“Alpacas are vegetarians, with grass as their primary source of food," explains Miraflora co-founder Brent Facchinello, "so the waste they create helps the hemp plants thrive on the farm, which ups the quality of the products.”
Grazing on 10 acres of organic hay with a view of the Flatirons, the alpacas — a gang of characters with names like Ting-Go, Jackson Hole, Burrito and more — eat about 1.5 times their body weight, Facchinello says. Aside from grass as their main diet, the alpaca gang snacks on treats like watermelon and apples from the farm’s mini orchard — a recipe for healthy poop and even better fertilizer, he adds.
Alpaca manure has balanced levels of plant nutrients nitrogen and potassium, but has relatively low organic content and nitrogen levels, as well, avoiding the need for composting and enabling farmers to throw alpaca gold directly into the soil without fear of burning the plant. Considered a soil conditioner, alpaca manure helps soil’s ability to retain water in addition to improving the ground's overall quality. Cow manure's high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, on the other hand, can create algal blooms or toxins harmful to drinking water caused by fertilizer runoff.
The farmers pride themselves on other sustainable growing and operational methods, powering Miraflora's headquarters with Tesla solar panels and limiting harvest discard as much as possible, using every part of the plant for multiple uses.
“We believe in using the hemp plant as completely as possible, from putting it into our products, obviously, but also using the hemp stocks for landscaping and animal bedding,” Facchinello says. And the partnership between Miraflora's hemp and alpacas doesn't end there: the company donates the alpaca's fleece to a co-op, and is working to introduce an activewear line with clothing made of alpaca fleece and hemp fibers.
Adopted from Red Granite Ranch in the spring of 2020, the ten male alpacas were each between one and three years old when they made it to Miraflora's 160-acre farm in Boulder, one of the state's original homesteads. The clique’s ski-related names nod to the ranch breeder and owner, Marc Milligan, who was on the United States Ski Team.
When they’re not eating, the gang is active on Tik Tok, where followers get a glimpse into their daily routine and eclectic personalities.
“They’re super social and have a community," Facchinello says, noting that the herd can get frisky, often found jumping up on each other, neck wrestling or necking with each other. The farm has plans to introduce some female alpacas to the herd, so that frisky behavior might end in a different sort of activity when it’s flirting time. According to Facchinello, the lawnmower-like sound is the mating call of male alpacas, and "the female alpacas find this very sexy.”
They live a peaceful life on the farm, he adds. Most mornings, the herd walks the pasture before breakfast, stopping by for some fresh Rocky Mountain water from a nearby stream that passes through the alpaca’s pasture.
“I go visit them daily,” says Facchinello. “When I pull up in the farm buggy, the alpaca comes running across the pasture to come say hello and oftentimes get a treat or a leashed walk outside their pasture.”
Eco-friendly, soft — and adorable!