Public invited to get up close with alpacas
KINGMAN — One might think alpacas are all about the crazy haircuts — crop tops or flowing dreadlock-type bangs — and that trusting demeanor that says, “just pet me already.” Aside from the hair, there are beautiful faces, spotted faces, comical faces, dark brown eyes, startling blue eyes, black fleece, white fleece, golden fleece and that one beastie that bares a resemblance to Tommy Chong.
But there is so much more to these fascinating gentle souls. They have the ability to steal a person’s heart by simply batting their killer long eyelashes or accepting edible pellets from an outstretched hand. They also are highly sought after for their high-density fleece that is hypoallergenic because it doesn’t contain lanolin and because the fiber has the ability to block out moisture.
People can see each and every one of these individuals, more than 30 animals, and the woven products made from their fleece at the Alpacas of the Southwest farm located outside Kingman.
“We have two species here, the Huacaya and the rare Suri,” said Anna Nyberg, who owns and operates the six-acre spread with her husband, Ron. “The Suris are the ones with the long dreadlocks.
“The fleece from the Huacaya is used to make the teddy bears in our store, because it is so soft,” she added.
These animals are
family-oriented and community-minded, meaning they look out for each other. The males are very protective of the females. They also are a study in animal behavior when two of the girls, without any apparent connection, develop a strong bond with each other to the point of being inseparable.
Alpacas also are people-friendly, and the public will be able to find out all kinds of interesting facts about these lovable creatures when the Nybergs open up their farm for the 13th annual Alpaca Days Celebration, Friday-Sunday.
“We might have a brand new baby in time for our event this year,” Anna said. “We have two females expecting babies and one is due any time now.
“I tell people it’s an opportunity for getting up close and personal with the alpacas,” she added.
This is a popular event, if the 1,100 people who attended last year are any indication.
“We expect to have at least that many if not more this year,” she said. “It’s a nice time of the year because it’s not so hot. We’ve also made upgrades to accommodate people with handicaps and those who are in wheelchairs.”
In addition to learning about the animals, people also learn about the ownership side of the coin, and what it takes to maintain an alpaca farm. For example, the Nybergs are required to keep track of every animal’s DNA and lineage, there is no cross-breeding between the two types of alpacas they have at their farm, and they make sure the animals are protected from predators by using enormous dogs to discourage attacks.
“The property is properly fenced to protect the animals from mountain lions and coyotes that are known to live in this area of Kingman, but we also choose Great Pyrenees as our livestock guardian dogs,” Anna explained. “They are Italian sheep dogs, they are large dogs weighing about 130 pounds, and they mostly work at night.
“One guy never leaves that first pen. He’s guarding the girls,” she added. “They each have their own areas to patrol, but they also serve as each other’s backup. To a coyote they look big.
“They have thick coats, which keeps them cool here in the summer.”
All the dogs are named after Viking gods, so people may get to meet Odin, Loki, and Erik, a sharp contrast in names selected for the alpacas born at the Nybergs’ farm. The couple loves the Beatles, so expect to meet Paul McCartney, Abbey, Star, Belle, Hey Jude, and more during Alpaca Days.
Admission to the event is free, with Siren’s Cafe offering food and beverages for sale. People who attend are welcome to bring their own picnic lunches if they choose.
The day includes meeting and greeting the alpacas, face painting and arts and crafts for the children, local artisans and crafters offering their handmade items for sale, representatives of Mohave Rock and Gem Club and Desert Diamond Distillery will be on hand, demonstrations on fiber spinning, and more. Enjoy lunch at the picnic tables. Telescopes will be available for solar viewing on Saturday, sponsored by the High Desert Astronomy Club.
“I call this our community outreach,” Anna said. “It’s free to the public so people can come out and learn about these amazing, spiritual animals. We hope the kids with get enjoyment seeing the animals, but also painting rocks so they come away with a craft they created to remember the day.”
Event hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Alpacas of the Southwest is located about 15 miles east of Kingman, by taking Interstate 40, toward Phoenix, and taking the Blake Ranch Road exit, turning right. From there, take the first dirt road on the left (DuBois) and follow it around until coming to the farm entrance on the left, at 1108 McCarrel.
Regular tours of the farm are Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The entry fee is $9 per car.