Page last updated at 07:15 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 08:15 UK

Alpacas given a summer shearing

James Dixon
James Dixon travels to the UK every year to shear alpacas

A real life Crocodile Dundee has been drafted in to shear a herd of hairy alpacas in Northumberland.

Kathryn Shrimpton called on the skills of Australian James Dixon to trim the South American animals for the summer.

Mrs Shrimpton started importing black alpacas to her Lowgate farm three years ago and is gradually building her herd.

She plans to turn the kilos of soft alpaca yarn into a luxury range of fashion accessories, including beanie hats, wrist warmers and stoles.

The mother-of-three, who runs Fairshaw Rigg Farm, said: "Shearing the herd is a once-a-year event.

"We breed the alpacas for their fleeces. The fibres are very fine and soft and shearing it is a very specialised job.

"You can't just have a sheep shearer do it because the fleece is so valuable it needs to be in the best condition possible. That's why we get James in.

Polar bear fleece

"He's very gentle with them and understands them completely."

Mr Dixon, from Wollongong in New South Wales, began shearing alpacas five years ago.

He said: "It is very different to shearing sheep.

"They take a lot more handling; you can't just sit them on their backsides.

"They are more aware of what is going on and a little more reluctant to participate.

"But the fleece is easier to shear because alpaca fleece does not have the lanolin which sticks together sheep wool.

"Alpaca fleece is said to be the warmest fibre you can get apart from polar bear fleece - but I'm not shearing them."

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