Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year-Now Entering Year 4

We have successfully been in alpacas now for 3 years. We started our adventure fall of 2006 and really entered our fourth year in the alpaca industry a few months ago. So much has happened in the last 3 years. We have had 6 cria born and have 6 more due in the next year. We have sold 5 alpacas. We have gone through approximately 350 bales of hay. Our herd has grown from 2 to 13. We have visited 25 different alpaca farms, some of them many many times. And we have met some amazing people along the way. As we enter our fourth year, we look back at the many milestones in our alpaca adventure.

2004
  • Saw my first "I Love Alpacas" commercial on tv and was intrigued
  • Focused on Latin America in my cultural anthropology studies at the University of Michigan and learned about the Quechua people and their alpacas
  • Began a little research into the alpaca industry
  • Got a lot of teasing from my family and Noah who was my boyfriend at the time when I told them I wanted to be an alpaca farmer
2006
  • Noah and I began seriously researching the alpaca industry
  • Visited our first alpaca farm--Circle R Alpacas in Caledonia for an open house
  • Bought our first two alpacas, Big Willows Lady Liberty who was bred for a 2007 cria and NL Snowflake who was 6 months old. Because we were newly married and lived in an apartment in Rockford, we boarded them at a local farm.
  • Started learning what it means to be an alpaca farmer with guidance and mentoring from other farms
  • Found an amazing large animal vet who is experienced in alpacas
  • Set up farm goals and anticipated selling alpacas in 2010
  • Continued to visit other farms
2007
  • Formed out breeding goals for our breeding program
  • Bought our first grey alpaca Cinderella DHF
  • Helped shear at several other alpaca farms
  • Put up fences and moved the alpacas to my Aunt and Uncle's house in Grant, MI
  • Bought our first herdsire NL Smokey
  • Became AOBA (Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association) members
  • Created websites for our farm
  • Created binders for everything alpaca related (those of you who know me know what an organizational nut I am)
  • Had our first cria Ashton Stones Appalachia born and learned the art of bottle feeding and dealing with mastitis for the very first time
  • Attended our first alpaca shows to network and show (Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show and Fiber Fair, Michigan International Alpaca Fest, and LlamaFest)--brought home our first ribbons (we were pretty proud of 3rd and 5th place).
  • Learned what it means to be an alpaca farmer first hand including how to vaccinate, breed, clean poo, etc
  • Started to learn what good fiber characteristics look like
  • Attended a Neonatal clinic taught by Cheryl DeWitt (very very informative and helpful)
  • Learned that you can't just breed alpacas once or twice and expect them to hold their pregnancies past 90 days (2 of our 3 girls lost their pregnancies between 30-90 days).
  • Continued to network and visit other alpaca farms
2008
  • Bought a farm house that was built in 1896 on 10.5 acres in Grant, MI
  • Renovated the barns to house alpacas and fenced off several acres
  • Moved our alpacas to our current farm location
  • Had shearing at our farm for the very first time
  • Purchased Big Willows Maree Sol
  • Had hay harvested for our alpacas from our own hay field
  • Had our second cria born, Ashton Stones Jolly Roger
  • Sold our first breeding to Smokey for a Ashford spinning wheel
  • Really got the hang of breeding and behavior testing
  • Really began to understand what good fiber and conformation looks like on an alpaca
  • Started this alpaca blog
  • Continued to network and visit other farms
2009
  • Began boarding and brokering several alpacas for another farm
  • Attended our first hay auction
  • Showed or had our animals shown in shows such as the Indiana Alpaca Invitational, the Midwest Alpaca Fest, and the Michigan Alpaca Breeder's Show (brought home a few ribbons, but no blues or reds)
  • Sold our first alpaca, Ashton Stones Jolly Roger along with 3 of our boarders
  • Had four cria born to our females on our farm--Ashton Stones Peruvian Riphaeus, Ashton Stones Peruvian d'Artagnan, Ashton Stones Jolie Rouge and Ashton Stones Little Miss Rosco (bottle fed our second cria)--still 50/50 for male/female born on our farm
  • Purchased Peruvian Bellesa and Lacey's Silver Sox
  • Had hay for our alpacas harvested off our own field and sold what we didn't need
  • Sold Cinderella DHF
  • Sold some breedings to Smokey
  • Learned to spin fiber into yarn
  • Learned to knit hats, scarves and blankets from alpaca yarn
  • Learned to needle felt alpaca fiber
  • Bought shears and sheared our cria
  • Really got this blog rolling with almost 80 entries for the year!
  • Had our First Annual Alpaca Farm Open House for National Alpaca Farm Days
  • Began attending the Southwest Michigan Alpaca Association Meetings
  • Continued to network and visit farms
  • Watched our hay barn burn to the ground with 200 bales of 2nd cut hay and our chickens inside (there is lots of joy and heartache being a farmer)
  • Joined the MI-ALPACA organization and decided to run for the Board in 2010
So far, we wouldn't trade being alpaca farmers for anything. It has been an amazing journey so far and we look forward to many more alpaca adventures in the coming years. So, what does the future hold for us you ask? Well, here are a few things I would like to accomplish in the next 1-3 years.
  • Rebuild our hay barn
  • One or both of us sit on the MI-ALPACA Board
  • Help organize an alpaca show on the west side of the state
  • Acquire or co-own a stellar herdsire that will take our breeding program to the next level
  • Start bringing home blue and red ribbons as well as some banners from shows
  • Sell a few more alpacas
  • Improve our shearing skills
  • Add a grey and/or appaloosa suri to our herd (I think they are gorgeous)
  • Expand our pastures and build another barn as needed
  • Acquire a tractor
  • Continue improving my fiber spinning and knitting skills
  • Research fiber processing and find a cost effective end product to create from alpaca fiber
  • Network with and visit more alpaca farms
  • Continue the Annual Alpaca Farm Open House
Happy New Year everyone! I have a feeling that 2010 is going to bring some amazing things into our lives and on our farm!

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