Leslie Root Loveless (BS ’78) had no idea that when her husband gave her a spinning wheel for Christmas 16 years ago, it would eventually lead to an alpaca ranch near their home in Mapleton, Utah.
Loveless had wanted to learn textile spinning and began with small Angora rabbits, but she became interested in alpacas after seeing an advertisement for their fleece. Loveless purchased two alpacas because the South American herd animals need companionship to thrive, and the pastime quickly grew into a budding business called Sierra Bonita.
Loveless figured, she says, “If I were going to raise [alpacas], I might as well turn this more into a business rather than a hobby. It’s something I thought I could do well, be prosperous at, and make an income to help support the family.” And the business of breeding, sheering, and showing has been beneficial for the Lovelesses, paying for family vacations as well as missions and college tuition for their children.
Sierra Bonita supports about 40 alpacas, with the Lovelesses owning half and boarding the others. Of the alpacas they have owned, the most famous is MacGyver, who was named the national Herd Sire of the Year for a record seven consecutive years. “There was never an animal that produced more champion, beautiful offspring than MacGyver,” says Loveless. Though MacGyver is now retired, his offspring have also gained fame. Sniper, one of his sons, has won more than 20 championships at regional and national alpaca shows and is pictured on the label of Mazuri alpaca feed.
Loveless says the skills she obtained from a BYU home economics degree have helped her business. From sewing to managing finances, her proficiency in caring for a home and family have directly translated to taking care of alpacas. “It’s like the alpacas have been my children too.”
— Courtney M. Feinauer (’13)