The Most Beautiful Alpaca in the World

The Most Beautiful Alpaca in the World


Warnings: This blog post deals with thematic elements including, but in no way limited to, alpacas, sex, nuns and the awkward feelings that result when all three are combined. 


This is the story of two alpacas.  It’s an old story, but a good story.  You might have heard it before.  Or at the very least, it should sound familiar.  It’s got all of the proper elements of a compelling narrative.  There’s a beautiful heroine that wants something but another something stands in her way.  There’s a love interest.  There’s a love triangle.  There’s a mentor and a journey.  There’s rejection and absolution.  Will there be a happy ending?  You have to keep reading to find out because that’s what makes it a story.  

I first met Dulzura in 2005-2006 where she lived at White Violet Farms, a USDA certified organic farm operated as a ministry by the Sisters of Divine Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.  When I made the decision to go forward with raising alpacas,  I felt that the most important thing was first finding a good mentor and only then find the alpacas.  I’ve never once doubted that decision.  Good mentors are important to the story.  Ask Luke Skywalker.  Having found my Obi Wan Kenobi, I then narrowed down my selection to two bred females who would be the foundation of my herd.  

On the surface, they shared many qualities: both were strong in character and will.  Both were experienced mothers. Both were healthy and passed those qualities on to their offspring.  Both had buttery soft fleece.  Both had impressive lineage with known individuals in their pedigree.  Both produced beautiful babies.  

Both lived up to their names.  Sapphire (okay, while not ‘technically’ blue, you got me) was a stunning gem who would draw your eye immediately with her sparkle.  Dulzura, as translated quite accurately from Spanish, was sweetness, tenderness, and gentleness.  Most of the time.  

They were similar.  And yet, so very different. 

Sapphire was a show champion with many large and impressive ribbons from large and impressive shows.  Dulzura was never shown.  Sapphire was originally from a large farm.  Dulzura was originally from a small farm. 

Sapphire’s fleece was a true black, in color.  Not necessarily rare, but hard to come by at that quality.  Dulzura was a very common brown.  Sapphire wasn’t exactly hateful towards me, exactly, but she didn’t make it easy.  I mean it.  She didn’t make anything easy.  And she always seemed angry.  I know some of it was her markings that just gave her perpetually angry eyebrows, but with Sapphire I always felt judged.  Like I was stepping on her lawn or not measuring up to her expectations. 

Dulzura was pure sweetness.  Again, most of the time.  When she was very very pregnant, you would really really know it. But otherwise, at least to me, she was sweet and calm and had eyes that reminded me of a gentle jersey cow.  She’d bat her eyelashes and I’d just melt.  While Sapphire waggled her judgy brows.  Grumpy girl. 

Sapphire was beautiful in every way that anyone could intuitively understand.  She was just the kind of animal that you didn’t need to know anything about alpaca characteristics to look at her and whistle and say “that is a fine looking animal.”  Dulzura was plain and ordinary with a face that was vaguely coarse and semi horse-like.  

And yet she was the most beautiful alpaca in the world. 

I felt a connection to her immediately.  Maybe it was just the fact that I could get closer to her than I could to Sapphire.  Early on, I would come up with all sorts of reasons why I felt more bonded to her than to Sapphire.  She was calmer and could be easily caught and managed on herd health days.  I could catch and manage Sapphire too, but she made me work for it. She was extra.  All the time.  Her and her judgy face.  

I loved them both dearly and I continued to learn and to study and immerse myself into their world.  They both gave birth to healthy beautiful crias.  Sapphire birthed Juliet, a stunning true black female just like her mom.  Dulzura birthed Bruton (aka Big Baby Burton), a common and non-descript bouncing baby boy with his mama’s beautiful eyes, slightly horsey-face, and plain brown wrapper. 


That first year with two babies on the ground, I did it all.  I dipped umbilical cords.  I weighed babies every day to make sure they were getting enough milk.  I kept logs and records and really thought that I was contributing even when I really wasn’t.  That was the whole reason that I chose these two veteran mothers so that they could teach me.  And they did.  I really felt like I was getting a handle on this whole alpaca-farming thing. 

And then it came time for the girls to be re-bred. 

