Kimby the Alpaca
We currently have one alpaca at Deen City Farm, her name is Kimby, and she lives with the goats and Herman the ram. Kimby is probably the oldest animal on the farm (not including the horses in the Stables!), she was born in 2004. You can easily tell her apart from the other animals by her size and long neck. She’s a bit shy at times, and doesn’t like to be touched, but she can be lured over by the promise of some tasty grass nuts, and if you listen carefully, you can hear her humming away.
Alpacas are members of the camelid family, and closely related to Llama – an animal which they are often confused with! We don’t have any llamas to compare her too, but alpaca are much smaller and have different shaped ears and faces. Llama are often used as beasts of burden, and so are much larger and stronger, whereas alpacas are kept for their fleeces, so tend to be fluffier and daintier.
Alpacas are a relatively new animal in the British countryside, so they don’t fall under the same rules as other traditional farm animals. You’ll notice that the goats and sheep that Kimby shares her pen with all have ear tags, but she doesn’t. Interestingly enough, alpaca registered with the British Alpaca Society have to be micro-chipped rather than tagged, similar to dogs!
What are alpacas used for?
Alpacas are typically kept for their fibre, which is softer then sheep wool and less prickly. Unlike sheep wool, there’s no natural oils (lanolin) in alpaca fleece, which means it’s also hypo-allergenic!
The way it’s worked with is very similar to sheep wool in terms of the cleaning and dying, and we shear our alpaca once a year alongside the sheep. As with the sheep and their fleeces, alpaca need to be sheared as they don’t naturally shed their hair. If we don’t give them a haircut every now and then, their fleeces will continue to grow and can eventually cause health issues.
You might occasionally see the odd alpaca living alongside other herd animals such as sheep. They settle in very well with other animals, and can even become quite protective of their fellow grazers, so much so, that some people use them as guards for their flocks! They’ll do a great job of seeing off predators such as foxes and dogs, especially from vulnerable animals such as young sheep and lambs.