Alpaca farmers’ fashionable fibre
He has eye-catching, silky locks, big doleful eyes and is certainly not camera shy as he sports what could soon be the latest fashion must-have.
Cooper is a suri alpaca - a rare breed of the animal who calls the who Falcon’s Rise Alpaca Farm in the hills above Renwick home.
His proud owners Kim Chapman-Taylor and Helen Austin hope Cooper and the other young alpacas, Clay and Cienna, along with their parents, could be key in starting a booming natural fibre industry in New Zealand. The pair believe there will soon be a rise in demand for alpaca in the high-end fashion industry as people move away from synthetic fibres.
Suri alpacas produce a rare fibre unlike any other animal. Unlike their woolly counterparts, the more common huacaya alpaca, which has a sheep-like coat. Chapman-Taylor says there will always be a niche market for an organic product and a fibre which does not need to be dyed.
‘‘Suris are quite rare and only make up around 10 per cent of the alpaca population.
‘‘Their fibre grows into a kind of Bob Marley look as it twists. It’s beautifully soft and is one of the rarest specialist fibres. It comes in 21 colours from shades of white to fawn,’’ he says.
The pair have been breeding alpacas for the past 20 years. What started as a hobby quickly became much more. They started out with a trio of alpacas on a lifestyle block in Canterbury and more followed.
‘‘We were sitting out on the deck one day when a friend of ours said we should have alpacas; so we did. That turned out so well that we got more and then more
‘‘They are really easy to look after from a lifestyle block point of view - probably one of the easiest animals to look after,’’ says Chapman-Taylor.
The pair moved to Marlborough in June 2016.
With two jobs and a bed and breakfast to run, the couple still manage to keep a careful watch on their 32-strong herd, which includes three babies at the moment.
Sunday May 6 is the Alpaca Association of New Zealand National Alpaca Day and a free open day will be held on the Brookby Rd farm.
Falcons Rise Alpaca Farm is located at 201 Brookby Road Renwick and will be open to the public from 10am until 3pm.
A small selection of products made from fibre produced by the herd will be available to buy. Entry is free.
Falcon’s Rise Alpaca Farm co-owner Kim Chapman-Taylor with some of his rare suri alpacas.