You must know that I’m not completely naive.  I once worked at a horse farm (which I still consider the best five years of my life) where I attended breedings.  I passed high school health class and the requirements for graduation in the State of Illinois.  I’ve had several litters of puppies.  I raise chickens.  Don’t even get me started on what I’ve experienced with the ducks.  Dear God in heaven, it’s the stuff of nightmares.  

There’s knowing how something works and then there’s the actual implementation of the thing and some of the things that you don’t consider when something seems like a great idea at the time.  Believe me, I have a lot of hair-brained ideas that often result in my saying something like “oh yeah…I guess that would happen.”  

We’ll get back to that in a second.  Humor me while we go back and talk about my mentor farm.  My mentor, Sr. Paul Bernadette (affectionally known as Sr. PB) brought their famed herdsire Providence Rennes.  Rennes was everything that I wanted as a sire for my foundation herd.  He had already sired my Jake and I wanted more of him.  His temperament and manners were impeccable and his fiber was even better.   

When Sr. PB unloaded Rennes from the trailer, I swear my heart stopped.  He was even more beautiful since the last time that I had seen him and I couldn’t wait to get started.  

As Sr. PB walked him down the lane towards the entrance to the girls paddock, he started clucking to them in anticipation.  They responded with equal excitement to the point of fighting each other to be the first to meet Rennes at the gate.  They pushed each other back and forth as they tested each other, looking for an advantage.  The energy was not unlike what you would see on old footage of Beatles concerts.  Rennes was the rock star and he had screaming fans vying for his attention. 

Sapphire won the first round.  It wasn’t a coin toss, but she was closer so that’s what we went with. 

Round one began with the realization that I had not yet truly prepared for the reality of this moment.  I knew what it was going to entail.  And I knew that Sr. PB would be the one bringing Rennes.  But I didn’t quite put the whole picture together that two specific events would be happening simultaneously. 

I would be standing next to a nun.  

Watching two animals have sex. 

Loud sex. 

Yes, that part matters.  Because you see while Rennes was dutifully doing his job, he did not do his job quietly.  And Sapphire responded quite loudly in return.   And I just stood there very quietly because, really, what do you even say while standing next to a nun watching two alpacas loudly have sex? 

And as I soon learned, this was not a quickie five minute boom-bam-done kind of operation.  Nooooooooo, sir.  Alpaca breeding takes time.  Lots of it.  Twenty to thirty minutes of it. 


Twenty to thirty minutes of trying to fill the awkward silence by coming up with conversational topics like “so ummmm” and “I hear it’s going to rain tomorrow”.  “Yup, it’s a nice day alright.” 

For the record, Sr. PB was a true professional. I’m the one who made it weird.  And you can just stop laughing now because I doubt you would have handled it much better.  Maybe you would.  I don’t know.  For all I know there are workshops you can take on how to deal with standing next to nuns while supervising breedings.  


After giving Rennes a short rest, Sister PB and I prepared for round 2.  Dulzura had been un-patiently waiting for her turn. 

And yet, suddenly Rennes didn’t seem to care.  Oh, he was a serious boy with a very strong work ethic so he did his job.  But it was truly as if he clocked in and then mentally checked out. 

Where he talked so lovingly and adoringly to Sapphire as he nuzzled and caressed and told (yelled) all of the secrets in the world.  But Dulzura was just a task.  A checkmark to be completed.  Much like when I add “eat lunch” to my to-do list just for the sheer joy of checking off a box.  

Dulzura was the checked box.  A job. A duty.  

I no longer felt awkward.  Standing there.  Next to a nun.  Watching two alpacas having sex.  Loud alpaca sex.

I felt immensely sad. 

My heart hurt for Dulzura.  I wondered if she felt the lack of care and attention.  A part of me hopes not.  Because even though Rennes was physically present for her, he really wasn’t.  Even as Dulzura talked to him and showered him with affection, she received no reciprocity.  I hope that she was spared from that pain of knowing that she wasn’t as special as Sapphire.  As beautiful as Sapphire. 

I knew that she had been snubbed, but did she?

