Time for Sunset Ranch Alpacas to kiss the herd goodbye
Considering an Alpaca?
Graviett advises those who are interested in starting their own herd to do some background research before purchasing them.
“A lot of people that are wanting to do it will buy two,” Graviett said. “I’ll never sell them just one because they are herd animals.”
She has sold alpacas all over the country. For those that are further away, she will send pictures of the alpaca from all angles, as well as the lineage of the animal and samples of the fiber.
“If somebody buys an alpaca from me, I am there 100 percent for support. I educate them as best I can and then if they have problems of any sort I am always available.”
For those interested, Graviett can be reached at (303) 746-6758 and the alpacas she has for sale can be seen at www.alpacanation.com/sunsetranch.asp.
When Linda Graviett decided to take Oprah’s advice that everyone should do something they loved, she soon found herself managing 120 alpacas before starting a herd of her own.
She has not regretted her decision for a moment since, but is now deciding to semi-retire. She is looking to sell some alpacas and bring her herd of 13 down to four.
Her love for alpacas was sparked in 1998, when a copy of Alpacas Magazine at a veterinarian office in Glenwood Springs caught her eye.
“I was married at the time, and I told my husband ‘we need to go see these in person, they are too cute,’” Graviett said. “So we drove out to Eaton, Colorado, and spent the whole day with alpacas. We left with two of our own.”
Graviett and her husband began breeding the alpacas they bought. When they divorced, she kept all the alpacas and enrolled in a three-day prenatal and pasture management course at Ohio State University. Afterwards, she took a job as a ranch manager in California, where she managed more than 120 alpacas on her own.
In 2005, the owners of the ranch she was working at decided to retire and sell the herd. Graviett took that opportunity to move back to Broomfield, Colorado, to be closer to her son. Since then, she has been breeding and selling her alpacas, having up to 25 of her own at a time. She currently owns Sunset Ranch Alpacas in Silt, and has been there since August.
The Perks of the Alpaca
According to Graviett, alpacas are generally docile, especially the males. The females get a bit more protective of their young, so they can be more standoffish.
It also is common for alpacas to be mistaken for llamas. Some differences are that alpacas are smaller, and their ears stick straight up instead of flopping over. They also do not spit like llamas do, and are typically not as ornery.
Alpacas are generally low maintenance and can be raised on a small acreage, according to Graviett. She makes sure they have fresh water and hay each day, and cleans up their manure. She has not had a veterinarian bill for illness in over three years.
“I’m single, and have two part-time jobs that add up to over 50 hours a week, and I can still have 13 alpacas,” Graviett said. “That’s how easy they are to take care of.”
Graviett also benefits from them in ways aside from breeding. Once a year, her pack gets sheared for their fiber.
Alpaca fiber is lightweight, water resistant, and warmer and stronger than the fiber of other animals, including sheep wool, according to wildhairalpacas.com. It is rated with angora cashmere.
Graviett will sometimes spin fiber into yarn herself, or she will sell it online through eBay or Etsy. Occasionally she knits hats or scarves and makes stuffed animals, but said her supply is pretty limited.
Aside from the fiber, she also learned to put the alpacas’ waste to good use.
“You can use the manure in your garden; I swear by it in my vegetable garden,” Graviett said. “My tomato plants get to be 6 feet tall, and they’re huge.”
She also makes an “alpaca poop tea” and drains it before using the brown water on her house plants.
“It doesn’t smell bad at all,” Graviett said. “When I sell it to people, they always come back the next year saying their gardens have never looked so great.”
Kahlua, the “Therapy Alpaca”
When Kahlua, one of Graviett’s alpacas, was born a month premature, the veterinarian told her that it would be a miracle if she could keep him alive.
“I brought him home and bottle-fed him, and he slept in my room in a play pen,” Graviett said. “Because of that, he didn’t bond with his mother, so he got very used to being around people.”
Kahlua has become one of her most prized alpacas. She refers to him as her “therapy alpaca” because she takes him to assisted living and nursing homes.
Kahlua has not yet made an appearance at any local homes, but Graviett went to Sunrise Flatirons in Broomfield three times a month for 2 ½ years before her move to Silt. She also visited some homes in Westminster and Louisville. She does charge a fee to have him brought in.
“I kept thinking people were going to get tired of him, but every time we got there everyone got so excited,” Graviett said. “We even got invited for special events.”
When Kahlua visited, the staff would usually gather everyone into a big room, and he would go around and let the residents pet him or kiss him.
“We would bring Kahlua to those who couldn’t get out of bed,” Graviett said. “He’s even been in elevators, but he tenses up because he doesn’t really like them. He does like car rides, though.”
Kahlua is one of the four alpacas that she plans on keeping at Sunset Ranch, where she wants to settle down. She is also going to keep Midnight, an older female, because she does not want her to be bred again, Tia Maria, and another male.
“I cry when I sell them, every single time,” Graviett said. “I’m particular about where they go, and I make sure that they’re good homes. Some people sell them just to sell them, but I get attached.”
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