By DONNA NEELY
Did you know that over 50 Huacaya Alpacas live minutes away in Wilson County? Bill and Ruth Fuqua owners and operators of Hickory Bluff Farms on Lebanon Road in Mt Juliet, Tennessee, are one of six alpaca farms in Wilson County.
The bloodlines of the alpacas originate from Peru, Chile, Bolivia and New Zealand, but the Fuqua’s herd is 98% born and bred in the USA.
The average alpaca is about 36 inches tall at the withers and weighs about 150 pounds. They are very gentle & easy to handle.
Each and every alpaca on the Hickory Bluff Farm has a unique personality and has their own given name. Sonny, Kenobi Wan, Panache, Nicklas, Mia, Rosie, Stella, Joleen, Samari are just a few of the names you will hear if you’re passing through the farm. Personality is what you will witness as you pet and talk to the alpacas. Sonny was so nosey, he placed his nose directly onto my camera lens.
“They are very loyal and stay bonded to their family & friends throughout their lives. They even have mom & daughter spats” explains Ruth.
The average breeding age for girls is two and three for boys. Girls are socially more mature and develop a little earlier than the boys. Alpaca’s gestation is eleven months, with average of 12-16 pounds at birth and birthing is planned for April/May and November/ December. The moms and babies (crias) are weaned at six months. Several crias are born around the same time so they can have a group of friends to play with.
Alpacas hum in different tones to communicate with each other. When babies arrive, their moms teach them to hum in a special way. Then there’s a different humming and singing for dating calls. I guess you just have to be there to recognize the humming tones to know what they are asking or requesting for the different occasions. Amazingly, the Fuqua’s seem to know all the different tones.
Some spitting usually occurs if one alpaca gets greedy with food or if one cuts in front of the other when relaxing on a hot day in the barn around the fans. Personalities come in to play similar to brothers and sisters fighting over space or just having a bad fleece day.
Shearing days are in late April and great care is taken to get the best “haircuts”. The fiber is entered into competitions, sold to spinners or processed into yarn. The fiber has a great return, which pays for the alpaca food bill every year. Each Alpaca produces about 6 pounds of fleece per year and their fleece is one of the world’s finest and most luxurious natural fibers. Soft as cashmere and warmer, lighter and stronger than wool, it comes in more colors than any other fiber producing animal Hickory Bluff has a wide selection of alpaca fiber, yarns and fine apparel either by online shopping or stopping by the farm for a visit.
One visit with the Fuqua’s and you may find yourself with thoughts of starting your very own alpaca farm. Little baby Gilda sure stole my heart!
I was amazed at the calmness and ease of handling that I witnessed while taking pictures and walking with Ruth through the barns and pastures. Some of the Alpacas would actually stop and pose for me to take pictures and seemed to really enjoy the attention.
“Touch an Alpaca every day” is the motto at Hickory Bluff. Ruth states, “All that touching makes for better dispositions, calmer vet days and ease of handling. But we also believe the bottom line is to always let them be alpacas.”
Hickory Bluff Farms
7236 Lebanon Road • Mt Juliet, TN 37122
Farm Phone: 615-444-4765
Visits to the farm are by appointment only Farm Day event coming up on Sept 25 at the Wilson County Fairgrounds Entertainment Pavilion 9 am – 4 pm. Free admission and parking.