Alpacas are quiet, gentle and curious animals, slightly smaller than their camelid cousin, the llama. Indigenous to the Andes of South America, these herd animals graze on pasture grass or browse blackberry bushes and low tree limbs. Fleece colors range from white and light fawn to brown, mahogany, rose gray, silver, and black, and many shades in between.
Having never owned lifestock before, we carefully considered the implications of getting involved in the alpaca business. We looked beyond the doe-eyes and the cute babies to the business model and the daily tasks, and agreed that the 'alpaca lifestyle' appealed to us on multiple levels.
Our two-year search for farm property resulted in an accessible and beautiful location in Eugene, Oregon, just 35 miles from Mike's birthplace of Oakridge. We knew within 10 minutes of walking onto the property that this was the farm we were looking for. We readied the 1890s-era barn and pens, and after agisting (boarding) our alpacas for three years at two mentor farms, we transported them to their new home. See continuing photos and notes on our FaceBook page.
We enjoy hosting families, school groups, senior residents, foreign students, and other visitors who come to enjoy our "living postcard." Journalism students often make arrangements to fulfill a class assignment ~ this brief video is one example. About halfway through it you'll hear the girls alerting at the 'scary' cows in the neighbor's pasture. As prey animals, alpacas are very wary of new things in their surroundings.
Alpacas are fleece animals — that is the harvest of our farming business. Aragon Alpacas began breeding toward fineness of dark-colored fleece, but for hand-spinning, we recognize that light colors are very dyeable and desirable, too. And Nature has a way of surprising us!
Shearing Day each April is our Harvest Day, producing a bounty of fleece for processing and for sale to fiber artists. Fleeces are skirted for shows or sorted for spinning. Raw fiber is a cost-effective for hand-spinners who can process it themselves. Otherwise, the fleeces are sent to a mini-mill for machine-processing into roving, batts, or yarn. Small mills are often are often located on alpaca farms, so the fiber is in skilled hands. There are also a few fiber co-ops in North America to promote this home-grown resource.
A Spin-Off (a competition offered by regional alpaca associations) is a simple and easy way to get an expert spinner's objective evaluation of our fleeces, measuring the succes of our breeding progam and herd management. We are proud of the acclaim our fleeces have earned in recent Spin-Offs.
"Agisting" is an Olde English term for "boarding." Here at Aragon Alpacas we have a few agisting clients ~ folks who do not live on a farm but want to own alpacas. Their animals are included in our herd and are treated with the same daily care for a minimal monthly fee. That is how we began our alpaca adventure while still living in a neighborhood.
The alpaca industry is so new in the United States that owners and veterinarians are continually learning and sharing information in our literal grass-roots network. The sole purpose of groups such as the North West Camelid Foundation is to fund research for these unique animals.
Alpacas were declared "livestock" by the U.S. government in 2008, further enhancing their asset value. Come visit us if you are near Eugene, Oregon. Or search online to find farms in your area and go meet alpacas for yourself.