Alpaca farm opens doors
By KATIE HURST/ Staff Writer
Shelby County residents had the opportunity to meet and mingle with some strange new neighbors this weekend — a herd of 29 alpacas at Alpacarama Farms in Brierfield.
Ed and Glynna Siegler, owners of the farm, moved to the Brierfield in February and hosted Alpaca Farm Day Sept. 25-26 as a grand opening for their alpaca farming business and to reach out to neighboring counties and communities.
“Our main goal was to let people know we are here,” Ed Siegler said. “Yes we have a business, but we also want to help out and connect with the community.”
The event allowed local families to experience alpacas first-hand, through petting and feeding. Siegler gave tours of the farm throughout the weekend and gave information on the animals from maintenance to breeding.
Siegler himself is new to the business, opening the farm after retiring from a long career in retail. He said he fell in love with the furry, big-eyed animals years ago and is now living out his dream. He quickly discovered his dream required quite a bit of work.
“This is totally different than what I’ve done before,” he said. “What surprised me was the amount of work it took to get all the fencing in. I did it all myself with my nephew.”
The farming of the animals is similar to raising horses, Siegler said. The alpacas graze on grass, leaves and hay and are fed a sweet grain similar to horse feed. Siegler said Alabama’s combination of heat and humidity can be a challenge for them, though.
“The big challenge we had during the summer was that an alpaca doesn’t have a way to perspire,” he said. “We have to hose them down by spraying their belly and feet. They love it like a little kid with a bath. As soon as they hear the hose, they come running for it.”
Siegler said his original intent for the farm was to focus on breeding and obtaining a pure bloodline. After years in retail, Siegler soon recognized the alpaca’s fur, or fiber, as a quality product.
“The fiber is so soft, it’s softer than cashmere to touch it,” Siegler said.
The Sieglers now raise the alpacas for the best quality fiber, selling it to knitters and mills. The couple is working on creating their own apparel line using the high-end fabric, starting with athletic wear.
“There is no one in the market today doing that,” Siegler said. “The alpaca is a very soft and natural fiber so it breathes very well.”
At the Farm Day event, guests had the opportunity to purchase alpaca-fiber products, including socks, gloves and scarves. Those who purchased products were also entered into a raffle to win a pet alpaca. Siegler said unlike llamas, alpacas make wonderful pets.
“They’re very docile,” he said. “They remind me of a lab. They’re great with kids, great with adults and very friendly. The one difference is they’re not house broken.”
In the future, the Sieglers would like to open their own local store to sell alpaca products. For now, their merchandise can be purchased on their website at Alpacaramafarms.com.