Was it because she didn’t fit the classical beauty standards of the alpaca?  Do alpacas even have classical beauty standards or was there something else happening?  It just didn’t seem fair and I wanted to prove Dulzura’s worth to the world. 

Dulzura was just such an incredible animal and it hurts me to this day that she doesn’t get the credit that she deserved.   The world will always gravitate to the Sapphires of the world, while leaving the Dulzura’s behind.  

It is entirely possible that by now you are starting to get clued into the fact that we really haven’t been talking about Dulzura this whole time. 

See? I knew it and that’s why I like you. You’re smart. 

Maybe even smarter than me because you’re picking up on this a lot sooner than I did. 


Why are you even writing this, Leslie?

There you go again, asking the really hard and important questions. 

I so flippantly want to say ‘I don’t know’.  And just leave it at that.  But I can’t.  As much as I want to and my inner self is screaming at me to shut up and hide in my closet, I can’t.  But I want to.  

Oh, how I want to. 

If you’ve read my previous writings, you may already be suspecting that this has nothing to do with Dulzura and you are very right.  

I’ve been on a healing journey for the past 6 months and I’m so very thankful of the progress that I’ve made.  My story is still being written and I have hope for a healthy and prosperous future.  It’s a good story.  It has a heroine and something she wants but something is standing in the way.  There are challenges and mentors.  There’s no love interest, still, but maybe this will finally be the year.  Doubtful, but maybe.  But to finish writing that story, there are underlying emotions that also have to be addressed.  We’re not separate from our bodies.  It’s all connected the emotional affects the physical affects the mental and back to the beginning of the cycle you go. 

I wasn’t quite prepared for how deep those emotions ran.  Truly, I knew they were deep for I am the one that buried them.  And then ignored them.  And then stuffed them in a box and kicked the box under the bed and then put more boxes in front so that they couldn’t be seen for decades. 

What surprised me the most was that they didn’t just stay there where I put them.  Those emotions developed runners and spread like a miasma, infiltrating every secret and hidden part of me.  

These feelings have suddenly come alive with remarkable speed and power.  The box that I had so neatly used to contain them for over 40 years was no longer adequate to hold captive this angry and vengeful beast.  For every tentacle that I shoved back, another popped out to overwhelm me.  

It’s been a long month, physically and emotionally and I’m very nearly wrecked.  

But I’m reminded that God uses the wrecked, the lonely, and rejected. 

He also uses roosters and alpacas.  



That was the feeling which first prompted the memory of Dulzura and the flood of other memories that swiftly followed. 

I remember that day hoping that Dulzura didn’t understand that she was rejected.  I truly don’t think she did.  I think she was happy and living her best little alpaca life as Barry White music played in the background of her little mental soundtrack, whilst I cringed and whistled and tried my best to not think about the fact that I was standing next to a nun watching two alpacas go at it. 

For alpacas, true rejection—that act of being forcibly separated from their herd mates, by their herd mates— truly is a traumatic event.  It is the separation of self from safety, their one true source of comfort, and stability.  A lonely alpaca endures a horrible existence divorced from their identity.   While it is true that Dulzura was not rejected from the herd, she was ignored. 

Which I wonder if that isn’t just as bad?  Maybe not for alpacas, but I felt it for her.  

I’ve been feeling it lately, as old memories continue to wash over me.  Sometimes they sneak up on me suddenly and without warning.  Horrible little creatures, they are. 

There I am minding my own business, trying to be moderately productive, and the next instant, I’m fully remembering the trip to The Museum of Science and Industry back in nineteen eighty something. 

It was pretty standard as youth group trips often are.  I couldn’t tell you much about that trip or the exhibits of the museum.  But I remember the foyer where we all gathered for instructions of where to meet up and when.  I remember it being hard to pay attention because it was all just so exciting with the noises and the activity and the promise of exploration and adventure.  Then it was time for prayer and we respectfully bowed our heads. 

In the two microseconds that it took to end the prayer, say “Amen”,  and raise my head, all of the other girls were just…gone.  And I was alone, left standing with the chaperones and the boys who quickly made their way off to explore.  

