When Shelly and Mike Walsh bought their farm in Iron Station, they wanted to add some sort of livestock that they could make a profit from. They didn’t have enough room for cattle, so they looked at sheep and alpacas that they could raise for their fiber.
“Alpacas seemed like they’d be super fun,” Mike Walsh said. “We got our first 10 alpacas in 2010. The national alpaca organization is very supportive to newcomers plus there are breeders all over the country who are willing to help.”
Alpacas have been a very easy introduction to farming for Mike and Shelly who named their farm “Good Karma Ranch.” They’re very quiet and easy to handle. They must be sheared once a year in the spring. At first, they did it themselves, but it’s very hard work so they use a professional shearer now.
It’s the fiber that alpacas are raised for, so they have to receive excellent nutrition and care in order for them to produce a quality product. Once the alpacas are sheared, the fiber gets shipped to two different locations, one is a fiber pool which is like a co-op. All the fiber gets pooled together to go to the mill to be processed to make it more economical. The other half gets purchased by a company in Oregon. Both companies send back products, socks, hats, scarfs, ponchos, blankets and other items made from alpaca fiber.
Many of the alpacas at Good Karma Ranch are white because that color is ideal for holding dye. Alpaca fiber is softer and warmer by weight than sheep wool. It’s also stronger and not itchy like wool can be.
“We have three channels of our business,” Shelly Walsh said. “We breed and sell animals and offer stud service, agritourism and sell products.”
In celebration of National Alpaca Farm Days, which is Saturday, Sept. 25 and Sun. Sept. 26, Good Karma Ranch will offer alpaca viewing at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. This will not be a standard tour and visitors will not be inside the pasture with the alpacas but will be able to see them up close from their pen. There will be some artisans and makers selling their wares on site as well.
For more information or to register for a tour, visit https://www.goodkarmaranch.com