Alpaca breeders forming owners' group

Interested in alpacas?

Southern alpaca breeders Brenda and Stewart McLean, of Windermere Alpacas, and Gordon Baird, of Waiwera Alpacas, have formed an Otago-Southland alpaca owners' group.

The aim of the new group was to share information and help new and interested alpaca owners, following an increasing number of inquiries to breeders about basic alpaca care, from health and welfare through to feeding and shearing.

Mr Baird, from Waiwera South, in South Otago, first became interested in alpacas in the mid-1990s.

He wanted some livestock for his small block of land and, at that stage, he was working at the Finegand freezing works and ''saw enough lambs and sheep''.

Then, at the 1995 South Otago A and P Show in Balclutha, a display of alpacas took his eye.

He bought two wethers, liked them and later decided to get into breeding, initially buying three females.

He now owns about 45 alpacas, with about 30 on his own property and others, which he jointly owns, on other properties.

Mr Baird said he was fortunate the sellers were very willing to share their knowledge with him.

That was one of the reasons he was in favour of the alpaca owners' group, as he hoped to be able to pass on his knowledge and experiences to others.

Discussion groups would open to anyone interested in alpacas and llamas, whether they owned any animals or not.

As well as sharing information on the day, the discussion groups would offer opportunities for owners to network and meet other camelid owners.

The first meeting will be held at Windermere Alpacas and Llamas, at Milton, on Sunday, August 31, at 10.30am.

The topic will be fibre and the meeting will cover preparation for shearing, fleece-sorting and selling fibre for the best prices.

Future discussion groups will be held at other places throughout Otago and Southland, with group members volunteering to host a meeting and choose the topic.

Any shearers and rousies interested in alpacas and llamas were also welcome to join, Mr Baird said.

Although alpacas were herd animals, Mr Baird liked the way they all had individual characteristics.

When it came to profitability, Mr Baird said he had always been able to sell his fibre, especially the ''top end stuff'', for good prices.

Now there was more competition to buy the fibre, especially the ''seconds'', which gave a return even on lower quality fibre, or fleece from older animals.

While initially white or very light fawn fleece was the most profitable, as it could be dyed to the ''fashion colours of the day'', natural colours were now ''coming into their own a lot more''.

There were 22 colours, ranging from ''snow white'' to blue-black ''and everything in between''. It was also a very warm and light fibre, he said.