What’s in a name?  
Thistledown Alpacas was named to reflect our Celtic heritage and the fiber quality of the beautiful alpacas in our hand-picked herd. We are both Celtic imports, from Scotland and Wales, although our three children are all USA born and bred. The combination of the Scottish thistle and the Welsh feather represents our intention to breed alpacas with fiber as soft as thistledown. You may also notice that all the alpacas born to our farm have Celtic or old English names, which is a tradition we plan to continue. Thistledown Alpacas is a breeder, not a broker - we only offer for sale alpacas that have been members of our foundation herd for a number of years, or have been born to our own females, usually here at our farm. We breed specifically for top quality color and excellent temperament, and our children regularly handle our animals. At the 2004 MaPaca Jubilee, described as "the largest alpaca event on the planet, ever", Thistledown cleaned up in the mixed grey/multicolor class, winning both Champion and Reserve Champion fleece, in competition with some of the largest and most prestigious breeders in the country! In 2005, at the Level 3 AOBA certified Virginia Classic Show, our alpacas won Grand Champion grey male and Grand Champion brown female. At the 2006 MaPaca Jubilee, our grey male won Reserve Champion grey fleece, and in 2007 one of our girls won the brown fleece Championship. At this point, nine of the 24 members of our foundation herd are Champion/Reserve Champions, and Thistledown won nine of those 11 Championship ribbons ourselves!
 Why alpacas?
Apart from being the most graceful, gentle, intuitive and curious creatures we have ever known, alpacas produce a fiber that is similar to cashmere in quality and comes in many different natural colors. Alpaca fiber has better insulating properties than the wool of a sheep, and greater tensile strength than sheeps wool. It is very popular in the high fashion industry for creating top quality, lustrous, lightweight garments which are renowned for being very long-lasting (alpaca sweaters can be handed down from generation to generation). Alpacas don’t have to be slaughtered to harvest their fiber – they are shorn once a year - and are easy for children to handle, which makes them a very attractive livestock for families to own. They are perhaps the most practical and ecologically sound animal around; mowing the grass without creating air pollution and making wonderful compost for the garden. Every home should have some! Our whole family is involved in the alpaca business, with our children showing alpacas in junior showmanship, obstacle, PR and costume classes, and even showing our alpacas in halter classes at major shows, competing alongside adults. We sell our alpaca fiber directly to handspinners, or blended with our angora rabbit fiber to create luxury rovings for handspinners and yarn for handcrafters, or blended with sheeps wool for use in felting projects.  
Alpacas are easy to keep compared to other livestock, and require little more than regular worming, toenail trimming, fresh water and feeding with small amounts of grain and hay. Taking care of their basic needs takes only a couple of hours per day, although enjoying their company could take longer! They are very efficient at utilizing feed - our annual feed bill for one 150lb alpaca is the same as for two 10lb angora rabbits. Alpacas are easy on the land - having no top teeth makes it difficult for them to graze pasture down to the roots – and being native to the mountainous regions of South America, their requirements for shelter are minimal. There are relatively few alpacas in the USA (approximately 90,000, of which less than half are breeding age females), they reproduce at a slow rate (one per year) and importation has been severely restricted. All US alpacas registered with the ARI have been DNA blood-typed, which protects their value as breeding stock, and the Registry is now closed to imports. There is significant potential for market growth, demand has increased dramatically each year since their introduction into the U.S. and they are not yet in the mainstream of livestock production. There are also significant tax advantages involved in operating an agricultural business, and alpacas can be fully insured to protect against the risk of theft and mortality.
  Why so small?  
The decision to stay small is based on our desire to create top quality breeding stock - we are not in the quantity business. All of our alpacas have been chosen from small farms, and we fully intend to maintain a herd of no more than 25-30 of the best quality animals we can produce. Our objective is to have 20-25 blue ribbon females (at Level 3 AOBA Shows or larger), and 5 top quality herdsires. Currently, six of our 20 foundation females are Champion/Reserve Champions, and 16 are blue ribbon winners! Each year, we have as many alpacas to sell as are born into our herd and we never broker alpacas, although we can refer you to other small farms breeding for quality. Spending time with our animals, knowing each of them by name and learning about their individual personalities is the hallmark of a small farm. When you deal directly with a small breeder you get excellent value for money (no middleman broker to pay!), unbeatable customer service and animals with unique and trusting personalities that are a joy to be around.
  What are we trying to achieve?  
Keeping alpacas enables us to actively manage our investment, and work together as a family to achieve our goals, and to that end our foundation females were chosen very carefully. At the very least, each of our girls is either an award-winner in her own right, is bred to a multiple award-winning male, has produced award-winning offspring, or is the daughter of an award-winning herdsire. Our colorful herd contains some of the top bloodlines in the country, including Accoyo Felix, Accoyo Yupanqui, Accoyo Camilio, Accoyo Victor, Peruvian Platinum, Danko, 5Peruvian Silverado, PPPeruvian Kenamori Gold, Cisco Kid, SA Silverado, The Silversmith, PPeruvian Leon, 4Peruvian Black Magic, CPeruvian Jaxon, CPeruvian Black Hawk, Macintosh, Fantasy's Gremlin, 5Peruvian Chinchero, Mr. President, Patagonia's Ulysses, Pperuvian Guellermo, Majestado of Peru, Peruvian Presidio / Caligula and 5Peruvian Camelot, in addition to some rare and lesser known colored bloodlines, such as Lanark's Obsession (deceased), Acero Marca's Evarado and Hacuna Matata.
Our primary consideration is conformation, then we look at fiber quality and quantity, on the understanding that if the quality of the fiber is equal, then the animal that produces a greater quantity represents the best value for money in a breeding program. And we are interested in improving fiber quality in the unusual colors, working on the premise that the South American breeders and the larger farms have focused on breeding high quality white animals, but their fiber needs to be dyed and processed to produce color. We feel there is tremendous scope for improvement in the vast spectrum of natural alpaca colors, including grey, maroon, rose grey and black. The females, as well as the males in our herd have to be excellent, as our ultimate dream is to breed (not buy!) a National Color Champion. We offer top quality, colored alpacas and are committed to supporting our customers, and this industry, for the long term.