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Nestled in rural Cattaraugus County outside of Randolph on the Amish Trail lays A Slice of Heaven.
A Slice of Heaven is an alpaca farm owned by Mike and Sue Bean of Randolph. The Beans also operate a gift shop on the farm called the Simply Natural Alpaca Gift Shop.
Sue Bean explained that she and Mike have owned the farm and gift shop for four years, but they have owned alpacas for six years. She first fell in love with alpacas while driving her bus route for the Randolph Central School District.
“We owned six alpacas, but they were on four different farms,” Sue said. “When we found this farm, we were actually looking at another property down the road. After that fell through, we saw this farm. Mike said that it was like a slice of Heaven.”
Bean said that they bought their first alpaca, Breeze, in September 2009. The Beans actually had to board their alpacas until they finally found their own Slice of Heaven in October 2011.
The Beans now have 30 alpacas – 22 females and 8 males – on their farm. The couple offers the male alpacas for herdsire (breeding) services ranging from $500 to $1,200. However, the females can be purchased as dams (the mother of a foal) or maidens (not previously bred).
Bean shears their alpacas once a year. She explained that it takes approximately three hours to shear all 30 animals. The fiber produced from shaving the stomach alone of one alpaca can cover one 3’ x 7’ tabletop, she added. The fiber is then carded to be spun into yarn after it is sent to the mill.
“Our original fiber mill in Alfred Station, New York was sold and moved to Syracuse,” Bean said. This required adjusting their final process. “We now send our fiber to a mill in Wampum, PA.” It is a quaint village of just over 600 people but hundreds of miles closer than Rochester, New York.
Bean noted that the alpacas are reasonably low maintenance in care. She estimates 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening is all she needs to devote to the daily care of the animals. They chew cud like a cow, but coming from a land of harsh conditions, the high Peruvian Andes, they gain nutrition from their food more efficiently than cows and can thrive on low protein hay or ordinary pasture grasses.
“The gift shop takes up most of our time,” Bean said. The Simply Natural Alpaca Gift Shop offers many items made from alpaca fiber, such as socks, hats and blankets. While many of the current items the Beans carry are imported from Peru, some of the items are made right here in America, and some of them are even made with the fiber of the alpacas on their own farm.
“If you get a kiss from (dam alpaca) Tyf, you’ll want to get something more from her,” Bean said enthusiastically. Just last week, she gave birth to a healthy and totally adorable son, which has now been named Magnum 357. Readers are invited to see these beautiful animals, and even price them, perhaps for aspiring owners of a truly unusual outdoor pet roughly the size of the more familiar whitetail doe, though with a lot more soft, luxuriant fur, at www.asliceofheavenalpacas.com.
A Slice of Heaven Alpaca Farm and Simply Natural Alpaca Gift Shop are located at 11144 Pope Rd. in Randolph. They are open Monday and Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call (716) 358-5242 or visit their website at www.asliceofheavenalpacas.com.