By SARAH LIDEEN, Staff Writer, [email protected]
Dick and Joann Beckley aren’t typical farmers. They don’t have acres of green pastures or barns filled with cattle and hay, but instead a plot of land with fences and pens that house their 21 alpacas.
Originally from the Twin Cities, Dick and Joann decided to move north in 2000 to live on Sauk Lake, located just outside of Sauk Centre.
Upon taking her dog to the vet one day in Albany, Joann made a wrong turn and stumbled upon an alpaca farm.
“After I saw them I thought they were the cat’s meow,” said Joann.
As a massage therapist at a chiropractic office, Joann commuted to work every day, passing the alpaca farm and stopping frequently to visit. In 2004, Joann approached her husband about getting into the alpaca business, who was immediately against it, until he saw the animals for himself.
“I fought it for awhile and finally gave up,” said Dick. “They’re such wonderful animals and easy to take care of because of their size.”
In 2004, the couple purchased their first alpaca from that farm, followed by three more.
Originating from the Andes Mountains in South America, alpacas are a docile animal bred mostly for their fiber.
“It’s seven times warmer than wool,” said Dick.
With no hired help, the Beckley’s tend to their herd twice a day, feeding them orchard grass, ‘alpaca nuggets,’ making sure they have clean, fresh water and cleaning their pens.
Grooming is also very important when it comes to keeping alpaca clean and healthy. Trimming their nails, filing their teeth and sheering their coats once a year are all necessary.
“They’re healthy animals and they’re easy that way to take care of,” said Joann.
Considering all of these things, the Beckley’s are very cautious when it comes to breeding new alpacas for their herd, making sure that alpacas with bad teeth and other undesirable traits aren’t used for breeding.
“When we breed we want to upgrade every time,” said Joan.
Many of the Beckley’s alpacas have earned ribbons and awards through various shows they have been involved in, including the annual Minnesota Alpaca Expo in Owatonna.
“They’ve gotten many ribbons. Our number one guy got a blue ribbon,” said Dick.
Animals are judged by their stance, straight teeth and their fiber.
Alpacas are sheered once a year in the spring, with their coats getting as thick as four inches.
“The colder it gets the faster it grows,” said Dick.
All 21 alpaca have a name, one that they know and respond to. The herd is curious in their personalities and run to the fence to greet visitors and get a peek at what is going on around the farm.
“Eventually we would like to retire and get rid of some to make things a little easier, but we certainly enjoyed our time working with them in the past,” said Joann.
The Beckley’s consider their herd part of their extended family and have found that parting with one is just like parting with any other pet.
“It’s just like losing any animal you’ve had for four or five years and then it’s gone,” said Dick.
However, they have found a business in breeding and selling alpaca, as well as the products they can make from the fiber they collect and feel that anyone could do it if they really set their mind to it.
“Make sure you get ideas from different people about barns and a daily work set up for the animals,” said Dick.
Joann describes having the farm and being able to take care of the alpaca as very therapeutic.
“I love being out there. Their personalities are great and it’s very relaxing to be out there and hanging out with them,” said Joann. “It’s good medicine.”
The Beckley’s encourage all to come visit their farm. To schedule a visit, call 320-352-6271, or visit www.pineconeridgealpacas.com.