Alpaca farm in Congleton (with audio)

PUBLISHED: 11:35 07 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:11 20 February 2013

There are mills which can spin the 3½ kilos of fleece from each animal into wool

There are mills which can spin the 3½ kilos of fleece from each animal into wool

These curious creatures in Congleton are proving increasingly popular with <br/>Cheshire families, as Paul Mackenzie reports

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As impulse buys go, it was quite a big one. And it was one which changed Yvette Noad's life. 'We went to an alpaca sale out of curiosity,' she said. 'We had no intention of buying, but 15,000 later we had started our herd.'

They went home to Congleton with two pregnant females and now, 11 years later, their herd numbers 30.

'My daughter was at home when we brought those first two alpacas home. She was quite dumbstruck. At the time she was competing on a rather nice horse and she could not get over the fact that we had spent so much money on these curious looking creatures.

'It was a very steep learning curve for us. We knew nothing about housing them or what they ate. In those days it was hard to find feed especially for alpacas, we had to source different sorts of food and mix in minerals by teaspoon every day.

'Everyone who buys from me has a day's husbandry course and a guide on how to care for alpacas. We had none of that.'

What Yvette and her husband David did have were enthusiasm, experience of keeping horses and a willingness to learn about their new South American friends.
Yvette, a former teacher, enrolled on alpaca husbandry courses and has been breeding and selling the animals for more than a decade.

'We got hooked on them,' she said. 'They are fabulous creatures to have around. The noise they make is a humming sound and are very relaxing to be around. They are very light on their feet so they don't wreck the ground when they walk about, they are lovely natured animals.

'They do spit, but only very, very rarely. We have an expert shearer who ties them down and they like that. They spit then, and when they're being fed because they're competing for the food but most of the time they're very good natured and beautiful to look at.'

Yvette has sold about 70 alpacas to families across Cheshire since she bought those first two and she is expecting her herd to produce 15 babies next month.

'Families all over Cheshire have bought alpacas from me but I will never sell a single animal unless it is going to an established herd,' she added. 'As a rule of thumb we say six alpacas to one acre and anyone who wants to buy alpacas should have suitable land, shelter for the animals and for food, as well as hard standing.

'Groups of four are probably OK as a starter group but I'd say six would be better, they don't feel comfortable on their own.'

The herd here is watched over by a pair of llamas - similar creatures, but bigger and less fluffy, with smaller ears. 'They regard themselves as the matriarchs of the group,' Yvette added. 'They see off any foxes or badgers who come into the paddock, especially when the babies start to arrive.'

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