In the middle of a freezing hail storm, mud perilously close to breaching the top of your wellington boots you strive forward, edging closer to the eagerly waiting herd of Alpacas who you can just make out through your now stinging and waterlogged eyes. Why? You must have asked yourself that very question but it tends to be a fleeting thought because the answer is simple. You do it for the love of it, Alpacas no matter the weather, no matter the stresses and strains of the day become quite simply one of life’s joys.
For those of you that know us at Alpaca Evolution, you might be wondering how we can still wax so lyrical about alpacas, indeed we thought about it, the answer is anything but simple and the question caused some soul searching.
So what is it that makes owning alpacas such a joy?
Let us start with the obvious one which is of course the Alpaca itself. Whether you are a lover of the gentle huacaya or the spirited Suri you have stumbled upon a charming creature who draws you in to their world. Curious in nature, they are a conundrum as they balance a gentle soul with extreme strength and fortitude. They are as colourful in character as they are in fleece, offering a spectrum of personalities which often differentiate one herd member from another. There are many alpaca owners and their friends who have taken a moment to wander amongst Alpacas and suddenly found hours have passed and the stresses of life melted away. Alpacas are medicine for the soul.
Of course not just the weather can be a challenge, there are those experiences that frustrate and can be emotionally draining, such experiences bring with them a deeper understanding of nature at its worst, and joyfully, at its best. Observing the general serenity of a group of pet males, occasionally disturbed by the antics of one of them having a “grumpy” moment, or seeing your first cria born, are experiences that so many people will not have the joy of. Add into this heady mix the day to day interaction with your alpacas and you have on tap endless entertainment. You will in any group of alpacas have the differing characters spoken about earlier. I think of these in very simplistic terms as the:
• Boss- this is the animal that is determined to control everybody, often to be found at feed time running around so concerned that somebody is eating his/her breakfast that they often miss out on a good part of their meal.
• Sneaky – this alpaca is often to be found quietly finding the best spot, away from the general melee. At Alpaca Stud these are often seen around the RTV helping themselves to feed.
• Greedy – see sneaky, except these have been known to follow the RTV on two legs whilst eating out of the feed tubs.
• Porky – see sneaky and greedy, but not always. Some alpacas are like people, just good “doers” in farming parlance, often Suri.
• Prickly – don’t you dare touch me or I’ll tell everyone your hurting me. These alpacas if human would be given a wide birth, but oh such characters…..
• Diva – I know I’m the best (usually a female) and don’t you two legged things forget it. Sadly, sometimes delusional, and not just the alpaca.
• Macho – hopefully a male, sometimes as delusional as a Diva. Often to be found wasting their day looking over the hedge, one assumes hoping for sex. Often living in hope, like most males……..
• Cat – or on my terms, this alpaca will let you do almost anything, as long as it’s in the right mood, but heaven forfend if want to do something and its not.
• Shy One – this alpaca stands back and often affects the look of the downtrodden. Sometimes genuinely in need of TLC because it will not stand up for itself.
• Pampered – See shy one, but just milking the cause. This is the super smart alpaca.
• Best Friend – wants to be with you all the time. Will probably also be sneaky greedy and porky as it inevitably gets showered with love affection and food.
Now you don’t always see all such characters in one group but it can be great fun working out individual characteristics, and of course just having an excuse to watch such delightful animals. Of one thing you can be sure your life will never be the same once you have alpacas. I think all alpaca owners would agree the alpaca has the ability to “suck out your brains”.
Of course it is not just about the alpaca itself, once you have lost your heart to them there are all the associated experiences that come with ownership. You will get to meet with other owners should you so wish, with regional groups making it easy to break the ice.
The first part of owning any animal should be the learning, be that just simple husbandry requirements for your pets, or more detailed knowledge if breeding or wanting to make end product. With a wide choice of learning experiences, you can enjoy both physical and cerebral challenges, but a note of caution, one or two events raise money for charity, so if you identify with the shy alpaca, stand back in any audience.
If you are just wanting to own pets, there is a growing interest in show classes for performance or agility (similar to gymkhana or dog agility) if you want to join the show circuit. If you are into breeding, then more often than not you will end up joining the show circuit where you compete against other breeders to see how your alpacas compare. This is probably the most competitive part of alpaca owning but despite this the show circuit goes from strength to strength, probably in no small part because of the strong social element. Alpaca owners have been seen in many a hotel bar area long after “normal” people have retired, drinking fruit juice, or so I’m told.
Alpacas are primarily a producer of luxury fibre and more and more owners are having the time of their life making luxury high-end product, spinning knitting weaving felting and goodness knows how many other pursuits. Some of the garments we now see are beautiful and giving their producers great pride and rightfully so.
Breeding does bring with it that very special experience, seeing a year’s work come to fruition with new life being born. There is no doubt that this is a very special happening in itself as you watch first hand mum and baby bonding for the first time. Sometimes there is sadness as things don’t work out, sometimes hard work is needed to help mum and baby bond, but all of these experiences leave you with a better understanding of nature, and a better appreciation for the things that have gone right. The real reward though is to watch the youngster grow, to watch them play and to watch them mature into something special, and whilst not all are of that special quality needed in our “seedstock” industry, all of them will hold a place in your memory, and likely your heart.
It’s not all fun, some of alpaca ownership is hard work but looking back on eighteen plus years owning alpacas the good times far outweigh the bad. This wonderful animal has allowed me, or given me the excuse, to travel the world, I know what it has done for me, and it can do the same for anyone who joins the club.
The Alpaca presents us all with the opportunity to expand our circle of friends and acquaintances. This unique creature gives rise to branching out across oceans and forging links with people from all across the world, it’s done just that for us all at Alpaca Stud and if you have half an inclination to join then don’t hesitate, alpaca ownership can be lots of fun, why not join the ride.