A little about Mike and Kathryn…
Mike grew up in Fairborn, Ohio and moved to Denver in 1971 with some friends. He loves to golf (although he will tell you he hasn’t gotten to play much the past couple of years) and has a love for people and a gift for gab (along with a great sense of humor). He had no idea when he married Kathryn in 1994 that life would involve so many animals (nor such exotic ones as alpacas)!
Kathryn has loved animals from the time she was a toddler growing up in a small farming community in northeast North Dakota on the edge of the Red River Valley, but she didn’t want to raise farm animals only to slaughter them for a living. In almost every picture taken of her as a youngster, Kathryn was holding a stuffed animal instead of a doll. She used to attend all the horse shows and the North Dakota State Potato Show in her home town of Park River and dreamed of having her own animals to raise and show. In February 2009 she founded the Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue and turned it into a highly successful 501(c)(3) nonprofit, charitable organization. With success like that, why stop there?
A retirement “career”?
Life in the white collar corporate world was getting old after 30+ years. We knew there had to be a better life out there that was closer to nature, less stressful and more relaxed. In this economy, retirement looked too scary and yet continuing to work for someone else was wearing thin, so we started thinking about a retirement career to sustain us. We needed something that would be fun, social, rewarding both personally and financially and would allow us to stay active both physically and mentally. We were introduced to the world of alpaca ranching by some friends who had been researching the industry for a few years.
Raising alpaca leads to a more relaxed lifestyle and slower pace than corporate American can offer, plus we get to work for ourselves. The idea of raising small, friendly, adorable camelids for fiber and the opportunity to shape the relatively young alpaca industry in the United States was appealing to us. It also provides for excellent tax benefits as a business! (Contact a qualified alpaca tax advisor for details.) Agistment arrangements can be made for anyone who doesn’t have their own ranch or farm, so that was not an issue for suburbanites like us. The more we checked into alpacas and chatted with people who have been in the business for years, the more we liked what we heard.
Alpaca are gentle animals who are easy to handle and relatively care free in terms of health and feeding. They weigh 15-20 pounds at birth and grow to be 150-200 pounds as an adult. Feed consists of hay and grain and only a little at that – alpacas eat only 1-2% of their body weight! These herd animals do not need the huge pastures that other livestock do; 8 to 10 alpaca can be kept per acre of land. The total cost of keeping an alpaca is roughly $1200-$1500 annually.
As organic gardeners, we love adding the “beans” (droppings) into our compost to enrich the soil and also making a “bean tea” by soaking the “beans” in water for a few days, then watering the plants with this terrific fertilizer. There are always plenty of “beans” to go around, so they can also be spread across the pasture as immediate fertilizer!
The fiber from the animals is another aspect of the industry that is growing and rather exciting to us. We have phenomenal yarn for sale from our own alpacas and one-of-a-kind scarves from our yarn that are very popular! (Hint: place your order in advance!) We also sell socks, hats, blankets and shawls hand-made in Peru and socks made in the U.S.A. After the annual shearing, fiber is cleaned, washed and prepared for spinning, weaving, or knitting and processed into everything from socks to sweaters to suits. Scarves, gloves, mittons and hats are unbelievably soft and warm. Alpaca fiber does not pill like wool, so they will look like new for many years.
Excellence in breeding leads to excellence in conformation, fiber and luster that in turn leads to winning in the show ring. Our mission is to work with our friends in the suri alpaca network to raise extremely lustrous animals with great independent locks and outstanding conformation. We want to raise awareness of the suri fiber’s hypoallergenic qualities of warmth, softness and superiority in high end, luxury fabric.
We would love to visit with you about suri alpacas and show you our herd. Call us today to learn more!