My First Year Farming Alpacas

In 2008, Leda Blumberg began raising alpacas on Faraway Farms, her beautiful property in Northern Westchester. Since then, her alpacas have won many awards, and she sells yarn made from their fleece at the barn store on Faraway Farms. Here, a visual diary of her reinvention.

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Two Crias

September 2008: Felix was happy to finally have a playmate. He is pictured with Diego who is just a few hours old. Because they are prey animals in the wild, alpacas have to be ready to run from danger shortly after birth. Some farms use guard llamas or trained guard dogs to protect their herds. These young boys love to run around and neck wrestle.

In Love

Spring 08: We purchased gorgeous Afternoon Delight after falling in love with her at the North American Alpaca Show. Delight’s former owners, Faith & Herb of Quarry Ridge Alpacas, have become our close friends. Alpacas were domesticated about 5,000 years ago and the Incans reserved their fleece for royalty and called it "the fiber of the Gods." When you touch Delight, you will understand why.

"I’m so happy to see you"

Afternoon Delight seems to wear a smile that never goes away.
Leda Blumberg

The Meeting

July 2008: As soon as our first two alpacas arrived, they went over to meet our Icelandic Horses. Alpacas are shy, but very curious. Originally from the Andean Mountains of Peru, Chile and Bolivia, alpacas are raised for their exceptionally warm, soft fleece. To prepare our farm, we changed the fencing on some of our horse pastures to make them safe for alpacas. Coyotes and dogs were our biggest concerns, so we added electric wires to the outside of our fences

Our First Cria

Sept 2008: Felix was the first cria (baby alpaca) born on our farm. His birth was fast and easy. Within 15 minutes, he was standing and nursing. Alpacas are pregnant for 11 months and have one cria at a time. Because weather extremes can be hard on them, most are bred to have their crias in the spring or fall.

Leda and her "Girls"

Treat time at Faraway Farm Alpacas
Leda Blumberg

Alpaca Therapy

Enjoying a few peaceful moments with Felix and Majenta. Alpacas are relatively easy animals to take care of. They eat hay, grass and grain. I leave a feeder filled with minerals in every field for the alpacas to eat whenever they like. They enjoy cut up apples and carrots and small hay pellets as treats.

Our Colorful Herd

September 2008: Zofia, Gypsy Rose, Aphrodite and Maja enjoy a beautiful autumn day. Newborn Felix is barely visible by his mom, Maja. Alpaca fleece is luxuriously soft and comes in more natural colors than any other finer-producing animal. In fact, 22 natural colors are found in the alpaca world! Alpaca fleece is incredibly warm, yet lightweight.

Diego

October 2008: Diego, here at two weeks old, has stolen my heart! There are two breeds of alpaca – huacaya (wa-Ki’-ah) the more common of the two has a fluffy, fine fleece. Suri, the rarer breed, has silky fiber that falls in lustrous long locks. Over 90% of the alpacas in North America are huacayas, the breed that we raise.

Diego Doing Yoga

October 20 08: Two-week old Diego reaching an itch. I am thrilled with Diego’s fleece and conformation and will use him as a herdsire when he is older. Males usually start breeding between the ages of two and three. About a week after a female alpaca has been bred, breeders do a "spit test." (Yes, that’s what it’s called). A male alpaca is introduced to the female to check for pregnancy. If she spits at him, it is likely that she is pregnant. If she lays down when the male approaches, she is not pregnant and is ready to be bred again.

Gypsy Rose and Day-Old Don Brio

October 2008: My husband, Steve, attended Brio’s birth while I was away at an alpaca show with Zofia. After a cria is born, we treat its umbilical cord, then stand back so it can bond with its mother. We watch from a distance to make sure the cria nurses and gets the essential first milk Colostrum which is loaded with important antibodies.

Cria Companions

November 2008: Don Brio, Felix and I enjoy a few quiet moments together. Alpacas are very sweet and sensitive. Although, they usually don’t enjoy being petted, they do like company and stay close when I am in their field. My daily farm chores include giving the alpacas (and horses) grain twice a day, making sure all hay feeders and water buckets are full and cleaning the manure from the fields. Alpacas are extremely neat and use a communal dung pile. Their manure (which looks like coffee beans) is excellent garden fertilizer.

Leda Kissing Zofia

November 2008: Zofia is the first alpaca we picked out when putting our foundation herd together. She has beautiful fleece, exemplary conformation and is extremely sweet. Now that she is almost 2 years old, we are visiting other breeders and looking for her first "husband." Alpacas are induced ovulators, which means that the act of intercourse causes ovulation.

After the Storm

December 2008: The alpacas had great fun playing in the snow after the season’s first storm. They are certainly dressed for the weather! Alpaca fleece is known to be warmer than wool and as soft as cashmere. Alpaca fleece is made into all kinds of garments – hats, scarves, coats, sweaters, vests, capes and one of my favorites – the warmest, coziest socks ever.

Fleece for the gods

December 2008 Gypsy Rose’s fleece makes the most stunning yarn you can imagine. It is oh-so-soft and a beautiful rosy shade of gray. We sell our yarn in our farm store and through our website. After the alpacas are shorn, we send the fleece to a fiber mill where it is washed, carded and spun into yarn. Knitters love our yarns since they are so soft, warm and colorful.

Aphrodite Enjoys the Snow

January 2009: Our stunning alpaca Aphrodite knows she’s a goddess. She has a very elegant air and wherever Aphrodite goes, the rest of the herd follows. Company is very important to alpacas. They like to live in herds and should never be kept alone. They are very alert and hum to each other as a form of communication.

Bedtime

February 2009: During the day, Don Brio ("Mr. Energy" in Spanish) is very independent and playful, but in the evening he loves to cuddle up with his mom, beautiful Gypsy Rose.

Marimba and Leda Winning Blue

April 2009: Marimba has become a star at the alpaca shows. She won first place at the Big E Alpaca Show, the North American Alpaca Show and the Northeast Alpaca Expo. At shows, alpacas are judged on their fleece and conformation. Winning fleeces need to be fine, uniform, dense and crimpy. In addition to all these qualities, Marimba’s fleece is exceptionally soft and a rich maroon color. Now that she’s finished with her show season, Marimba is at Quarry Ridge Alpacas being bred to Zambezi, a champion herdsire. After she is confirmed pregnant, she will come home to join the rest of our herd. We can’t wait to have her home!

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