There were both boys and girls all excited to see us. Why, you ask? Because we had exactly what aroused their attention. We had grain in a bowl and they could smell it. These were Alpacas. They are cute little animals that could have starred in a Star Wars episode. The Alpaca is a cousin to the Camel and Llama in which they often get confused with. Their natural home is in South America and they are primarily raised for their soft luxurious fiber since they, unlike their Llama cousins, are too small to be pack animals. Having split hoofed (two toes) feet and three stomachs they are descendants of the Vicuna.
These Alpaca are not found in South America grazing on the plains and mountain sides of the Andes but on a beautiful well manicured farm just outside Howell, Michigan. They are the prize animals, pets and providers of the fine fiber for Deb and Ron the owners of DeBro Farms.
We visited the farm while taking advantage of the Harvest Host program and immediately recognized just how friendly and accommodating this couple was. We were shown where to park our 28 foot Rockwood Mini-lite travel trailer and given plenty of time to unhook and set up before we were treated with star attention and given an informative tour of the farm and Alpaca operation.
Did you know the Alpaca have only four teeth. That has to cut down on the dental bill! They have multiple stomachs, three in fact, and “chew their cud” just like a cow. Unlike sheep, which produce wool and are sheered multiple times a year, these cute little mammals only get sheared once a year and their product is called fleece. Each animal, being a different color produces a specific fiber that will be used for different products. The more valuable of the fibers will be a good quality white because it will be able to be died any color. Whatever the value of their fiber is, the “cuteness” of these creatures from another world is what will draw most of us to them.
While we were able to feed them, touch only a couple of them, we did not get the nose bumps they are known for. Fortunately we did not get spit on which is also a common practice they use to show displeasure.
Deb has a small store that she sells products that come from her animals and some that are commercial. I would strongly recommend getting a product from one of her Alpaca’s so that it will be a personal reminder of the wonderful time you will have if you just take a little detour and visit DeBro Farms. Remember to call ahead to reserve your place only after becoming a member of Harvest Host!