In 2004, while mulling over possible businesses they might offer to the Bozeman community, a few fortuitous breadcrumbs led entrepreneurs James and Sarah Budd to an idea that suited their lifestyle and personal ethos: Alpaca farming.
A discussion that began with James sharing a random article grew with more research, and finally, the arrival of an unsolicited note from James’ sister in the mail saying, “Wouldn’t this be fun?” The note was attached to a flyer detailing alpaca farming. It was a sign.
The Budds began making calls and visiting alpaca farms. The more they learned, the more excited they became. Six months later, they had acquired eight alpacas, several of which came from Steve Rolfing. One of North America’s pioneer llama breeders and owner of Great Northern Ranch, Rolfing “... taught me everything I needed to know,” James said.
Fast-forward seventeen years: Alpacas of Montana now consists of over 100 alpacas and they’ve just welcomed spring babies. Sarah explained that they all have names and distinct personalities. A fascinating characteristic of alpaca mothers is that they invariably give birth during the day, between 10 am and 2 pm. Presumably, this would enable them to shelter their young before nightfall. Practically, caretakers couldn’t ask for more convenient arrivals.
The alpacas have an entourage: Standing watch 24/7 are three Turkish Anatolian guard dogs, who can spar with a mountain lion (and win), yet are mild-mannered to friendly guests; and a few llamas, who are braver and better-equipped to handle predators than the alpacas.
This organic approach to security follows in other facets of the Budds' thoughtful business. Alpacas of Montana notably is the only alpaca farm in the United States to receive antimicrobial certification for their patented fabric technology, which essentially means their products do not retain sweat and odor. Their textile operation is environmentally friendly and produces products that are hypo-allergenic, water resistant, and softer than cashmere. Local knitters create their beautiful scarves, mittens, and hats; and they offer a variety of additional products spanning 22 natural colors, making many items completely dye- and chemical-free. Each year, they use over 1000 pounds of their own fleece as well as fleece from other alpacas throughout the world. They will be releasing two new items this winter: a neck gaiter and a ladies vest.
The fleece from the belly and legs is thicker and coarser and is used for the felted inner soles for shoes that runners use; fleece from the back and rump is softer and is used for socks, hats, and blankets. “We want as much alpaca in each product as we can use,” James explained. “Products like blankets can be 100% alpaca, but items like socks wouldn’t hold together so you have to add some bamboo or rayon.”
“Many people don’t realize that alpaca outperforms merino wool,” James added. “It’s stronger and warmer, has 85% greater wicking capabilities, it promotes healthy skin and there are absolutely no toxicants involved in processing because it’s naturally soft. Our fleece is never super-washed with chemicals such as chlorine and sulphuric acid, like most commercial woolens on the market.”
In their mindfulness of waste, the Budds have made available the herd’s compost for purchase for healthfully enriching gardens around town.
Watch for news in 2022, when they will again host their popular Open House event. The 2019 event saw 10,000 guests attending. Next year’s festivities will include photo opportunities with the alpacas, sleigh rides, delicious treats from Bozeman food vendors, and more. Until then, look for them during the holiday season in local Ace Hardware stores.
For a closer inside look, visit their Facebook page or their website at alpacasofmontana.com.
Environmentally friendly, earth-conscious socks and hats made with Dry Fusion Technology