Alpacas on the Lot
Dita is Dutch and has spent many years in New Zealand discovering a real love of Alpacas and running an alpaca stud (plus crops of kiwi and passion fruit) with her husband Willem. Just over 18 months ago they returned to Europe. 36 alpacas made the long flight to France, with them, to set up a stud here in the Lot and Garonne. They now have a growing herd of ‘black’ Alpacas near Tremons. Dita has also opened a small shop on the farm selling alpaca related products including wool.
Breeding alpacas and processing their fleeces is not your typical new business venture. However, it does seem particularly attractive – so attractive that we had to go along from the office to see for ourselves. Dita explained that they now have 67 (and rising) animals. Amongst them are 11 stud males and currently 15 ‘cria’ (baby alpaca).
Alpacas (vicugna pacos) originate from South America and are part of the camel family. They are social, non-aggressive animals that are very hardy to all weathers – originating as they do from mountain terrain. You can keep alpacas in this region at about 10 per hectare. Their gestation period is 11-12 months. They generally give birth in daylight hours and on fine days. Alpacas make good mothers and feed their cria for about 6 months, then mothers and crias are separated. Alpacas form strong family groups and easily recognise their off-spring.
This stud sells alpacas across Europe (which they also did from New Zealand). All the births are registered and top quality alpacas don't come cheap. Dita specialises in alpacas with black fleeces. However, even two black alpacas occasionally produce a brown or fawn coloured cria. Which, although extremely beautiful, won’t be kept for breeding at this stud, but sold on to other breeders or as pets. Alpacas should not be kept alone – a minimum of 2.
Dita has the fleeces spun into knitting wool and also felted to make a sew-able fabric. An average alpaca fleece, which is shorn once a year, weighs 4 – 5 kilos. Of this about 2.5- 3 kilos is suitable for spinning and the remainder goes for felting. Alpaca wool is amongst the finest and warmest wool in the world. The quality of the fleece is essential for choosing good breeding animals.
March next year some of Dita’s animals are going to a show at St-Yrieix-la-Perche (87500). It is hoped that this will be the start of another successful showing career, just as she enjoyed in New Zealand.
A field full of alpacas has to be one of the most smile-inducing sights possible. During the summer when there are lots of babies around the joy is only enhanced. So if ever you need cheering up, or to get some some alpaca wool – this is the place to go. At the Quercy Local we love to find such diverse and interesting things going on. This is definitely somewhere to visit.