POMARIA — Moving back to Newberry County and buying the property she grew up on, Alicia Holbrook never expected to be operating her own Alpaca farm in her backyard.
Holbrook and her husband, Eric, moved back to Pomaria after they were married. At the time, the property had been abandoned for seven years or so, according to Holbrook.
The idea came to her during one of her youngest daughter’s 2 a.m. feedings when she was still a newborn. There was a show on National Geographic about a farm that raised and bred alpacas, Holbrook said. The idea piqued her interest and she later told her husband that was something she really wanted to do on their property.
Holbrook said the idea of looking into an animal’s eyes, knowing the other way you could make profit on them was to take them to get slaughtered, just broke her heart. The best thing about alpacas, she said, is that they are a fiber animal.
“It was a hobby in the beginning, but research showed it could also be profitable,” Holbrook said.
Putting Holbrook’s dreams into action, she and her husband, along with her brother-in-law and family spent the next two years getting the land ready for the farm. This included building the barn, putting up fencing and other labor.
Holbrook said they took delivery of the animals in November 2013, establishing Carolina Pride Pastures. The alpacas were purchased from another farm in Spartanburg.
Although they looked in other areas to purchase the animals, Holbrook said she wanted to look close by as sometimes if there are problems, you want to know you can reach the former owners in case of emergency.
Holbrook described a time after first purchasing the alpacas where the mother had given birth, but would not stand up to nurse. The previous owners travelled from Spartanburg to help them out in their time of need.
South Carolina has 11 farms registered with either the National Alpaca Association or the Carolina Alpaca Breeders and Owners Association (CABO). The farm Holbrook bought her animals from was registered.
“When they’re not registered, there’s no way to track that animal so you worry about genetics, interbreeding, and other issues,” Holbrook said.
Carolina Pride Pastures began with five pregnant females, which led to four crias (baby alpacas) earlier this spring. Holbrook said they just rebred two females and plan to breed the other three females later this fall, hoping for 14 alpacas altogether by this time next year.
With the amount of land they currently have, Holbrook thinks Carolina Pride Pastures can accommodate about 30 alpacas.
“I feel like a herd of 50 or less is manageable to ensure we have quality animals that are healthy,” Holbrook said.
Not only are they docile, Holbrook said their fleece can be useful in everyday items we see in stores.
When each alpaca is sheered, the fleece is sent to a processing plant in North Carolina where it can later be used for products such as yarn, roving, or batting, which is used to stuff quilts most times, Holbrook said.
Their fleece is naturally waterproof and hypoallergenic, which makes it good for baby blankets. When sheered, alpacas produce about five to 10 pounds of fleece per year.
Another benefit to raising alpacas Holbrook said is that they are very low maintenance.
“I spend three to four hours a day with them, but pretty much anyone can take care of them for me,” she said.
Water, grain and hay are what alpacas require to keep their normal daily schedules, Holbrook said, and she said she never worries about getting kicked or hurt because of their even temperaments.
Holbrook said alpacas typically cost from $500 to $25,000.
“This is a large range but it really depends on the quality of the animal,” Holbrook said. “Quality is determined by fleece length, fleece fineness, fleece density, and their breeding record and potential.”
Meet the team
Holbrook and her husband, Eric, have two children, Hannah, 5, and Grace, 3. Eric works in Joanna at Norbord South Carolina Inc.
“He becomes a farm hand when he gets home,” Holbrook said.
Another important member of their family is Big Girl, their lovable dog. Big Girl is a Great Pyrenees breed.
Sleeping all day and staying up at night, Big Girl is the family’s guard dog for the alpacas. Holbrook said alpacas’ biggest predators are wild dogs or coyotes. Because of the area they live in, however, Holbrook said the biggest dangers are deer.
Deer carry what is called a meningeal worm, which can be emitted through waste. If the alpaca were to eat the blade of grass with the worm-like animal on it, the worm would attach to their spinal cord, killing them. Holbrook compared it to heartworms in dogs.
Holbrook said to keep watch for deer, Big Girl walks around their fence at night to warn off anything that may harm them. They have considered getting another puppy that could be trained to help.
Carolina Pride Pastures is located at 1416 S.C. 34 in Pomaria past Lever’s Strawberry Farm. Holbrook describes their schedule as pretty wide open for visitors.
As well as running the farm, Holbrook said they also sell fertilizer and will often have people drop in to purchase some. Also using the fertilizer, Holbrook said “alpaca tea” can be made.
Alpaca tea is when the fertilizer is mixed in a five gallon bucket with water. When it turns the color of tea, it can be used to water plants just like commercial products one can buy.
More products and information can be found on their website at cppastures.com.