Alpacas in Chestertown?
If you’d asked me 2 months ago what an alpaca was, I probably would have said, “I think its like a llama.” I know that there are a few llama farms in Kent and Queen Anne’s county, but never would I have guessed that there existed an Alpaca farm just outside of town on the road to Rock Hall. In early December, my wife came across an article in the Tidewater Trader advertising the farm. It’s called Tag Along Alpacas and it has been in operation since August 2012.
So we called, made and appointment and I drove out to get a tour from Connie Gsell who runs the farm with her daughter Tracy Abram. Together they have raised this herd of Huacaya Alpacas (pronounced whah-kai-ah), which includes, Oso (white and the only male), Nicki (the light brown), Autumn (the medium fawn) and Fiona (the black and very curious Alpaca).
And I can’t forget Cowboy, the Australian Cattle-Dog.
The Alpacas are very friendly, though very nervous at first. Once you get a chance to feed them some pellets they warm up to you and you don’t have to worry about them biting. The teeth in the front of their mouth are only on their lower jaw.
When asked why they decided to raise alpacas Tracy said, “I love animals and wanted to find livestock to raise that would be fun to be around and work with, relatively easy to care for, profitable, and not end up on a dinner plate. After researching livestock opportunities, alpacas were the perfect fit for us.”
Eco-friendly alpacas are sensitive to their environment in every respect. Alpacas have soft padded feet instead of hooves and can leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged. Alpacas prefer to eat tender grasses, which they do not pull up by the roots. Lacking upper teeth, alpacas “cut” the grass with their bottom teeth and upper palate. This vegetation cutting encourages the plant’s growth. Because they are modified ruminants with a three-compartment stomach, alpacas convert grass and hay to energy very efficiently, and stop eating when they are full, further preserving the landscape on which they live. Alpacas’ pellet-like droppings are PH balanced, and an excellent, natural, slow release, low odor fertilizer. While alpacas are environmentally friendly - and even beneficial - to the land, what makes them even more “green” is their end product… alpaca fiber. Alpacas are sheared annually, without harm.
Alpacas produce an incredibly soft fiber. Because of its soft texture, alpaca fiber is often compared to cashmere. Making the fiber even more coveted, it has the luster of silk. Alpaca is just as warm as, yet 1/3 the weight of, wool. It comes in 22 natural colors and can be dyed any desired shade. Containing no lanolin, alpaca fiber is also naturally hypoallergenic. Most people who are sensitive to wool find that they can wear alpaca without the itching or irritation they feel from wool because alpaca fiber is smooth.
All the alpacas have different personalities and on some level they remind me of having a dog, with a really long neck that doesn’t bark or nip. Fiona is the curious and unafraid female, Nikki is very shy, Autumn is less shy and Oso is the only male, but has the softest fleece.
If you get a chance, go see them and feel just how soft their fur is. Oh, I forgot to mention, the females are pregnant and will each give birth to one cria. The first one is due in May and the other two are due in September.
This year they will be participating in the Chestertown Earth Day festivities on April 20.
For more information check out their website: