It's Happening: A Visit to the Hughes' Llama, Alpaca - and Camel - Farm

By Julie Perine on August 21, 2022 from It’s Happening via

While feeding six-week-old Ozzie his afternoon bottle, Amber Hughes brought me up to speed on the menagerie of animals she and her husband Derek own along Meadowbrook Road.
Yes, Ozzie is a camel. He has about doubled his 70-pound birth weight and is thriving, even though his mama passed away. As one might expect, there’s never a dull moment when you’re raising llamas, camels, and alpacas, totaling nearly 50 head.
The Hughes family, which also includes Ashton (18), Treyton (14) and twins Brooke and Brinley (10), initially raised alpacas and during my last visit in 2019, they had 10 and were expecting two more. Since then, they have made a shift. Forty llamas and just three alpacas now roam the 10 acres of pasture land on their 25-acre farm, and the homestead is now also home to a trio of camels – not to mention many other animals.
The original reasoning behind the raising of Camelidae varieties was to help keep the grass cut. And that has worked like a charm. And as the family has gained experience in raising the alternative livestock, they have learned a lot about the species and have shifted focus to be more profitable.
As they did the alpaca fiber, the Hughes sell the llama fiber. But there’s another perk to raising llamas.
“Everyone wants them for show and for breeding,” Amber said. “We’re not super successful yet, but we’re trying to breed the spots – the appaloosa llamas. Everyone wants the pretty spotted llamas they can show or that they can breed or replicate. That’s where the money is.”
They have made some appaloosa sales and will soon complete more. Llamas are pregnant for a full year and babies aren’t weaned and ready to go until they are six to 12 months old. Therefore, there is some time before the family sees a return on their investments.
But spotted or not, those llamas are loved. As the animals meandered through the pasture, Amber and her twins rattled off the names of dozens of them – Spinderella, Appily, Roxie, Cookie, Gigi, Stella, Dottie – and on and on. They have their own looks and personalities. Some are more comfortable around people; some not so much. Only one has a spitting habit. Some are happy to pose for selfies. Included is baby Happy, especially adored by Brooke and Brinley.
Then, there are the camels. And Amber told me how they came into the picture.
“We already had alpacas and llamas, so it made sense to get camels,” she said. “My husband always wanted one. We got our first at a livestock auction – and he was lonely. So, we bought a female out of Missouri and then we got Ozzie.”
Chet is a two-humped camel, known as a Bactrian. Olive only has one hump. She is a Dromedary camel. Ozzie doesn’t really have any humps yet, but he will. Camels aren’t born with their humps.
“Camel humps aren’t full of water like everyone thinks. They are full of fat. We’re working on building that fat up in Ozzie. Once we do, his humps will stand up. If you see a camel and his humps aren’t firm, he’s probably malnourished,” Amber said.
The camels have different coats in the summer and winter months. They shed out twice a year.
“Chet’s hair is long and shaggy all over his body in the winter,” Amber said.
The Hughes will soon be securing training for the camels, so they can appear in parades and potentially be utilized for live nativity scenes for local churches.
Beyond the llamas, alpacas and camels, the farm is home to a herd of beef cattle, a rescue donkey, a miniature pony, a pig, geese, three turkeys, six chickens, two baby doll sheep, 25 guineas, livestock and pet dogs, a peacock and a baby emu – named Duncan.
Of course, the Hughes also grow produce; tomatoes, zucchini, squash, corn and more. New to the mix this year is a pumpkin patch – which started accidentally after the cows feasted on some pumpkins from 2021. Brooke and Brinley sell produce the family doesn’t eat. They get to keep the money. Of course, they help with plenty of farm chores, which keeps them busy and growing up healthy outdoors.
“I tell them they’re lucky. Not all kids get to grow up like this,” Amber said.
The girls said they love the farm life, but they get sad when animals die or one is sold, especially a baby. But even that experience is a benefit, their mom said.
“I think it makes for better kids. They understand compassion and they understand birth, life, and death. They understand just the full circle of life,” she said. 
Editor's Note: There are many more photos of the Hughes farm coming this week on Connect-Bridgeport. 
See video reel on Instagram. Follow @julieannperine.

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