Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter is supposed to be a slow time on the farm. Not for us, at least not yet. We are getting ready for our New Years Eve event in Fredericksburg, Va. We have participated in the First Night festivities for the last 3 years. Each year the event is larger, better managed and more people come to see the alpacas. 

 On Dec 13, 2012 I presented at the Fredericksburg Sierra Club, telling them about alpacas, how alpacas can be considered a 'green livestock'. Great group of folks.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Alpaca Feed

As with most animals and pets in America, our alpacas are typically 'over conditioned'  (read as FAT) when compared to their South American cousins. It isn't the fault of the alpaca, they are only eating what we, their caretakers give the. The typical forage in S.America is not as rich in protein as the average orchard grass pasture and we, as loving alpaca owners overfeed the 'supplemental' grain as well. Of course we do this out of love for our animals.  A few side effects of 'over-loving' them are dams having difficulty getting pregnant, difficult births, fiber that blows out or increases in micron size and additional stress on the leg joints.
So, what do we do.  We need to ration what we feed our animals, both in the pasture and in the feed bucket. When the spring grass is coming in fast and furious most farmers turn the alpacas out and let them go to town. And go to town they will. Eat, eat, eat.  You now have one, or several fat and happy alpacas as they gorge themselves on high protein grass in addition to the free choice hay and supplemental grain. To maintain healthy animals, we the farmer, must ration their access to pasture and reduce the amount of supplemental feed we provide. Free choice hay at at 11-14 percent protein level is fine, in fact it is better for their digestive systems. Like most ruminants, they were designed to consume poor quality forage and extract the most nutrition from what they eat. Over feeding makes their digestive system lazy and may in fact foster the growth of bad bacteria which may have negative impacts on digestion and their overall health., which then causes medical issues and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
What is the remedy? A simple question deserves a simple answer; Manage your alpacas feed, their access to lush pasture and limit supplemental grains. Rotate alpacas out of pastures daily, only feed supplemental grains to provide additional nutrients - not as a replacement for hay and forage. For farms with small acreage in pasture, a side benefit of managing your alpacas access to pasture is that the grass will last longer as they will not be eating on it continually.
Like People, an alpaca that is at the lower end of their weight scale will be a happier and healthier alpaca. Good luck developing your new pasture management plan.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Promoting Alpaca Fiber

One of the many questions we alpaca farmers get is, "what do you do with alpacas"?  The short answer is, it depends. Depending on what your goals are for raising alpacas will determine the answer. For us, what we do with alpacas is: breed alpacas for resale to new and existing breeders, offer stud (breeding) services, harvest and process the fiber once a year, and of course, stand in the paddock with a glass of wine and watch them pronk through the pasture.
Internationally alpaca fiber is used to make high-end clothing. Here in the U.S. alpacas are still a cottage industry. There are no major producers of alpaca fabric or product for the consumer market. Within the alpaca industry, we are working to change that through an educational awareness campaign called "Fiber to Fashion" amongst students enrolled in design courses. Students apply for the contest and are sponsored by alpaca farms to compete in one of two categories;  Fashion Design and Textile Design. Each student receives a packet containing alpaca yarn, fabric swatches and unprocessed fiber. Students are required to design a clothing line or textile product using alpaca fiber and write a short essay. Students are judged on their story board and design concepts.
For the 2010 Fiber to Fashion contest Maranatha Alpaca Farm sponsored one student who came in eight place in the Fashion Design category. This year, 2010-11 we sponsored 2 students, one of which has been selected as a finalist. Lisa and our daughter Sarah will accompany our student to the awards ceremony in Nashville, TN 17-20 February, 2011. We are excited or her. Once the results are posted, we will be updating our blog to let everyone know.
Educating people about alpaca fiber will help create demand for an American alpaca fiber industry. Having designers who are comfortable designing with and are familiar with the properties of alpaca will ensure the industry is able to support the demand.
Keep an eye out for American made and designed alpaca products, coming to a store near you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Welcome From Maranatha Alpaca Farm

This is our first post to introduce ourselves, Lisa and Perry to everyone.  We are the owners of Maranatha Alpaca Farm, Inc. located in Fredericksburg VA. We bought our first alpaca "Red Maple Polly Anna" or "Polly" in Aug 2007 and brought Polly and her new baby (cria) Rosh home to our farm in Sept 2008, Just in time for the first "National Alpaca Farm Day". This was our inagural farm opening to the public as well.
How time flies. We now have 19 alpacas, a farm store focusing on alpaca fiber products, we offer classes that teach all levels of knitting, crocheting, spinning, felting, and introduction to Fly-Tying, with weaving coming in the future.

As with most alpaca farms, our primary focus is the breeding and sale of alpacas. We are also focused on educating people about alpacas, alpaca fiber and alpaca products. There is so much to learn about alpacas and we never get tired of sharing our love for these unique animals.  We offer educational tours for groups and individual families.

We look forward to discussing the many aspects of alpaca ownership and hope you will find us a valuable resource.

Until Next time,