By Mary Heyl
If you’re looking for something memorable to do during the first weekend of autumn, why not explore a local alpaca farm during National Alpaca Farm Days on Saturday, Sept. 26 and Sunday, Sept. 27? Alpaca farms all over North America will be opening their gates to the public to share their experiences with these beautiful animals, and Cattaraugus County is home to many alpaca farms where visitors can explore and shop all things alpaca!
So, what exactly is an alpaca? Alpacas, along with llamas, are part of the camel family and share common traits such as long necks and soft fleece. Although many people confuse alpacas with llamas, the two are quite different, as llamas are nearly twice the size of alpacas.
You can see the difference for yourself when you stop by Mager Mountain Alpacas at 69 Mountain View Drive in Little Valley, where the farm has a herd of more than 20 alpacas, which is guarded by their llama!
Alpacas are bred for their luxuriously soft fleece, which is hypoallergenic, so just about anyone can wear this ultra-warm fiber without experiencing the itch that sometimes accompanies wool or mohair. Llamas are bred primarily for guarding and herding sheep or alpacas.
Interesting facts like these are exactly what National Alpaca Farm Days is all about: educating the public on these beautiful animals and the growing agribusiness of alpaca farms!
Timm and Helen Herman, owners of Sugartown Farms at 6277 Sugartown Rd. in Ellicottville, invite visitors to meet their herd of 55 alpacas, which will be available for viewing and petting all weekend from 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
Mike and Sue Bean, owners of A Slice of Heaven Alpacas and Simply Natural Alpaca Gift Shop, located at 11144 Pope Rd. in Randolph, encourage visitors to try alpaca fleece for the ultimate experience of warmth and durability. Throughout the weekend, the Beans will take visitors through their barns to pet the animals and demonstrate exactly which sections of fleece on the alpaca’s body are used for different types of clothing and yarn.
A Slice of Heaven Alpacas will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday; all weekend they will be selling chili, cider, and donuts to raise money for Randolph’s Community Cupboard.
Tim and Janice Forster, owners of Cozy Cabin Alpaca Farm at 9254 Route 353 in Gowanda, are eagerly anticipating National Alpaca Farm Days, when their herd may expand just in time for the weekend festivities! Four years ago, the Forsters began their farm with just four alpacas; now their herd has more than doubled in size and two of their females are preparing to give birth over the next few weeks.
Baby alpacas, called “crias,” weigh between 15 and 20 pounds and begin to stand and walk within just two hours of birth.
“We love the visitors and seeing how interested they are in the animals,” Janice Forster explained. “They’re just amazed! Everybody loves to be around them, and it’s a good feeling.”
While it may not be fun to contemplate the cold weather just around the corner, National Alpaca Farm Days is the perfect weekend to begin shopping for the holidays. Most alpaca farms have gift shops with all kinds of alpaca-fleece products to give or even keep for yourself!
Simply Natural Alpaca Gift Shop has a great selection of alpaca apparel, including hand-knitted adult and infant socks, shawls and cowls. Enter to win their drawings for an alpaca fleece teddy bear, alpaca slippers and an alpaca blanket!
Cozy Cabin Alpaca Farm’s adult, toddler and infant alpaca hats are available, along with hunting hats and gloves. Enjoy coffee and donuts in the morning or hot dogs and refreshments in the afternoon, and don’t forget to enter Cozy Cabin’s drawing to win a pair of alpaca slippers and a scarf. Cozy Cabin Alpaca Farm will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
The gift shop at Sugartown Farms carries a range of alpaca accessories and sweaters, as well as a variety of yarn, roving, raw fleece and batting for fiber artists of all kinds.
The So-Soft Gift Shop at Mager Mountain Alpacas also features a range of alpaca gifts, including alpaca socks such as the ever-popular Dahlgren products that are suitable for hiking, skiing or just lounging around the house.
Due to the affordability and tax benefits of opening an alpaca farm, more and more families across the United States have begun their own alpaca farms. National Alpaca Farm Days is a great opportunity to learn about starting a farm of your own! Visit www.alpacainfo.com.