And I’m not sure, but I think I left a part of my soul in Chicago that day, just hoping that maybe it was an accident and not a coordinated effort with all the hallmarks of a surgical military operation to ditch me.  That maybe, just maybe, they would realize that they accidentally forgot me and circle back around to gather me up so that we could enjoy the day. 

I wasn’t rejected in the classical sense that day.  At least, I wasn’t actively kicked out of the herd.   No one said a word.  But that’s just it, no one said a word.  Being ignored, is maybe, in a way, a bit worse.  Being ignored means that you didn’t even rate the effort of being fully rejected.  

It wasn’t the last time that Dulzura would be rejected but each instance only made me love her all the more fiercely.  

I once shipped the co-op one of her fleeces and they had the unmitigated temerity to send it back to me.  How dare they.  I was personally offended on Dulzura’s behalf because I knew that their metrics did not accurately reflect her fiber or her fiber’s value.  Oh, I get why they did it.  I do.  But let me tell you that they were wrong.  I don’t care that their micron count measured over 30.  And I don’t care that most wool and animal fibers that measure over 30 microns tend to be itchy and scratchy.  They try and label them positively as “strong” fibers, and that I normally agree that this is a good move because that strength is good and makes for hard-wearing and rugged products like rugs and socks.   

But their metrics didn’t accurately value her uniqueness and quality.  They didn’t account for the consistency of her blanket.  And the fact that because her blanket was so consistent that your fingers didn’t feel the difference between the highest micron fiber and the lowest and that the contrast between those two numbers, that deviation, is what usually makes stronger fibers feel rough or itchy.  Her fleece felt to your hand as buttery soft as a younger animals.  You could squish it right up close to your face and just melt into it.  I know that her fiber had value and worth.  And I knew that they weren’t rating her right.  They devalued her and I hated them for it.  

Just as with us people, the world of alpacas has a different set of beauty standards.  Some, like Sapphire, are those classical beauty types.  Others like Dulzura aren’t.   And likely never will be.  Because just like a faceless micrometer can’t accurately measure how an individual fleece feels to a human hand, we are likewise equally as ill-equipped to measure  our own worth and often the worth of others.  

The standards are increasingly unattainable.  Whereas beauty and youth used to be a symbolic placeholder for health, it has transformed into something else.  Something artificial and air-brushed.  Like the micrometer that rejects perfectly wonderful and useful fleeces, so has an industry rejected health and vibrance for poor photo-edited imitations.  

But at least Sapphire would never have to know about any of that because by all that anyone would agree, she was beautiful and that she was beautiful could not be argued.  I have her ginormous show ribbons to prove it.  She has been independently verified to be worthy.  To be beautiful.  To be valued.  

But who else would agree that Dulzura was also beautiful?  Dulzura in her plain brown wrapper.  Dulzura who would not draw passersby to stop their cars and sit and stare before slowly  driving past once more.  Dulzura, whose fleece was rejected by the co-op and whose loving adorations were rejected by Rennes.  Dulzura who would mother anything that moved and would bravely challenge anything that dared to harm anything that she mothered. 

Dulzura who was so severely loved and beloved by me, if no one else.  

Was there anyone else who would look at her and see the most beautiful alpaca in the world?

I really want this.  No, I need this, for my own sake.  

A part of me wonders if God felt something similar when Samuel almost passed over David in favor of a bigger, more handsome, more kingly candidate, until God had to remind him “Do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Or did He feel something similar when He allowed Leah, the unloved older sister, to have children whereas Rachel, the beautiful and therefore loved sister did not?

Was God hurt?  Angry?  Disappointed?  It seems that God was moved.  Moved enough to correct Samuel to bestow kingship upon David and bless Leah with children.  

Did it hurt Him as much as it hurt me to take that phone call my Freshman year, when the friends of the football coach’s son called me to tell me that he liked me, but they couldn’t make it all the way through before they cracked up laughing and hung up the phone?  

Does it disappoint Him to watch construction workers catcall beautiful women as they pass by?  To see his wonderful handiwork vulgarized?  Does it also anger him when the catcalling stops when I trail behind and they slap each other on the back and tell each other to get back to work?

