Pucker up for Alpacas
PORT REPUBLIC - 7/19/2008
By Kelly Martini
Picture yourself driving down state Route 4 through Calvert County. You pass farms along the way. Instead of seeing your typical farm animals in the gated fields (cows, horses, etc.), you find yourself face-to-face with an alpaca. But you aren’t sure it’s an alpaca, because you don’t know what an alpaca is. Nevertheless, if you drive through Port Republic and come across the Finca Serena Alpaca Ranch, you’ll find out.
Alpacas are furry cousins of the llama. They are native to the Andean Mountain range of South America, particularly Peru, Bolivia and Chile. First imported to the United State in 1984, the industry has grown steadily. According to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, current estimates total over 120,000 registered alpacas in the US and there are more than 4,000 AOBA members in North America.
Dorys Brennan is one of those registered with the AOBA and breeds alpacas in Port Republic.
“I got into breeding [alpacas] because when I moved down here five years ago, we got a little piece of land and we didn’t know what to do with it,” said Brennan, who moved to southern Maryland from Massachusetts.
A year later, when her mother joined her here, they went to a farm to buy fresh eggs. When they arrived at the farm, they encountered their first alpaca.
“Honestly, I fell in love with them because I didn’t want to get horses, cows or any other livestock,” explained Brennan. “I started with three boys and a few months later I bought a pregnant female, and now I have 14.”
Brennan describes the animals as sweet, funny and kind of goofy. “They love to play and eat out of your hand. They’re very sweet,” she went on. “They’ll kiss you, they’ll come over to you and smell you all over to see who you are. If you have any treats they’ll love you forever.”
Brennan says the animals are fun to watch, relaxing and low maintenance. You can keep up to five alpacas on one acre, providing them with shelter from the rain and elements. They love to eat grass, which Brennan says is the best thing for them. In the winter, Brennan feeds her alpacas hay and bits of grain. They get shots for worms every 55 days because there is a high presence of white tail deer on the property.
| Two males playing. Photo submitted by Brennan.|
Brennan sheers the fleece from the animals every April. She maintains a website where she sells her fleece to spinners across the U.S. “These animals are extremely soft,” said Brennan. “Their fleece is hypoallergenic. They don’t have any oil in their fleece like sheep do.” She says their fleece is almost waterproof. “I hose them in the summer because they still get hot when it gets into the 90s.”
In addition to the fleece, Brennan also sells Teddy Bears and stuffed animals on her site. The bears are made with alpaca fleece from Peru.
Brennan mostly sells fleece and teddies on her site, but if somebody is interested in buying an alpaca for breeding or for pets, she sells them too. Currently, she only has two to sell as pets, a female non-breeder and a male who was born just over a month ago.
Brennan welcomes visitors to Finca Serena Alpaca Ranch by appointment only.
There is another Alpaca farm located in Upper Marlboro called Pax River Alpacas. Brennan bought her orinal alpacas from Villa de Alpacas Farm in Prince George's County.
The photos in the slideshow below were submitted for use on TheBAYNET.com by Dorys Brennan.