MY OUTLOOK: Michael Alpert, Alpaca Farmer
How long have you been an alpaca farmer?
We have been raising Suri Alpacas since 1999.
How did you get started in alpacas?
I bought a small acreage in SE OKC in 1998. I saw an ad for “Alpacas—The Huggable Investment” then went online and learned more. Found a breeder in Earlsboro and made an appointment to see the alpacas. Took one look, and I was totally smitten. We purchased our first two from a ranch in Washington, and the rest is history. We now have a herd of 63.
They are small enough to be very manageable, and are gentle on pastures. Alpacas have a soothing, almost magical quality. They are wonderful just to be around. Alpaca fleece is our annual “harvest,” and we are a Made In Oklahoma business for alpaca yarn and products.
What service do alpacas provide?
Alpacas produce the finest natural fiber (fleece) in North America. It is hypoallergenic and feels like silk. Other than fleece, alpacas produce more alpacas.
How do you process its hair?
Our blanket fleeces are sent to a sorter who sorts it by color and micron size. The lower the micron, the finer the fleece—there are six grades of fineness. The sorted fleece then goes to a mill. The mill spins the fiber into yarn, or leaves it at the last stage before spinning. This is called roving, and it is used by hand spinners and for felting projects.
Is this more of a job or hobby for you?
This is an agricultural business, not a hobby.
What kind of personality do alpacas have?
Alpacas are gentle and curious. They have a soothing quality, and will often hum. Halter-trained alpacas are very easy to manage by children, and are often used in performance competition at alpaca shows.
What makes working with alpacas unique?
They are easily managed on a small acreage. Typically, you can have 8-10 on an acre—because they do not have top front teeth, they are gentle grazers. They don’t pull out the grass roots, so pasture maintenance is much easier than with horses and cattle.
Do you breed your alpacas? Where do they come from?
Yes, we breed our alpacas. We have three nationally recognized stud males that are available for breeding. Alpacas are originally from Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They are native to high elevations in the Andes Mountains.
Is it a lifelong commitment?
Depends on if you get passionate about alpacas. It is a terrific lifestyle with some very nice people along the way. We travel to approximately eight shows a year, all over the country.
Do alpacas make good pets?
There are pet-quality alpacas that can be lots of fun. Typically gelding males make excellent pets. The only requirement is that you have to have at least two. They are social animals, and a single alpaca will not thrive.
Learn more at the 2015 Alpaca Blast-Off Show November 14-15 at the Lazy E Arena. Find details at alpacasofoklahoma.com.