Up close with Canty al­paca

Northern Outlook - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW SALMONS

Al­paca farm­ers from around New Zealand opened their gates to the pub­lic on Sun­day for Na­tional Al­paca Day.

Farms in­clud­ing El Dos Cadena Al­pacas in Swan­nanoa and Sher­lin Al­pacas in West Mel­ton were among those who wel­comed thou­sands of cu­ri­ous visi­tors for a chance to get up close and per­sonal with one of the coun­try’s less com­mon farm an­i­mals.

Most farms were open from 10am and peo­ple were able to wan­der around the prop­er­ties free of charge to see and in some cases in­ter­act with the an­i­mals. Sher­lin Al­pacas owner Ben Scott said his farm was open for both days over the week­end.

‘‘We have quite a con­sid­er­able amount of peo­ple come through, we ex­pect around 12 to 14 hun­dred to come through over the two days to have a look.’’

The al­paca is a mem­ber of the same fam­ily of an­i­mals as camels and lla­mas, the camelids. Gen­er­ally smaller than the llama, the species was trea­sured by the an­cient In­can Em­pire of the An­des and is still a com­mon sight in the moun­tain­ous re­gions of South Amer­ica.

Scott said the open day was a good chance for peo­ple to see the day-to-day run­ning of al­paca farms in their area.

‘‘The high­light is just to get up close and per­sonal with al­pacas. There’s still a huge amount of peo­ple who haven’t seen al­pacas or been up close to them.’’

On the Sher­lin Al­pacas farm were a num­ber of two to three month old baby, or ‘cria’, al­pacas de­light­ing the crowds for the week­end.

‘‘It’s quite a cute cud­dly time to be up close with them,’’ Scott said.

Re­gard­less of how cud­dly the cria were, Scott said farm­ers needed to be strict on what males they kept for breed­ing.

‘‘We’ve al­ways got to be breed­ing bet­ter than what we have to­day,’’ he said.

All fe­males were kept, some to be sold out as breed­ing stock for other farms when they ma­tured. Scott said he had around 300 head on the farm pro­duc­ing fi­bre and con­tin­u­ing the Sher­lin breed­ing pro­gramme.

Sher­lin Al­pacas was well­known for pro­duc­ing al­paca ther­mal socks, as well as du­vets, blan­kets, jumpers, clothes and yarn.

‘‘We have a shop on site that we can sell all the fi­bre prod­ucts from,’’ Scott said.

Ian Nel­son was the first to bring the species to New Zealand from South Amer­ica in 1987. The New Zealand Al­paca As­so­ci­a­tion web­site said there were now more than 20,000 reg­is­tered al­pacas in the coun­try.

Peru main­tained the largest pop­u­la­tion of al­paca in the world; more than three mil­lion, or 90 per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

JOSEPH JOHN­SON/ STUFF

Car­los Fer­nan­dez and Adyson Fer­nan­dez, 2 years old pet an Al­paca in a field on a open farm day at Sher­lin Al­pacas on the New Zealand Na­tional Al­paca Day Open Week­end near West Mel­ton.

JOSEPH JOHN­SON/STUFF

Three month old Al­paca in a pad­dock on a open farm day at Sher­lin Al­pacas.

JOSEPH JOHN­SON/STUFF

There are more than 20,000 reg­is­tered al­paca in New Zealand

SUP­PLIED

Some ‘‘cria’’ or young al­paca.

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