Al­paca farm­ers’ fash­ion­able fi­bre

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - PAULA HULBURT

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.

PHOTO: SCOTT HAM­MOND/STUFF

Fal­con’s Rise Al­paca Farm co-owner Kim Chap­man-Tay­lor with some of his rare suri al­pacas.

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