Friends on the Farm

Roaming around six acres of the Hualapai Mountain foothills, 37 alpacas make their home. As only a handful of alpaca ranches exist in the state, this unique Kingman find is an interesting stop along Interstate 40.

Ron and Anna Nyberg opened Alpacas of the Southwest 18 years ago, after Anna fell in love with the animal while watching TV one day.

“You know it’s a real interesting story,” she said. “We were living in Vegas at the time. I was sick one day and flipping through the channels and turned on Animal Planet and they were talking about a live birth of an alpaca. In 2003, alpacas weren’t mainstream — you didn’t really hear about them. I thought, ‘What is an alpaca?’ They were showing the live birth and it was pretty cool. That same week in Vegas, there was an alpaca halter show at Sam’s Town. We went there and there were a lot of alpaca ranchers we started talking to and we started doing a lot of research.

“We bought our first girl four or five months after that. We boarded her up in Oregon and took two years to find our land where we live now, get the barn, house and fencing up. In those two years we bought a few more and had a total of nine boarded in Oregon and then they were transferred down here once we had everything in place. I often wonder, ‘If I had not watched the Animal Planet that one day, what would I be doing now?’”

Nyberg was a nurse, which she continued at Kingman Regional until a couple of years ago, when she retired to be a full-time alpaca rancher. With 37 alpacas, four dogs and two pigs living on the ranch, it is certainly plenty of work.

“We have four livestock guardian dogs because we have coyotes and mountain lions that come down from the Hualapai Mountains,” Nyberg said. “We have three Great Pyrenees, then we have a Maremma, which is an Italian sheepdog. They are pretty rare dogs — they’re a working dog that never leave their herd. Then we have two potbelly pigs. We have a true miniature American potbelly pig named Charlotte and she does little tricks for the tours. Then we have a Vietnamese potbelly pig. They’re each about 110 pounds and people have a lot of fun with them.”

The ranch is open for tours 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Friday-Monday for a $15 entry fee per car.

“It’s a real interactive tour where people can get up close and personal with them,” Nyberg said. “You can feed the alpacas, take awesome pictures and really interact with them.”

Guests may not bring their own dogs on a tour, as the alpacas and the working dogs will see them as a threat.

A great time to visit is during Alpaca Farm Days, which is 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1 and 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2. During this fun festival, the Nyberg’s open up their ranch to the public for free.

“It’s our 17th year for Alpaca Farm Days,” Nyberg said. “We’ve turned it into our own little arts and crafts festival. We have about 14 local Southwest artisans. One couple makes handmade wooden furniture, someone makes handmade candles and soaps. The Mohave County Gemstoners Club will bring their rocks and gemstones for purchase and one of the members brings the equipment so people can see how to cut the rocks and polish them. The High Desert Astronomy Club in Kingman are coming out Saturday only, with solar telescopes. If it’s nice and sunny, people will be able to look through those solar telescopes and see sun activity. We have face painting, rock painting and all kinds of things kids can do. So it’s an economical way to have a good time with the family.”

There will not be food vendors, but they will have bottled water and cold drinks for sale.

Of course the alpacas are the stars of the weekend, and will be penned up close to the barn for easy viewing. Guests can pet the friendly animals on their neck or back, just not the head.

“They’re real kid-friendly, very docile,” Nyberg said. “They only have teeth at the bottom, so they can’t bite you. They grind their hay sideways instead of up and down.”

A highlight on Sunday will be demonstrations on how to turn their fleece to yarn.

“We have a couple of women coming on Sunday who are bringing spinning wheels and then we give them raw fleece from our animals and they will demonstrate how to turn the fleece into yarn,” Nyberg said. “We’ve got lots of fleece. Each animal produces between 5-10 pounds of fleece every year. Alpacas come in 22 natural colors, from fawn, to black, to white, to grey, so they pick out whichever color they want. Then for volunteering their time here, whatever fleece they turn to yarn they get to keep.”

If guests want to take home some of that luxurious alpaca fleece, they can visit the Nyberg’s shop on property where they have rugs, sweaters, scarves and more made from the loomed fleece.

Alpacas of the Southwest is located at 1108 McCarrel Road, 15 miles east of Kingman. Take the Blake Ranch Road exit, then turn right and follow the signs.