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Raising alpacas – An agricultural adventure

Ray Guziak

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Pretty, second-grade school teacher, Leah Reynolds, welcomed us to her 6-1/2-acre Loma ranch, where she and husband, Dan, raise a herd of alpacas, in addition to their younger son, who is a junior at Fruita Monument High School. A freshman son at Mesa State and two older stepsons, who live in the Grand Junction area, complete the Reynolds expanded farm family. They call their company Horse Mountain Alpacas.

After a brief conversation, we realized that this busy, intelligent, young woman doesn’t meet the silly “dumb blonde stereotype,” when she expertly explained her alpaca farming operation to us.

“We researched raising alpacas on the Internet for about four months before making the final decision to invest in them five years ago. We began our herd in December 2004 with three young huacaya females. I’ve always been around animals and we wanted to raise some animals on our small 6-1/2 acres that would be relatively easy and fun to do, while we kept our other jobs. And alpacas were the answer for us,” Leah enthused, leading us outside to the animal area.



She continued to share her knowledge of the alpacas. “Cold weather doesn’t bother them. An alpaca at birth is called a ‘cria.’ At full weight, alpacas will reach 150 to 200 pounds. They are very gentle animals and quick learners. It only takes two or three times to teach them how to be led around with a halter.”

“We have six boy alpacas and, since Dan is a big baseball fan, he named the boys after Baseball Hall-of-Famers, like ‘Say Hey, Willie’ and ‘Shoeless Joe.’ The girls are quiet and have their own personalities, from the one who stands back and simply observes, to the one who is in the center of everything. Sometimes the boys will push each other and let out a screech in protest, before settling back down.”



“We raise a total of 30 alpacas here and we own 18 of them. The rest are boarders. We have some owned by a retired couple who travel. Alpacas are a quiet, intelligent, satisfied bunch and the only sounds they make are an occasional humming sound. Dan takes care of them first thing in the morning, making sure they are watered and fed before going to work. I love to check on them when I get home from school checking on them and doing chores.”

“There were eight breeders at the Palisade Peach Festival and Montrose has a support group of 20 to 25 people. We learn so much from each other and I’ve made so many new friends,” Leah said.

“May is shearing time for them. Their fleece contains no lanolin; therefore alpaca fleece is smooth. They eat orchard grass hay and we give them protein pellets. They sit with their legs under them and that is called ‘cushing.’ “

“Alpacas are members of the camelid (or camel) family. There are two breed types, huacaya (wa-KI-ya) and suri (surrey). Huacaya fleece has a crimp, giving them a soft, fluffy, teddy-bear like appearance. Suri fiber clings to itself, forming beautiful pencil locks that hang down from the body in gentle cascades.”

This well-organized teacher/mother/alpaca farmer is very busy attending shows and Farmers Markets where she talks to the public, and sorting fiber, working with cria births and sheering days on the farm. In addition, she has multiple, large, plastic containers packed full of products, such as purses, scarves and gloves, including those made in Peru and at home, all ready to take to shows.

Leah and her husband welcome you to visit their Web site at http://www.HorseMountainAlpacas.com and contact them if you want to schedule a visit or just to “talk alpacas.” Her Web site says, “Alpacas are raised for their soft, luxurious fleece. They are an alternative livestock perfect for small acreages. There are profit opportunities and tax benefits available in this emerging industry.”

Driving away, we realized what a peaceful place this was. Off to the side of her stables, was a tree-shaded pond with one loud, honking white goose, followed by two ducks with their baby ducklings swimming behind them. No wonder the alpacas are happily humming!

Pretty, second-grade school teacher, Leah Reynolds, welcomed us to her 6-1/2-acre Loma ranch, where she and husband, Dan, raise a herd of alpacas, in addition to their younger son, who is a junior at Fruita Monument High School. A freshman son at Mesa State and two older stepsons, who live in the Grand Junction area, complete the Reynolds expanded farm family. They call their company Horse Mountain Alpacas.

After a brief conversation, we realized that this busy, intelligent, young woman doesn’t meet the silly “dumb blonde stereotype,” when she expertly explained her alpaca farming operation to us.

“We researched raising alpacas on the Internet for about four months before making the final decision to invest in them five years ago. We began our herd in December 2004 with three young huacaya females. I’ve always been around animals and we wanted to raise some animals on our small 6-1/2 acres that would be relatively easy and fun to do, while we kept our other jobs. And alpacas were the answer for us,” Leah enthused, leading us outside to the animal area.

She continued to share her knowledge of the alpacas. “Cold weather doesn’t bother them. An alpaca at birth is called a ‘cria.’ At full weight, alpacas will reach 150 to 200 pounds. They are very gentle animals and quick learners. It only takes two or three times to teach them how to be led around with a halter.”

“We have six boy alpacas and, since Dan is a big baseball fan, he named the boys after Baseball Hall-of-Famers, like ‘Say Hey, Willie’ and ‘Shoeless Joe.’ The girls are quiet and have their own personalities, from the one who stands back and simply observes, to the one who is in the center of everything. Sometimes the boys will push each other and let out a screech in protest, before settling back down.”

“We raise a total of 30 alpacas here and we own 18 of them. The rest are boarders. We have some owned by a retired couple who travel. Alpacas are a quiet, intelligent, satisfied bunch and the only sounds they make are an occasional humming sound. Dan takes care of them first thing in the morning, making sure they are watered and fed before going to work. I love to check on them when I get home from school checking on them and doing chores.”

“There were eight breeders at the Palisade Peach Festival and Montrose has a support group of 20 to 25 people. We learn so much from each other and I’ve made so many new friends,” Leah said.

“May is shearing time for them. Their fleece contains no lanolin; therefore alpaca fleece is smooth. They eat orchard grass hay and we give them protein pellets. They sit with their legs under them and that is called ‘cushing.’ “

“Alpacas are members of the camelid (or camel) family. There are two breed types, huacaya (wa-KI-ya) and suri (surrey). Huacaya fleece has a crimp, giving them a soft, fluffy, teddy-bear like appearance. Suri fiber clings to itself, forming beautiful pencil locks that hang down from the body in gentle cascades.”

This well-organized teacher/mother/alpaca farmer is very busy attending shows and Farmers Markets where she talks to the public, and sorting fiber, working with cria births and sheering days on the farm. In addition, she has multiple, large, plastic containers packed full of products, such as purses, scarves and gloves, including those made in Peru and at home, all ready to take to shows.

Leah and her husband welcome you to visit their Web site at http://www.HorseMountainAlpacas.com and contact them if you want to schedule a visit or just to “talk alpacas.” Her Web site says, “Alpacas are raised for their soft, luxurious fleece. They are an alternative livestock perfect for small acreages. There are profit opportunities and tax benefits available in this emerging industry.”

Driving away, we realized what a peaceful place this was. Off to the side of her stables, was a tree-shaded pond with one loud, honking white goose, followed by two ducks with their baby ducklings swimming behind them. No wonder the alpacas are happily humming!


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