Justin Westergard and his mother Becky took a tour last Friday Aug of the Uinta Alpaca Farmer in Willard. Suzie Radtke introduces them to some of her alpacas.
WILLARD – Fourteen-year-old Justin Westergard of Plain City wants to be an alpaca farmer, so he and his mother Becky took a tour last Friday of the Uinta Alpaca Farm in Willard.
Robert and Suzie Radtke own and operate the farm. As part of the tour, the Westergard’s came away with some of Suzie’s 15 years of expertise on raising alpacas.
She talked to them about illness signs and cures. They learned about different feed, pellets, vitamins needed to keep the animals healthy.
Within just a few minutes it is easy to see she knew what she was talking about.
Suzie talked about how to keep the alpacas at their proper weight and the drawbacks of having them overweight.
She gave the young farmer tips on ways to make money form the fleece.
The Rastke’s have one of the larger alpaca farms in Utah. The Willard eight-acre farm has approximately 60 of the South American alpacas generally raised for their fine wool.
“When my husband was working on his PhD in Oklahoma in the mid 1980’s I worked at the vet school and they were just starting to import the alpacas,” Radtke said. “I thought I’d like to have one of some of those someday.”
She said at the time they were too expensive, but after the economy tanked, we found a few to start a herd.
“The first ones I bought weren’t that good,” Radtke said. ”We have nicer ones now.”
Every alpaca has a name as does her dogs cats and even her peacock.
“Alpacas are amazing animals. They have a calming influence on people dealing with issues,” she said. “We have people from military bases, a school for wayward boys and kids with autism come to find relief by being around our alpacas.”
She said some people are afraid of them at first, but they warm up to them after a while.
Robert said after a hard day at work he comes home and works with his alpacas so he can calm himself down.
“Alpacas and llamas are both South American animals from the camel family,” Robert said. “Alpacas were bred for their fine wool and llamas were made to pack stuff.”
The Radtkes give tours to everyone from grade school students to college classes.
The two hour tour generally starts at the store first where guests are shown what can be made with the wool.
“Then I take them to the barn and have them clean and make yarn out of the raw fleece,” she said. “From there we go to the different pens and I give them a personal look at them.”
The number one enemy of the alpaca is parasites; the second is domestic dogs.
“They don’t have any way to defend themselves,” she said. “When a dog grabs their necks they have no way to survive.”
To keep stray dogs and predators away, the Radtkes have a couple of guard dogs.
“Those dogs protect every animal on the farm, even the chickens,” she said. “If a stranger shows up on our place the dogs won’t let them near the animals unless we are there.”
“People can come and pay a small fee to take the tour,” she said. “I call it Alpaca 101. It takes about two hours.”
They don’t schedule tours on Sundays and Wednesdays. The money raised from the tour and the store goes for feeding and caring for the animals.
Uinta Alpaca Farm is located at 450 north 200 West in Willard. To schedule a tour contact Suzie at (801) 660-0724.