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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 16:21 GMT
Alpaca farming 'on the increase'
Alpaca fleeces were prized by the Inca civilisation in the Andes
Alpaca herds, once a cherished treasure of the ancient Incas, are now becoming a familiar sight in Cornwall.

One farmer says in the four years she has been breeding the animals, seven other farms have started up nearby.

The NFU's regional director, Antony Gibson, says it may be a fad but it is perfect for fledgling smallholders.

Many are drawn to the South American animals, which are similar to llamas, because the fleece they produce can be spun into valuable wool.

Julie Taylor Brown has 10 alpacas on her farm at Porkellis and at one time she was the only alpaca farmer in the area.

She says there has been a definite increase in interest.

"I have seen a lot of small holders wanting to buy them. It's probably a better investment than sheep or cattle

"They are easier to look after and don't have half the illnesses and troubles sheep get for example."

Alpaca Facts:
They are descended from the camelids of South America
Each animal produces up to 6kgs of fibre each year
The gestation period is eleven-and-a-half months
Baby alpaca are called cria
But Mr Gibson, believes it may just be a fashion.

"What tends to happen is they become fashionable and everyone keeps them," he said.

"It was the same with deer, ostrich and llama farming.

"It's difficult to predict but my guess is it will be an alternative form of livestock farming but not the be all and end all of livestock farming."

The animal, which is a cousin to the llama and camel, has its origins in South America and can be traced back 6,000 years.

Their fleeces were later prized by the Inca civilisation in the Andes.

But even alpaca farming is not completely hassle-free.

As they are cloven-hoofed animals, they incurred government restrictions during the foot and mouth outbreak, and with a gestation period of almost a year, it can take years to build up a herd.

Couple spin golden fleece
24 Dec 03  |  North East Wales
Alpaca fleece improves
13 May 03  |  Cambridgeshire
Banker backs alpaca flock
01 Jul 02  |  England

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