WOODSBORO — Heinz and Sue Ann Wilms, Frederick County’s first alpaca breeders since 1996, are closing shop.
For $35,000, an alpaca lover can have Brookmere Alpacas at Chestnut Hill in Woodsboro, which consists of 26 alpacas and all the equipment.
“I want to sell it to somebody who really wants to be in the alpaca business — somebody who will be an alpaca enthusiast like we’ve been all these years,” Sue Ann Wilms said. She said they are selling the business due to health reasons.
“This is an ideal turn-key operation and for $35,000, it’s a tremendous bargain,” Sue Ann Wilms said. “We never felt someone should go deeply into debt to be in the alpaca business. It will take the fun out of it.”
Alpaca breeding, a niche market, has been in Frederick County since 1981, said Colby Ferguson, the county’s agriculture development specialist. Though Chestnut Hill Farm was the first alpaca breeding farm in the county, many others have sprouted.
There are two facets to the fast-growing alpaca industry — fiber production and showing, Ferguson said.
Actual numbers of local alpaca breeders are hard to come by, Wilms said, because not all producers belong to the Maryland Alpaca Breeders Association, which lists 38 breeders on its website. But Nancy Brandt, owner of Sugarloaf Alpaca Co., the county’s largest alpaca operation, estimates that at least 20 local farms are raising alpacas.
Sugarloaf Alpaca Company, LLC began 10 years ago with 12 alpacas. The company now has 130 alpacas and has sold more than four dozen animals to other farms as breeding stock and for fiber production and pets.
“The alpaca industry is alive and well — both locally and nationally (as) a growing number of people have discovered the superior softness, warmth and hypoallergenic qualities of alpaca,” Brandt said.
Sugarloaf’s on-farm alpaca yarn shop and fiber studio are doing great, Brandt said.
“But the biggest news of all is that just this week we are installing a full-service fiber processing mill on our farm,” Brandt said.
“We have over 1,000 pounds of our fiber waiting to be processed into yarn, rovings and felted products. Once we are caught up with our own fiber we will offer our services to other alpaca fiber producers on a limited first-come, first-served basis.”
Alpaca is a versatile fiber that can be used to create products that are warm for the winter and others that can be cool and breathable for the summer, Brandt said.
Al and Catherine Beatty ended six months of alpaca research with a consensus to begin a business. It has been 12 years since the Beattys started Bellasera Alpacas in Union Bridge, and the self-described animal lovers said they have no regrets.
“Alpaca is a very sweet animal, they’re easy to train and it’s a nice farm business to have,” Catherine Beatty said. “It was truly love at first sight, and we’ve never regretted it.”
The couple’s research uncovered the docile nature of alpacas, how easy they were to train and their high-quality fiber, Catherine Beatty said.
Alpacas range in price from $5,000 to $30,000, she said.
“We offer various financing packages, and we welcome farm visits because we’re big on educating people about what wonderful animals they are,” she said.