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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Banker backs alpaca flock
Ben Harford with alpacas
Ben Harford says the farm is a long term project
A retired investment banker has turned his hand to farming with alpacas.

Ben Harford, 60, already has 50 of the animals on his farm at Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.

Mr Harford joins a growing trend for British farmers to shun struggling traditional breeds in favour of more eye catching animals like buffalo and ostrich.

But these alpacas are not destined for a dinner table - they are prized for their thick wool.

Ben Harford with a baby alpaca
Alpacas are farmed for their wool

Raised on a farm, Mr Harford was well aware of the challenges facing modern livestock farmers.

But after reading a countryside magazine he hit on the idea of joining the growing number of farmers forgoing the traditional sheep and dairy herds, in favour of alpacas.

Four years later Mr Harford has 50 of the South American animals and is ready to begin building a new farming business around them.

"I am intending on having a serious flock of animals here," he said.

"I am now getting on for 50 animals after four years, and in another four years there will be 100 here. But they do not breed more than once a year - so it is a long term exercise."

Mr Harford, who bought the first of his alpacas from a UK-based dealer, hopes that he will soon begin turning their coats into clothing to sell on his farm.

He also intends to open his land as a visitor attraction, so people can see the alpacas, which are members of the camel family, for themselves.

"It is a perfectly viable farming business," said Mr Harford.

"It is a good way of earning a living, and a good example of farmers trying different things.

"It is much more fun having alpacas than it is having sheep.

"They are all individuals - they have completely different personalities.

"That makes it extraordinarily enjoyable."


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See also:

28 May 02 | England
14 May 02 | England
25 Feb 01 | Business
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