“ Caring for them and watching them prosper, and helping people learn about them is very rewarding. Being able to make pretty things from their fleece is also fun.

Donna M. Given

“They are incredibly calm and
therapeutic animals. It is
relaxing and fulfilling to work with them”

Tamara L. Garel

The Kiss Me Alpacas Story…

Kiss Me Alpacas was founded in Bandera, Texas in 2003 by two unassuming Nurses from Canada. This mother daughter team might have been an unlikely pairing if not for a shared love for these gentle, bashful, and yet curious animals called alpacas.

Donna is the daughter of a Stone Mason and Farmer. So growing up around animals was as natural as a long winter in Canada. The Given farm consisted of more than 100+ acres filled with cattle, horses, pigs, ducks, rabbits, and Donna's (not so favored) Chickens and Roosters. The farm was located just off Nichol's Cove Road outside of Bobcaygeon, Ontario, Canada.

Donna's first personal experience with caring for her own animals began when a girlfriend confided to her that she had purchased a goat as a pet. Donna went to visit the man with the goats to see what they were like, and before she knew it, she was bringing home the spark that lit the fuse on what we now call Kiss Me Alpacas. And that spark was a female goat called Edith (“…but we called her Eddie for short”).

Eddie was a lonely goat and she would often jump the fence from the Given farm to the adjoining farm owned by the Finley's. There she would dream she was Cow and spend her days with the cattle. And even though Donna was arguably a single mother raising three kids on her own, she still found time for her pet goat Eddie. Of course retrieving her from the neighbor's farm and cattle was no easy task (since Eddie was convinced she was meant to be a cow lol). Eventually, Eddie was bred and gave birth to 2 kids (a male and a female). Then Donna received another goat as a gift and saw her herd beginning to grow. Was this the seed that began Kiss Me Alpacas?

Donna made a decision to change her life forever. She would return to school and transform her future by becoming a Registered Nurse (1984). This new schedule didn't allow much time for goats (or kids for that matter) so she sold her small herd and set those dreams aside. But it wasn't long before the call to care for animals returned. Only this time it was motivated by a hobby. A kind woman offered to give Donna a spinning wheel. That sounded interesting. But, in order to spin, you need fur or fleece.

So Donna set out to acquire an animal that she could get fur or fleece from, for which she could engage her new spinning wheel. Enter Angora rabbits! Donna began keeping four Angora rabbits and combing them for the fleece. She learned how to clean and spin the fur.

Of course living out in the country back then was not as entertaining as today's internet based world. So people would often keep busy with more traditional exploits such as knitting, crocheting, needle point, and sewing. And Donna was quite accomplished when it came to knitting. Now she had expanded her hobby of knitting to encompass the entire process of producing her own yarn.

As Donna's nursing career was about to take off demands on her time didn't really afford her enough extra to pursue her hobbies, so she had to give her rabbits away.

Donna's nursing career took her from a job fair in Toronto, Ontario, Canada all the way to Harlingen, Texas. Her eldest daughter stayed in Canada (as she was married and moved away from home by then). Her second daughter Tamara was in College in Canada so she also remained in Canada. And her youngest (her son named Stephen) accompanied her to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Donna worked as a Registered Nurse in the Labor & Delivery Department of one of the local Hospitals. Caring for expecting mothers and helping them facilitate the births of the babies wasn't so far removed from her love of animals (whether Donna knew it or not).

Donna's son Stephen soon was ready to leave the nest, while Tamara was thinking about returning.

Stephen returned to Canada, while Tamara met the challenge of relocating to South Texas. And seeing her Mom's success, Tamara decided to follow in her footsteps. Before long she too had graduated as a Registered Nurse. While Donna was proving her career skills in the Women's Care OR and Labor & Delivery departments, Tamara went an entirely different route and became an accomplished Psych Nurse. She also returned to school to obtain her Bachelor's of Nursing and became a Nurse Educator at a Texas State Forensic Hospital.

Meanwhile, Donna was busy attending alpaca seminars and learning everything she could about this curious investment opportunity.

In 2001 Tamara accompanied her mother to purchase an alpaca. Donna had been thinking critically about her retirement investments and wasn't particularly impressed with the prospects. However, the more she learned about alpacas as an investment, the more she began to see her lifelong passions, hobbies, and interests merging.

Donna & Tamara went about pretending they knew what to look for in a worthy alpaca investment. Did the alpaca have good posture (also known as confirmation)? Did the alpaca have nice fleece? Donna & Tamara began to investigate the various animals for sale at an alpaca ranch in New Mexico. Donna noticed a snow white alpaca named Rana. She batted her lashes (Rana that is) and it was love. But Rana had something unusual about her fleece. Every so often she had a golden hair in the fleece, which made her appear to be a divine prospect to Donna & Tamara (of course neither of them knew that these golden hairs were actually a sign of contamination LOL); but this is how the story unfolded. So Donna looked at Tamara, and in that golden moment they agreed and the purchase was made.

Since Donna & Tamara were a couple of city girls they had no place to keep their new investment. So they asked the alpaca ranch owner if they could board their animal there. The Ranch owner agreed for a price and the first alpaca (of the Kiss Me Alpacas herd) started from these humble beginnings.

In 2003 Donna & Tamara purchased 10 acres in the Texas countryside near the small town of Bandera, “The Cowboy Capital of Texas”. The land was rugged and rocky. Perhaps not what most people would consider as the ideal location for an alpaca ranch, since a blade of grass was few and far between; but like the pioneers of old, Donna & Tamara were there to take the challenge and stake their claim.

They began by building a barn and fencing the land. They invested in more alpacas ( Huacaya ) and began learning all about these fascinating creatures. Today their herd has grown to some 20+ animals (both males and females). They have learned about breeding, helping expecting mothers give birth, cutting teeth and toe nails, scooping poop, and generally caring for alpacas. And though they are not sure when their hobby or investment turned into their passion, just talking to them it is clear that the transformation has already taken place.

Donna has since retired and now considers her alpaca-ranching her full-time responsibility (though it seems like more fun than work).

In 2014 they purchased a new building to add to the Kiss Me Alpacas (KMA) portfolio. Here they intend to launch the KMA Country Store, where they will sell fleece, yarn, and various alpaca products such as sweaters; mittens; socks; toques; gloves; rugs; and more. There will be more than just sales happening in this building. Here they will house their skirting; tumbling; picking; cleaning; dying; carding; hand spinning; and weaving equipment for the alpaca fleece. Check out some of their home grown videos of these activities and more under the Video tab.

People with alpaca fleece that do not have access to such facilities can access the site and the equipment for a reasonable price and process it. Or they can simply ship the fleece in and (when time allows) have the KMA staff process the fleece for them.

KMA loves everything alpaca! And they enjoy sharing their knowledge of the gentle animals with others. That being said, all that are interested are welcome to book a tour of the ranch and the animals. Donna & Tamara will show you first-hand how they care for the animals and process the fleece. These tours are also excellent for people of all ages. Children and adults all enjoy the experience equally and thus you might consider a drive out to Bandera, Texas where you will find the 10 acre ranch called Kiss Me Alpacas. Just drop Kiss Me Alpacas a line/email and we will gladly set up a time for your tour.

We look forward to seeing you!