National Alpaca Farm Days provide a great opportunity to get the family outdoors and interacting with animals. This year, the festivities are being held Sept. 28-29, and once you meet these adorable animals, you’ll want to come back again and again (or maybe even invest in a few of your own!)
Many farms across Cattaraugus and McKean Counties will open up to the public during this special weekend, to educate people on alpacas and what the alpaca farming business is all about.
One local farm eager for National Alpaca Farm Days is Mager Mountain Alpacas in Little Valley, NY. Owned and operated by Paul and Sue Mager, they are planning lots of fun activities for both days. That Saturday (Sept. 28), DJ Mike “Smitty” Smith and WGWE radio station of Salamanca will be on-location at the Mager farm doing a live broadcoast - play the plinco board game, participate in live interviews, and get into the party spirit with Smitty’s radio music picks.
That’s just a start! The Magers will also host fiber artists Amanda Grabowski of Salamanca and Annie Widger of Ellicottville, who will be giving spinning wheel demonstrations. Greg and Nancy Whelan of Amore Alpacas will be present with their alpaca kissing booth … get your photo taken with an alpaca! Cathy Bridges of R.A. Mercer and Co. PC will host a seminar explaining the many tax benefits involved with alpaca farming. And of course refreshments will also be available, with proceeds benefitting the Smile Train Charity.
The So Soft Gift Shop, the Magers’ on-site store for alpaca merchandise, will be open and fully stocked with alpaca items galore - socks, sweaters, capes, hats, mittens, texting gloves, Pronk Bears, fur boot covers, rugs, and much more. Alpaca fiber is soft and light, yet warm, and is great for Western New York winters. The Magers will also have 8 cria - or baby alpaca - with the herd, so you can watch them run around with the other alpaca.
Although the Magers encourage everyone to come out during National Alpaca Farm Days, their farm and store are open to the public every weekend, Friday through Sunday from 10am-6pm. They have alpacas of all eight colors at their farm, and they also have plenty of information (and are happy to offer their guidance) for anyone interested in owning their own farm.
GETTING INTO THE BUSINESS
Alpacas are gentle animals, and are very easy to care for. Many people who run alpaca farms have primary occupations outside of the farming business, so anyone who has the desire to raise alpacas can make it work for them. It also has the potential to be a very profitable business with the demand for luxury items made from alpaca fiber and the tax credits available.
Paul Mager (of Mager Mountain Alpacas) explains that he and his wife got into alpaca farming because they were looking for something to do during retirement. With their 150 acres of land, they knew they wanted to do something agricultural, but didn’t want to have crops or traditional farming of pigs, cows, or horses. He sent his wife, Sue, a picture of a baby alpaca, and she sent back “That’s it. I don’t know what it is but that’s what I want to raise!” Three months later they had everything they needed to raise alpacas - including a barn, pasture, two alpaca girls and two boys.
Since then, Paul and Sue have sold over 60 alpacas coast to coast. Paul says they learned the “hard way” and now would like to offer support and information to those interested in alpaca farming. The alpaca business has grown since the Magers first started their farm, and with the boom in the alpaca fiber industry, it is easier to sell items made from this wonderful warm fabric.
One of the things that make alpaca farming so profitable and easy is that you can harvest from the animals without harming them. Paul explains that they shear once a year and have yarn made to make a large variety of clothing, accessories, and home items that they sell in their shop. Breeding and selling alpacas is also a very lucrative part of alpaca farming. Even without these added financial benefits, owning these peaceful and easy-to-care-for animals makes them ideal for anyone looking for a new adventure. For Paul and Sue, the best part is watching the babies grow up and run and play with the rest of the herd.
Alpacas are much easier to care for than traditional livestock. Compared to other animals, they are light and small, only weighing in at 150-200 lbs. Their diet consists of grass in the summer and hay in the winter, with a small grain supplement. An interesting fact about alpacas is that they have a communal manure pile that makes cleaning very easy and lowers the chances of parasites and disease. Chores at the Mager farm only take about an hour a day for all 34 of their alpaca. Like any business, they work on promoting and marketing the farm to share their love of these animals.
Visitors to the Mager alpaca farm may be surprised by how friendly the alpacas are, especially for those who have visited other farms where the alpacas are raised as livestock and tend to be more wary of outsiders. Through proper training and care, Paul and Sue have gotten their herd used to petting and interacting with visitors. The Magers are also very knowledgeable about the animals, and share their alpaca farming history as well as funny stories about their experiences.
Alpacas have a calming effect on many who visit them. Although they don’t make any official claims, Paul says that the alpacas respond very positively to children, the elderly, and people with special needs. Interacting with the alpacas brightens anyone’s day, and kisses from the alpacas really improve the spirit of many.
If the Magers’ farm isn’t convenient for you, there are many other alpaca farms in our area to visit. In Ellicottville, Sugartown Farms is run by Timm and Helen Herman. Humming Herd Alpacas is a 60-acre farm located in Collins, NY that’s run by Dane and Shannon Stocker. Kendall Creek Farms is located in Bradford, PA and is run by Chris and Lori Works.
Regardless of which farm you visit, any experience with alpacas is bound to be a meaningful one. Whether you visit for the day and take away the experience, or decide to start a farm of your own, alpaca farms offer a chance for you and your family to connect with animals in the great outdoors! Learn more about this year’s National Alpaca Farm Days at www.nationalalpacafarmdays.com.
Head to www.magermountainalpacas.com
for more info on the Mager Farm in Little Valley.