Little did we know how much fun it was going to be!
At this show we were lucky to meet someone who would eventually mentor us through the process. We want to emphasize how important it is to have a mentor. Please do not try to do this on your own. Having someone working with you who has "been there and done that" can save you many wasted hours (and dollars).
We were also fortunate to meet several successful breeders. Not only did we learn much about the animals themselves, but also about the BUSINESS of alpacas. This is very important if you want to make some money along the way.
The next step of our journey was the fun of visiting alpaca farms. We went to several farms in Maine and Ohio. Alpaca people love to talk about alpacas! Plan on at least 3 hours per farm visit. Ask lots of questons and take notes. We learned much about care, feeding and housing.
After all of this, we decided to take the plunge, get out our check book and buy alpacas!
There are at least two schools of thought on the initial purchase of alpacas. One is to start with less expensive animals and through selective, long term breeding, build quality genetic lines. The other is to start on the high end of the gene pool, pay more,and start the initial herd with higher quality animals. We decided on the second option.
The first suri alpacas we bought are from Ohio and are out of Sweetbriar's Crown Royal and SBS Crown Prince . They are beautiful. Great luster and fineness are their traits. We are also drawn to color. The fawns and brown colors of the 16 animals ( 3 "on the way") we own are more than we ever hoped for.
After buying the alpacas and having them moved to an area farm, we agisted them (boarded) during our barn construction.
Barn construction is a personal thing. It is based on your land configuration, size of herd and the obviously the amount you can pay. You do need to do much research as alpaca barns are unique in design compared to that of others ( cow or horse barns for example). Alpaca barns all need certain things regardless of size. They need to have good ventilation, roof extensions ( at least on one side) to provide shade, an area for feed storage,a watering area (we opted for automatic waterers, pricy but worth it) and a separate area for sick or quarantined animals. Also a walk-on scale for regular weighing is important as weight gain or loss can indicate certain health problems.
Alpacas are easy to take care of as long as you provide shade in the summer, a place to get out of the wind in the winter, good hay (preferably orchard grass), plenty of water and a clean place to walk in (no poop).
Now we have a barn and fenced in lush pastures. The fencing includes a 5' no-climb fence and a 6' deer fence. In our area of Gray, Maine we have coyotes and deer so we need extra protection. We opted for a double fence system as our property borders homes that have small children. This prevented us from having an electric fence. It is very important to fence properly! It is a big expense but needs to be done very well.
Well that's where we are at the present time. Check out our pictures to see further progress. There is certainly more to come!! Please e-mail or call with any comments or questions. We love talking ALPACA!
Carol and John Furman