Current Issue / DU Alumni

Alum makes a ‘huggable investment’ with alpaca ranch

When Brian Thompson (IMBA ’99) needs to unwind, he drags a lawn chair out to the middle of his paddock, kicks back, pulls down his hat and enjoys the peaceful milling of his herd of … alpacas.

Brian Thompson and his alpacas

“They’re just magnificent animals,” Tres Amigos owner Brian Thompson says of his alpacas. “They’re so calming to be around.” Photo: Wayne Armstrong

That’s right. Alpacas.

“They’re just magnificent animals,” Thompson says. “They’re so calming to be around.”

Thompson owns and operates the Tres Amigos alpaca ranch with his wife, Nancy. The ranch—with a sweeping view of Pikes Peak—occupies 37 acres of rolling grassland speckled with stands of Gambel oak and ponderosa.

The 7,100-foot setting is almost perfect for alpacas—a domesticated animal from the high Andes raised primarily for their fiber, which is used for knitted and woven items.

Thompson bought his ranch 10 years ago after finishing his master’s degree. He had been working full time and going to school full time and suddenly had a lot less to do. He was restless.

So he bought some ranchland 15 miles south of Franktown, Colo. On weekends, he would head to the ranch—just open space at that point—and “whack at weeds with a sickle.”

The Thompsons eventually built a house, and, wanting to keep the land’s agricultural designation for tax purposes, looked into adding livestock to their family of three people (including daughter Lindsey), three birds and three dogs.

First they considered buying calves. But they were afraid they’d get too attached. Then they thought of llamas. But they settled on alpacas because, Thompson says, “alpacas are smaller, they’re cuter, and they’re easier to handle.” They bought their first three alpacas in 2000 and Tres Amigos was born.

Today there are 57 alpacas at the ranch (including 20 boarded there by another owner), along with a couple of horses and a fat barn cat—a favorite friend to curious baby alpacas. Thompson raises breeding stock and also sells the alpacas’ fiber after their annual shearing.

The 90-year-old cattle rancher on the neighboring spread has taught Thompson the ranching ropes. “I’m his city slicker project,” says Thompson, who grew up in Madison, Wis. Although alpacas are “fairly easy keepers,” Thompson spends at least two hours a day caring for his land and livestock in addition to working full time from home as a program manager for Avaya, a global communications technology company.

Before working in the private sector, Thompson was an Army language specialist stationed at a listening post in Cold War-era Berlin. Although hr doesn’t get to use his foreign language skills much in his current job, he practices on the alpacas, even giving some of them Hungarian or Russian names: Laszlo, Voltan, Yuri and Dymetri. Then there’s Audrey—named after Audrey Hepburn—a cocoa-colored, doe-eyed alpaca who follows Thompson around like a lovesick puppy. And there’s Cupid (born on Valentine’s Day), Satchmo, Morgan, Sebastian and Cutty (for the whisky) and the rest of the gang, all with distinct personalities. Thompson can recognize each, and he loves them all.

Alpacas, he says, are a “huggable investment.”

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