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PANORAMA: 1996

Alpaca Ranching in the UK
by Albert Evans
Photo by Brian Smith

Nearly 300 alpacas, a type of woolly llama from South America, are adapting well to their new home in southern England.

The man behind the scheme is Kelvin Maude who selected the animals in Chile, importing them from there to his Sussex farm. He is an A-grade judge registered with the Australian Alpaca Association.

The animals produce soft wool that is stronger than sheep's wool and is highly prized by the textile and knitwear fashion industries. Alpaca currently fetches up to 16 per kilogram, roughly five times the price of high quality sheep's wool and, until now, British manufacturers have mostly had to import it.

Alpaca is highly prized for its tensile strength, soft handling ability and availability in numerous natural colours, ranging from white, black, grey and cream to deep rich red-browns.

Maude's herd has increased the UK national population by 150%. It is hoped that it will form the pattern for a national herd that could be built up to about 100,000 animals.

Alpacas are docile animals and easy to keep. They and live off grass and live to about 15 years of age. And they make good pets. The export of the animals from Chile is restricted to preserve scarce stocks so they are rather pricey. The cost of a pregnant female is about 6000.

Mr Maude adds: "The alpaca has enormous potential in the UK and Continental Europe. The fibre is a genuinely superior natural product enjoying buoyant world demand. The animals themselves are very easy to farm and care for. A lot of UK farmland that is set up for sheep or cattle is quite suitable for the alpaca."

One caution, however, for would-be alpaca ranchers. The animals breed slowly, producing only one offspring per year. So, with a predictable, slow population growth investors have a secure picture for the future.

For more information contact:
Alpacas Limited (UK)
Gay Street Farm, Pulborough, West Sussex, United Kingdom, RH20 2HL
Tel: +44 1798 812218 | Fax: +44 1798 815425
  

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