We have lived at our farm in Northumberland since 2005 but having anything more than our three dogs at home wasn’t really considered, until 2015. Vicky and her dad (Alan) visited the Northumberland show in May, and the dream of stocking the fields started to become a reality. Firstly though, they had to convince Eileen that it was a sensible idea. Vicky had fallen in love with these animals, and her mission was to make it impossible for mum to say no!
So, we all polished our wellies, and off we went to a Fallowfield near Hexham to look at some alpacas. It had been well planned – we were shown a package of four stunning females, two of whom were pregnant. A perfect little starter herd. A few weeks later – Alicia, Penelope, Minerva and Gallica arrived, with two male crias – Augustus and Alfredo. And, Gallica and Minerva were already mated to give birth in 2016!
The first year was a steep learning curve, but after a successful first show (in Northumberland) and the arrival of our two beautiful female crias, Britannia and Bellanca, we were hooked. We decided that we wanted to be a niche herd with a variety of colours, so we started to add to our number by purchasing some fabulous breeding females. We have home bred animals in most colour categories, from white to black! Like all involved in showing alpacas, we aim to focus on fleece quality, and have tried to understand how to achieve the highest comfort factor of each individual animal. As food and drink is important to our whole family, we are constantly reviewing the animal’s nutritional needs.
The welfare of our animals is of utmost importance. We have eight paddocks for rotation of the grazing, and an additional isolation space. Although our farm is 450 acres, the majority of the land is arable, and we now have 6 acres dedicated to the alpacas – the boys use around one acre and the remainder is used for the females and young stock. We believe that nutrition and exercise is imperative to wellbeing, so we concentrate on giving our animals both space and good food and complement the latter with vitamin and mineral supplements. The grass in the paddocks is well managed to provide good nutrients, and we purchase hay from a trusted source in our county.
At Old Felton we take biosecurity very seriously: although we are currently in a low risk TB area, we screened all of the alpacas in 2019. Our shed is regularly disinfected, and foot baths are used. All outside matings are done on a designated regularly disinfected surface.
When we are on the move we take care to use foot baths, and disinfectant mats. Prior to leaving the farm or on arrival, the relevant animals are kept in a dedicated isolation paddock, away from the remainder of the herd.