Alpaca Meet and Greet: Izzy - Alpacas of Montana


Alpaca Meet and Greet: Izzy

  • 4 min read

“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt” doesn’t only apply to human kids. At a mere two weeks old, sweet Izzy broke her leg playing with her buddies. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a clean break that could heal with a cast and some TLC. Izzy suffered a sequestered break, which means the broken bone shattered into pieces detached from the source of the break. Due to the nature of the injury she had to have surgery to remove the sequestered bone, which meant the young alpaca had to spend 3 months at the Washington State University Veterinary Hospital in Pullman, Washington. After putting up a good fight and being a strong little girl, Izzy returned home to the farm. 

gray and white alpaca

Alpacas are flight animals. They don’t have any defense systems of their own fruition, so avoidance is really their best bet at survival. Because of this, alpacas have about a 2.5 foot bubble around them that they don’t like people to enter. This helps them avoid predators, but it doesn’t help them in case of an emergency or for the sake of routine medical appointments. We want our alpacas to feel safe and to trust us so when we need to be in their space to check their teeth or trim their toenails they won’t think they’re under attack. To achieve this, all of the baby alpacas on the farm go through our alpaca halter training when they’re about 8 months old; however, since Izzy was battling injuries throughout her first year, she didn’t go through the normal training at a young age. We do this training so the alpacas know we are willing to speak their language and that we will respectfully listen to what they’re communicating. Unfortunately, since Izzy grew up with people in her space meaning surgeries and rough trials, she does not have such a trust with people. James and Sarah accepted that she would always be scared and try to respect and give her extra space. 

James and Sarah decided to wait until Izzy was three years old before breeding her in order to be one hundred percent certain she was entirely healed and wouldn’t be put in any danger by carrying a baby. Alpacas have the fastest bone regrowth of any animal, so when it comes to typical bone breaks, it’s not usually anything to worry about, but the sequestered break gave cause for precaution. They were mainly worried about any potential damage in her bone marrow, so they figured it was better to play it safe than sorry. Since then she has had two perfectly healthy and happy babies. Her son, Baba Ganoosh, is in the top 1% for breeding males.

white and gray alpaca

About a year and a half ago Izzy was sold to a retired couple in Great Falls, Montana. The couple, Paul and Kristy, always wanted alpacas, but as an engineer and nurse they didn’t have the time to commit to the animals that they wanted. When they retired they decided it was finally time to have some alpacas and called up James and Sarah to purchase a few. They ended up buying four alpacas, including Izzy who was pregnant at the time. They set up cameras in their barn area so they could always keep tabs on their new fur babies. Izzy had an easy and successful birth, and the couple welcomed a new baby to their herd. Shortly after the birth, Paul was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within weeks. Following her devastating loss, Kristy was determined to keep the alpacas as a legacy for her late partner, but Great Falls, Montana is not an easy place to care for animals on your own. It is one of the windiest areas in the state with an average wind of 12 mph each day and not being pardoned from gusts near 60 mph. In 2020, there was even a period of seven hours where the wind sustained at 40 mph. Great Falls also sees the bitter cold of Rocky Mountain winters, making it a harsh place for any type of outdoor upkeep. Kristy knew that caring for the alpacas at the standard she deemed fit in such a climate was too much for her to handle alone. After chatting through several options and looking for solutions, Kristy asked James if he knew anyone interested in purchasing her herd of four adults and a new baby. A few days later James made the long trek to Great Falls to bring the alpacas home. 

For the first few weeks, the four alpacas stayed in their own group, but are now fully assimilated back into the herd and they’ve even rekindled old friendships. Izzy’s best friend growing up was Charmane, her half sister. They always did everything together. They quickly fell into stride and are back to eating, sleeping and playing together. Alpacas really aren’t that different than humans. Just how we can call a dear friend who we haven’t spoken to in years and it feels like mere minutes, alpacas are just the same: full of memories, long term bonds and love. 

Izzy’s five month old baby, Ruthie, is pure sweetness and has assimilated well in the kids pen. She was eagerly welcomed in as part of the herd and is starting halter training along with all of the other kids this week. Ruthie already feeds out of James’ and Sarah’s hands and will be the feature of next week’s Alpaca Meet and Greet, so make sure you come back to meet her officially!

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