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29 July 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
Wimmera alpaca farmers David and Pam Pratt are making the most of a growing alpaca industry.
The husband and wife team started farming alpacas eight years ago when Mr Pratt returned to the Wimmera after serving in the Army.
Mrs Pratt, a keen crocheter, was excited to start knitting her own garments with the ‘luxurious’ alpaca fleeces.
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Starting as a small hobby farm at Haven before expanding to Laharum, Rosehaven Alpacas now has a herd of more than 100.
“We got a couple of alpacas and things got out of control from there,” Mr Pratt laughed.
“We started breeding stud animals and then we got into showing alpacas.”
The animals, characterised by long necks and elongated eye lashes, are farmed for their genetics, meat and fine fleece.
Australian Alpaca Association leaders, AAA, say the alpaca industry has never been stronger and is becoming fully sustainable – the registered herd size in Australia is expected to top one million by 2021.
And Mr Pratt said he could confirm popularity of alpaca farming was booming.
“There’s a lot of commercial operations now – it’s not just people with three or four alpacas in their back yards. There’s people running herds between 1000 to 5000,” he said.
“From a commercial point of view, we’re going quite nicely and we expect next year to be the same.
“We have high demand for sales – it’s nowhere near as big an industry as sheep, but it’s certainly a growing industry and there’s a good demand for it.”
Mr Pratt said demand for alpaca fleeces was growing significantly internationally.
“There’s some going to Germany and there’s a large demand in Italy for high-end suits made from the alpaca fibre,” he said.
“One of the advantages is they can blend all the different colours rather than having to dye the fleece.”
Alpacas come in a diverse range of colours such as browns, greys, blacks, whites, fawns and roans.
Mr Pratt said colour diversity was making the alpaca fleece more attractive to buyers looking to make garments without using dyes.
“There’s a strong interest in the clothing industry for materials that are less processed. It’s a unique quality – you can get a really wide range of natural colours,” he said.
Mr Pratt said an additional benefit was the warmth.
“It does knit up really well – in terms of warmth – you don’t need a thick alpaca jumper to get the same effect as a wool jumper,” he said.
“You can wear lighter garments that give you the same level of warmth.”
The Pratts are also keen supporters of alpaca shows and can usually be seen showcasing the animals at events across Victoria. Mr Pratt said he was disappointed to see the AAA board cancel the 2020 National Alpaca Show next month due to COVID-19, but he would look forward to next year to show his alpacas.
He said alpacas made an ideal safeguard among a paddock of sheep to protect against foxes or wild dogs and a key component to their alpaca operation was leasing the animals to sheep farmers to protect their livestock.
“Alpacas will chase and even kill a fox,” he said.
“They’ve got a really strong drive to protect their own offspring and it transfers over to the lambs.
“There’s a huge demand for heard guards. This year has probably been our busiest year yet. People are starting to see the effects of running alpacas with sheep flocks.”
The couple is now planning to open a petting zoo aspect to the farm to take advantage of increased interest in alpacas.
“We’re currently working with Horsham council, trying to get approval to do farm tours and have alpaca experiences,” he said.
“On Northern Grampians Road, with people going up to Halls Gap, there’s always people stopping at the fence looking at the animals.
“It’s just another part of business we’re trying to develop that’s showing a bit of potential.”
The entire July 29, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
The entire July 29, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!