Al­capa farm­ing

Living France - - Lifestyle - ar­gen­ton­al­

We had a hol­i­day home in Deux-Sèvres from 2003 and we moved per­ma­nently from Lon­don to France in 2009. I was a busi­ness an­a­lyst and Tony was an IT man­ager. We wanted to move for a change of life­style while our daugh­ter Natasha was still young enough to pick up the lan­guage eas­ily.

“We don’t have a farm­ing back­ground; I read about al­paca farm­ing in a news­pa­per, and the orig­i­nal idea came from there! We did a lot more re­search and vis­ited al­paca breed­ers in both the UK and France and, weird as it might sound, it seemed like the best so­lu­tion for mak­ing a liv­ing once we’d moved.

“So we looked for a suit­able house – close to a vil­lage as we wanted to be part of a com­mu­nity, but also with a de­cent amount of land. We moved in July and had al­ready booked our first de­liv­ery of three al­pacas for Oc­to­ber, so there was plenty to do what with fenc­ing the fields and get­ting things ready be­fore they ar­rived. We reg­is­tered as a farm with the MSA (Mu­tu­al­ité So­ciale Agri­cole) after a few years once we had more al­pacas than could be con­sid­ered hobby farm­ing. In 2010 our first al­paca ba­bies, called cria, were born, and we also ac­quired a few more al­pacas. We now have 59 which is about the up­per limit for our seven hectares.”

The cou­ple now sell al­pacas to other se­lected breed­ers – a male fetches from around €500 and a fe­male from around €2,000. The cou­ple also sell or swap fleeces, as well as run­ning work­shops and vis­its to the farm. A guided visit to the farm costs €5 per per­son, while spe­cial ar­range­ments are made for groups of 10 or more.

“We work with the tourist of­fice to of­fer ed­u­ca­tional tours for both lo­cals and tourists. We tour the farm, talk about how al­pacas live, peo­ple can feed some of them from their hands, there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for cud­dles and pho­tos and in the sum­mer, vis­i­tors can even help give them show­ers! We also of­fer work­shops – if you add wa­ter to the fleece it can be moulded al­most like plas­ticine, or the kids can make col­lages glu­ing things like fleece, se­quins and but­tons to the out­line of an al­paca.

“They’re bril­liant an­i­mals – they all have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and looks. We’ve now got 59 and know all of them by name. Some like to be cud­dled, oth­ers are too timid. We’ve also got a gîte and some­times the guests like to take some of them for walks.”

The cou­ple feel they have in­te­grated into the com­mu­nity well and say they are sim­ply known lo­cally as ‘the al­paca peo­ple’. Kit, who learned French at school, has im­proved her lan­guage suf­fi­ciently to do the day-to-day ad­min and give tours of the farm in French, while Tony ad­mits, “I mainly speak al­paca!”

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