Was He angered two years ago in Baltimore, where I spent a few days on a work trip and had the occasion to watch a young man cross an extremely busy multi-lane street for the sole reason of telling me “you are one ugly b****”.  Then he crossed back and went about his day, leaving me to think about that moment over and over again years after he disappeared from sight.   

Do I anger Him when I think about these things because I am using the very same standards of measure?  That I’m giving so much of my self worth and validation to these strangers and not to Him?

Am I any better?  Probably not.  I think that frightens me too.  

I don’t know that I have answers to any of these questions yet, but I’m searching.  There’s certainly a lifetime of memories to filter and analyze and file away according to their sparkification of joy.  It’s definitely going to take a while, but I guess I’ve got the time. I guess I’ve got to make the time.  The way that I’ve been dealing with it clearly has not served me well, so I suppose that a fresh start could just be the thing.

Dulzura could not be measured by conventional means, but she was immeasurably valuable nonetheless.  She was absolutely priceless.  As a mother, a matriarch, a teacher. 

I still think about her on peaceful nights.  The nights that are not filled with the screams of fighting alpacas as so often happened those first five years.  I miss those screams. Those looks of haughty anger shared between those two.  Screams that I’ve always roughly translated in my head as “I HATE YOUR FACE”  “I HATE YOUR FACE MORE”  I miss getting caught in between their late pregnancy spit fights.  Okay, I don’t miss that…

But I miss it when I think about the phone call that I had to make to Dr. Rodawold when Dulzura could no longer stand and 3 days of fighting to help her proved to be fruitless.  I think about that morning when I went to check on her before work and that spark, that sense of purpose to mother anything that moved was no longer shining in her eyes and she just looked so very tired.  And I felt punched in the stomach because this was finally it.  

God bless Dr. Rodawold, who somehow managed to pick out the words “alpaca” “old” “put down” and was able to put two and two together to interpret my hysterical phone call. 

He was so gentle with her as he told her in soothing tones and she nuzzled his face, mothering him even with her last few breaths, “you’re an old alpaca, but a good alpaca”.  Over and over.   And she was.  She really, really, was. 

My Dulzura.  The most beautiful alpaca in the world.  An old alpaca, but a good alpaca. 

So what is my legacy?  How do all of these painful memories benefit me?  Other than giving my body a good hard spring cleaning and purging myself of the pain, emotional stagnation, and misery that I’ve been hoarding for decades. The offloading of thoughts that do not serve me.  The formation of new ones that do.  Thoughts that support physical and emotional healing resulting in life lived freely and without abandon.  

Well, I suppose that’s a lot of it.  It’s time to Marie Kondo my life.  Throw the emotional clutter on my bed and pick up each memory and ask myself if it sparks joy.  If it does, keep it.  If it doesn’t, I’m going to deal with it properly once and for all. 

So in that regard, I suppose that Dulzura’s legacy is mine.  Or it can be.  She did not focus on the rejection, only in living her best alpaca life.  An old alpaca but a good alpaca.  An alpaca who lived a good story and knew who she was.  

Dulzura was sweetness and gentleness.   She was devotion and ferocity, in equal measure. 

She was matriarch and teacher.  Daughter, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother.  She was half of my foundation, the bedrock of my herd.  Her influence continues even years after her passing and will continue on for generations more in her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

She was the most beautiful alpaca in the world. 

Who am I?  I’m still working on it but allow me to introduce myself:

I am Leslie. 

I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt. I am a friend and a listener.  I am a rule challenger and a rule follower.  I am a contradiction.  I am a contrarian.  I love to make complicated things simple and simple things complicated. 

I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I am enough (2 Corinthians 3:5)

I am hopeful (Jeremiah 29:11)

I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)

I am not rejected, but accepted (Romans 15:7)

I am not alone (Isaiah 41:10)

I am beautiful.  

And so are you. 

You were not rejected. Like Dulzura’s fiber, you were measured with the wrong tool.  An industrial-era yardstick that cannot possibly replace the hand of a master artist who knows your purpose and your promise and the masterpiece that He has envisioned for your life. 

Now tell me…who are you?

Why I Raise Alpacas

Why I Raise Alpacas

When I first started writing this post, it was still -10 degrees outside. So naturally, this is the perfect motivation for asking myself why on earth DO I raise alpacas? 

