A novel alpaca venture
One smallholder finds a niche market by taking her alpacas along to weddings
Many smallholders have imaginative ways of making an income, but Wendy Williams has been particularly creative. She takes her alpacas to care homes as therapy for residents … and has hired them out as special guests at weddings!
Wendy, who has a 21-acre smallholding near Shaftesbury in Dorset, even appeared with Adam Henson on the Countryfile farming and rural lifestyle show on TV and the pair were filmed with the alpacas at a care home.
Wendy started out with just a bungalow and garden and managed to buy more land to create her smallholding. She had told her parents when she was just three years old that she was going to be a pig farmer and later went to agricultural college. Her first livestock were Kunekune pigs and then she
acquired a flock of Zwartbles sheep
“The best birthday present I ever had were the Kunekunes, Grace and Lily. The were three years old when they arrived and sadly Lily died in 2015 but Grace is now 16 years old,” said Wendy,
“The Zwartbles sheep which are a Dutch milk sheep. They are quite quiet and the ideal smallholder sheep. The carcase is very lean and all the meat is sold from the smallholding. It’s such a lovely meat – people are always saying how tasty it is.”
Wendy decided to buy her first alpacas to protect the sheep from foxes while lambing. After a couple of years the herd had grown and she had six males which weren’t good enough for breeding. She then decided to try to boost her income by inviting visitors to walk with them. Her business, Alpaca Adventure, was born.
“I only walk with the male alpacas as the value in the females is from breeding. The only other income was from the fleeces and you need really good alpacas to make money on them,” said Wendy.
After a year of walking she received a phone call from a local care home asking if she would consider taking the alpacas to visit residents. “It was such an opportunity to be able to share these beautiful calming animals that I couldn’t say no.”
At this point Wendy left here full time job in Shaftesbury and began regular visits to care homes with her alpacas. Then came the idea to take them to weddings as ring bearers, and the idea proved very popular, with promotion opportunities at wedding fairs. Wendy also started taking two alpacas along to WI meetings for members to find out about them and interact with them.
Wendy said she particularly enjoyed filming for Countryfile. “It was the most exciting two days of my life. It was really fun while they were filming. I did an alpaca walk with Adam and a few others, then we went to a local care home.
“Adam makes you feel at ease as he’s just an ordinary man and a farmer himself. He was very interested and was amazed at the temperament of the placid alpacas. He became quite fond of the boys, especially taking them in the lift at the care home!”
Wendy said that despite the last few years being very hard work, it has all be worthwhile as she feels privileged to be able to share such beautiful and gentle animals with other people.
“It just goes to show that being a smallholder is always a window of opportunity in life as you can give things a go and sometimes it works! I am excited to see where the future takes my business. Farming is a lifestyle not a job. If you are lucky enough to be in a job you love, life is wonderful.”