Country Smallholding

‘We started off by buy­ing two al­pacas to guard our chick­ens after a fox attack’

- ◆ Fol­low Teri and Shaun and their al­paca ad­ven­tures @Bing­field­Al­paca1; visit www. face­book.com/bing­fiel­d­al­pacas. ◆ Com­piled by Deb­bie Kings­ley, who tweets from @SouthYeoFa­rm and set up @Small­hold­er­sUK. Belarus · Taylor · Iceland · Austria · Belgium · Bingfield · Dong Hyun Ma

THIS MONTH: Shaun Stoker and Teri White run a small herd of al­pacas in Northum­ber­land with the help of their youngest son, nine-year- old Tay­lor. They also both run their own busi­nesses — Shaun a land­scap­ing firm and Teri a clean­ing com­pany.

"We have 16 acres so far — but we al­ways want more — and we started off by buy­ing two al­pacas to guard our chick­ens after a fox attack. Some­one told us that with an al­paca you will never have fox trou­ble again, and they were right. Our youngest son, Tay­lor, is very firmly part of Bing­field Al­pacas and he takes a very ac­tive role in the day-to- day de­ci­sions and plans to grow our herd, which now num­bers 17.

Yvonne is three years old, preg­nant and the most la­dy­like of our herd. She was our first ever show girl and won us Re­serve Fawn Cham­pion at York­shire Al­paca Group Show.

Our hand­some stud male Mae­stro is also three and is a two-time male Black Cham­pion. He is a cheeky, needy boy as he was bot­tle reared so he al­most thinks he is hu­man.

Mae­stro is kept well away from the ladies un­til we want him to mate, as al­pacas can breed at any time of the year, but we pre­fer fe­males to give birth in the sum­mer when it is warm and there is plenty of grass. To keep Mae­stro com­pany when he’s not with the fe­males, he has Mer­lin, our cas­trated male, with him. Mer­lin is also three and they have a ‘can’t live with you, but can’t live with­out you’ type of re­la­tion­ship.

Pan­dora (yes, she’s three too) is preg­nant, has a cria at foot and is very hor­monal. She ap­pears to hate women, but is a good mother to Skye. Be­ing a big, strong al­paca we are look­ing for­ward to see­ing what Pan­dora pro­duces, but we have a bit of a wait as al­pacas can be preg­nant for up to 12 months.

At 10 months old, Skye is the el­dest of our cria. She is a very in­quis­i­tive young lady and she is also a walk­ing hay bale — she is sup­posed to eat it not wear it. She’s the most dirty al­paca ever. She is al­ways rolling around in some­thing, but you can for­give her be­cause she is just so cute.

The big­gest chore with the herd is hav­ing to pick up the al­paca dung with a quad bike and poo pick­ing vacuum at­tach­ment as al­paca poo takes longer to de­grade than other ma­nure. How­ever, the good news is that it does even­tu­ally make ex­cel­lent com­post. "

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