Why on earth am I putting myself through this?!  

 This is as much of a reminder to myself as it is education for you, my friend! 

If you ask 100 alpaca farmers why they got into alpacas, I guarantee that you will get 120 different responses and each of them will be completely valid.  

When striving for a goal, it is important–whether you are considering bringing alpacas onto your farm or you are looking to go back to school–to follow Simon Sinek’s advice and “know your why”.

Know Your Why

My why goes all the way back to childhood.  Simply put, I was always going to raise something.  There was never any doubt about that.  If you would have asked 5 year old Leslie what that something would have been she would have said “horsies”.  And guess what?  Forty-something year old Leslie still wants horsies.  Really bad.

But forty-something Leslie has just a little more wisdom and restraint than five year old Leslie.  And forty-something Leslie has also learned to research.

The Importance of Research

Now that we’ve brought up the subject of research, let’s take a closer look at what drew me to alpacas.  In short, I had a list of needs and wants and I was looking for an animal to bring to my farm that would be a good fit for experience level and my property. 

I can’t stress the importance of this.  You must research your prospective animal partner.  It is unfair to expect an animal to mold to your situation.  Some are quite adept, and that’s great.  But more often than not, it’s a recipe for heartache. 

For example, if you’re looking for a canine partner to take on a long run, do not get a heavy-boned, short-faced, bulldog and expect it to be able to keep up. It’s not fair to the dog and, frankly, you’ll get really tired carrying it for 4.5 out of 5 miles.  Unless running with a 40 pound weight is your thing, then by all means go for it and enjoy every mile!

Many of these animals have been bred for thousands of years to fulfil a niche.  That genetic history is already there and it is a very powerful tool.  A good fit not only makes the farmer’s life easier, but your animals’ lives more stress-free.  Just as it is not fair to expect a dog selectively bred to strictly be a lap companion to fulfill a role that they are not physically or mentally equipped for, it is also not fair to throw a livestock species into a situation in where it cannot thrive.  They don’t get to choose where they live, so you must choose wisely for them.  I could rant further, but that will have to be a separate blog post. 

Let me explain this a little better. If you decided that you want to raise sheep. Well, there are scores of sheep breeds. All bred for specific purposes, functions, or even to thrive in a particular climate. If you live in an a very humid environment, you might want to look for sheep breeds that thrive in such an environment. It’s your choice, certainly, but working with nature rather than against it just tends to cost less time and effort in the long run. Anything else is an uphill battle.

So back to not expecting an animal to fulfill a physical, geographical, or emotional need that they are not suited to fulfil…

I wanted to make sure that any animal that I brought on to my farm, would fit the farm in order to be fair to the animal. And I’m not going to lie, I also love efficiency like nobody’s business. So if I had to expend 10x the effort to make something work, that’s a pretty big red flag that it’s just not worth the effort. Knowing myself and what I was willing to do, or not do, I came up with a list of non-negotiables.

My List of Needs

  • Easy on the land (doesn’t tear up pasture)
  • Can thrive on smaller acreage (I only have 7)
  • Low maintenance 
  • Economical to feed
  • Can safely keep breeding males without the fear of maiming, injury, or death*.  No, really.
  • In addition to breeding male safety, I also want them to not be disgusting (sorry, goats). 
  • Can produce a sustainable product that generates profit
  • Can be taken care of safely by my 70 year old mother in my absence. 
  • A generally healthy animal that does not need chemical intervention in order to survive. 

When I look at each of these items, the alpaca checks off each and every requirement compared to most other livestock species. 

This in no way denigrates the other livestock species.  Remember, this is about my specific situation at a specific point in time 15 years ago.  Yours will be different and that’s a beautiful thing. 

For that matter, my list would also be different if I were to start all over again.  Alas, that is also another blog post!

Okay, perfect.  Alpacas appear to be awesome on the surface and they appear to meet MY needs.  But the next thing that I had to research was if I could meet THEIRS.  

