2010-04-09 / Front Page

If the stock market makes you nervous, there’s always the alpaca investment

By SCOTT POWELL Ledger Staff Writer spowell@gaffneyledger.com

Carrots are a popular treat for alpacas at the Muscadine Ridge Alpacas Farm in Cherokee County. Owners Cindy and Gary Wurster invite local residents to visit the farm to learn more about alpacas. (Ledger photos / SCOTT POWELL) Carrots are a popular treat for alpacas at the Muscadine Ridge Alpacas Farm in Cherokee County. Owners Cindy and Gary Wurster invite local residents to visit the farm to learn more about alpacas. (Ledger photos / SCOTT POWELL) Staring at a dwindling stock portfolio, Cindy and Gary Wurster decided last fall there must be a better investment for retirement.

The search resulted in the Cherokee County residents starting the Muscadine Ridge Alpacas Farm last year off Champion Ferry Road. They presently have 19 alpacas and are working to expand their farming operation into a full-time job over the next several years.

Alpacas, members of the camel family, are colorful, soft and gentle animals. Their soft fleece comes in 22 colors and can be made into a variety of items such as sweaters, blankets and socks.

“Alpacas really require no more care than a large family dog,” Cindy Wurster said. “They eat a lot less as well. They are extremely hardy and seldom get sick. They are also easy to clean up after.”

Alpacas, members of the camel family, are colorful, soft and gentle animals. Their soft fleece comes in 22 colors and can be made into a variety of items such as sweaters, blankets and socks. Alpacas, members of the camel family, are colorful, soft and gentle animals. Their soft fleece comes in 22 colors and can be made into a variety of items such as sweaters, blankets and socks. Alpacas are about three feet tall and weigh between 100 and 200 pounds. They require only fresh water and modest amounts of food, eating about 2 percent of their body weight in hay per day.

“Every single one has a different personality,” Cindy Wurster said. “Alpacas are soft, gentle animals who are very curious. They are like fuzzy, teddy bears and safe for small children.”

The cost for one alpaca ranges from a few hundred dollars for a quality pet to thousands of dollars for an animal to be used for breeding purposes. Each alpaca has been placed by the Wursters on a national alpaca registry and are fully insured investments.

The Wursters initially plan to focus on breeding and making money by shearing the animals once a year.

The fleece will be sheared from their alpacas for the first time on April 16 and delivered to a cooperative in Tennessee. The cooperative will sell the material to companies and give alpaca owners a percentage of the profit.

In November, the Wursters purchased 20 pairs of alpaca socks from the cooperative. The socks were sent to Afghanistan where a friend’s son, J.W. Owensby, is presently deployed with the Marines.

“Alpaca fabric is three times warmer than sheep wool. The fabric is hyper-allergic so it’s good winter clothing for people who can’t wear wool,” Cindy Wurster said. “The alpaca socks will keep someone’s feet warm in 20 to 30 degrees-below-zero weather. We heard it gets very cold at night in Afghanistan so we sent as many alpaca socks as we could find to the soldiers.”

In addition to helping the military, the Wursters would like to take their pet alpaca Max to visit schools in the coming months.

“Max is a little small for his age. When we got him, we always thought we could bring him to elementary schools so kids could see what an alpaca is like,” Cindy Wurster said. “He is just the right size to load in the back of a trailer and haul off to a school.”

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