TWO RIVERS (NBC 26) — Northeast Wisconsin is well-known for its commitment to agriculture, but you won't find many alpaca ranchers raising these gentle creatures for their fiber.
That changed in 1996 when Kevin Stoer decided to quit raising cattle and started raising alpacas. Stoer says he didn't want to raise livestock that he had to ultimately slaughter for profit any longer. Instead, he started raising alpacas, because they're so gentle, and they also grow fiber that's in high demand. Stoerr says his plot of land has been in his family since the late 1880s, when his grandfather emigrated from Bulgaria and ended up marrying a young woman down the road from where his ranch sits on the edge of Two Rivers. Stoer says his Grandpa Joe was given 13 acres of land for the dowry, and the rest is history!
LondonDairy Alpaca Ranch sits outside Two Rivers on Highway 147. Stoer says Michael is his prized alpaca, because he's the largest male, he loves attention, and he's so docile.
"You can see Michael produces about 13 pounds of fiber a year, and you can feel how deep it is," Stoer said.
Michael loves attention, but not as much as he loves to be fed treats.
"And, he loves that food of course. That's the whole thing," Stoer said.
Stoer and Laura Prellwitz offer daily tours of LondonDairy, and they give visitors an up-close look of these gentle balls of fluff through agritourism.
"Can I show them your teeth? OK. He's only got teeth on the bottom, and he's got calloused skin on the top. See? That's calloused skin, that's not his tongue right there," Stoer explained that's normal for alpacas.
The best part about LondonDairy Alpaca is that you can pet the animals and feed them as they come right up to you. Kevin says five of the females are expecting babies this spring.
"People have a lot of questions about alpacas, and they want to interact with alpacas, and they want to see alpacas, and be by alpacas. These warm-looking animals, cuddly animals, they're just like magnets for people," Stoer said.
Alpacas also produce 22 natural colors of fiber, where Kevin and Laura encourage visitors to feel and try to notice the difference.
Aside from raising and caring for 50 of these gentle creatures, Kevin and Laura have a gift shop full of alpaca products where people are encouraged to feel and touch everything.
There's a little bit of everything in their gift shop, but Prellwitz says the alpaca-fiber socks seem to be their best seller.
"Yes, our socks are always our number one seller, and a lot of people think alpaca is just for winter or cold weather. It's year-round. It's very breathable," Prellwitz said.
Whether it's in the gift shop or on the ranch, Kevin says touching alpaca fiber attracts people of all ages.
"Once you get your hands in it, you notice there's a definite difference between alpaca and sheep wool," Kevin said.
LondonDairy is a location anyone is encouraged to visit but you MUST schedule an appointment before showing up, because it's still a working ranch where Kevin and Laura make sure the animals are always taken care care of before visitors stop by.
Prellwitz says they also hold a yearly drive where people are encouraged to come and donate money to a local food pantry, or they can donate a piece of non-perishable food to see the alpacas.
They also have a long list of events coming up in the spring that people are encouraged to check out, and we're excited to go back to see the alpacas after they've been sheared.