Here is what the alpacas need from me

  • Adequate shelter from the elements –
    • Whether or not they choose to use it, they have to have the option.  A simple 3-sided shelter is perfectly adequate.  You do not need a fancy barn. 
  • Alpacas must have alpaca buddies.  A herd of three alpacas is the minimum with very few exceptions.  So few that we won’t even bother to list them.  Do not get a single alpaca and expect it to live happily. 
  • Fresh water available at all times
  • Suitable hay according to their age, sex, breeding/nursing status.  
    • A soft grass hay is good for most herds, most of the time
    • Nursing mothers benefit from alfalfa
    • Don’t feed alfalfa to males
    • Don’t be surprised if you need to carry more than one hay type to suit all the above
  • Proper fencing with the goal to keep predators OUT and not so much the alpacas IN
  • Males housed separately from females
    • I don’t care if they’re gelded. They still don’t belong with females.  
  • Their fleece MUST be sheared once a year before it gets too hot
  • A loose mineral mix available free choice year round
  • Be prepared to put a coat on a young, old, or skinny animal in extreme cold.  If it shivers, it needs a cover.  If it is not shivering, leave it alone. 

Is this an all-inclusive list?  Absolutely not.  But this will get you a foundation of knowledge on which to build your research.  After all, I’m depending on you to research-research-research.  

abigail the alpaca and friends

My goal is to do one of two things

  1. Help you realize that alpacas are a lovely and viable addition to a small farm operation. 
  2. Help you realize that alpacas are not a fit for you. At least not now.

There is no shame to either of these options.  If number two applies to you, then I am proud of you for realizing this early on.  

Some additional considerations

  •  Alpacas are incredibly cute and yet they are still livestock. 
  • They still need to be cared for 1-2x per day
  • Even in blizzards
  • Especially in blizzards
  • They make horrible pets***

I am now about ready to wrap up this overly wordy post.  In the time that it’s taken to write this, it has finally warmed up to a balmy zero degrees.  It only took eight hours to get there.

I’ve made no less than eight trips outside to break water for the chickens and to collect eggs before they freeze.  I pulled a sled full of hay to the boys.  And, I have once again affirmed to myself that alpacas are pretty awesome and totally worth the effort whether it is -20 or 120 degrees outside.

I’ll be perfectly honest in telling you that my ultra warm alpaca hat and socks do a great deal to convince me of the amazingness of alpacas – even when, especially when, I’m taking care of them in subzero weather. 

Now, I just need to convince myself about the chickens. 

Oh, I’m just kidding. 


But, I’m also a little bit serious. 

Then again, the eggs ARE amazing. 

Alright, shut up Leslie. 

After a long spell (THREE YEARS, LESLIE) of not having a clue of what to write, this one single post has generated a lot of need for follow up.  I guess I’m going to be busy this year!

Talk to you again soon!

*I never fully trust my males.  This is my personal rule when dealing with all forms of livestock.  At the end of the day, my safety is still my responsibility.  Sorry boys, I love you all, but you are still ruled by your hormones and I never know when they’re going to kick in.  And because I never know when they’re going to kick in, I am always prepared for it at the least opportune moment.  

***This topic really requires a full post fully explaining what I define as a “pet”.  Let me summarize this quickly:  Alpacas make horrible pets as-in “look at my alpaca who lives all alone in my backyard and I am doing my level best to turn it into a dog, isn’t it great?!”

Contrast this with: alpacas make decent pets as-in “look at my five alpacas who I keep according to good livestock management practices and who I like to spend time watching in my pastures, but I’m not forcing them to do anything against their nature.  I also don’t expect anything from them economically except for my own pleasure from watching them. Aren’t they great?!”  If this is your idea of a “pet” situation, then I agree – alpacas make great pets!

esteban the alpaca
Welcome to the Journey

Welcome to the Journey

Hello world!

Thank you for finding your way over here to this small piece of the interwebs.

There is a lot of pressure in crafting the perfect first blog post.

A lot of pressure.

However since I don’t know that there is such a thing as a perfect blog post, then I suppose I will be happy just to have a first post at all.

I will resist the temptation to divulge too much right here and now.

Slow and steady, my friends.

There is a long road ahead of us on this journey and there is no race to the finish.

Instead, let’s just enjoy every step of the way.

Picking the dandelions as we go.

Feel free to bring a friend…