Meet the Kent Life alpacas: Made for cold, wet and windy weather!
Originally from South America, Alpacas in their native habitat are found grazing on the high level, chilly pastures of the Andes in South Peru. So, it’s no surprise then, that they are pretty at home with the seasonal cold, wet and windy winter weather of the British Isles!
Their thick woolly coats are not dissimilar to those of sheep and they have historically been bred for their wool. Alpaca fibre is used to knit and weave all manner of snuggly items such as jumpers, blankets and scarves that are great for keeping out the cold.
Here at Kent Life Farm, our three male Alpacas, Cookie (the brown one), Wispa (the black one) and Biscuit (the white one) are sheared annually in the summer and their fleeces are sold to spinners. This helps to keep them cool in the hotter summer months but on the hottest days they are often seen dipping their feet in the water troughs!
There are two breeds of Alpaca, the Suri which has a long shaggy coat not dissimilar to dreadlocks and the Huacaya, which is the breed you’ll see when you visit Kent Life.
Although not originally bred as working animals, Kent Life’s livestock manager Chelsea assures us that they are great at guarding the sheep. She says:
“A lot of sheep farmers keep alpacas because it’s a good way to keep predators such as foxes away as they are pack animals and quite protective, which is especially good when there are lots of new-born lambs around.
“Biscuit, our white alpaca, is especially fond of our sheep. If we’re trying to move the sheep, he regularly gets the hump (- well he is from the camel family!).”
Not only do they sometimes get the hump, Chelsea tells us that Alpacas are a communicative bunch and hum and chat to alert each other to danger. They also spit like llamas and camels if they are feeling threatened.
If you’ve encountered Cookie, Wispa and Biscuit on a visit to the farm, you’ll have noticed that they have something of an aloof air about them, as they fix you with their cool gaze or worse – pretend, you’re not there!
Says Chelsea, “We like to think of them as the old, wise chaps of the farm, who’d look the part sporting a flat cap and cravat!”.