As promised in my Summer on the Farm post, and amid all the stress and fear rolling across the world right now, I thought it might be a good time to give you a smile at our tale of Alpaca-related unfortunate events. We certainly need a bit of light relief right now, don’t you!? Plus, this deserves to be documented, in case I ever have the ridiculous idea again…
Two Alpacas. Three People. Two Six-Wheeled, Powered Wheelchairs. One End Goal- Get said Alpacas into the barn. What could possibly go wrong?
Before diving into that particular tale, let’s start from the beginning.
Enter, Hamish & Douglas
My Mum and Granny had been pestering my Dad about Alpacas for years, threatening to buy any they saw while on trips to the Rare Breeds Sale at the Auction Market.
Several years ago, they finally managed to wear him down enough for him to pick two up, named Hamish (brown) and Douglas (black), as their requested Mother’s Day Gifts. Not that we usually do much of the gift-buying thing for Mother’s Day, but it was as good an excuse as any.
You can’t deny your mum and wife a Mother’s Day present, right?
Pre-purchase, we made him many assurances of the positives the Alpacas would bring to the farm…
How they’d be brilliant at saving the chickens from fox attacks… They’d keep the weeds down in the paddock… They’d be low maintenance… They’d be halter trained and friendly, much easier to catch and handle than sheep (his nemesis)… “You won’t even know they’re there.”
Famous last words.
A thriving crop of nettles, newly-erected Fort Knox around the fruit trees, some well-aimed kicks, and a few less chickens later… We’ve come to the conclusion, the Alpacas’ only saving grace is being a hit with passing footpath-walkers and their children!
The Yearly Affair
Each year, just like sheep, they need shearing to stop them overheating or getting fly strike (maggots hatching in their fleece and literally eating them alive- yes, it really is as disgusting and painful as it sounds!). But, unlike sheep, there’s only a few select shearers who are willing/kitted out to do the job- the alternative being to shear them ourselves (well, for Farmer Roger to shear them, under sufferance).
Usually, we manage to get a shearer to come mid to late June, meaning our (Farmer Roger’s) only contribution is to catch them.
Last year, my mum, our Very Good Friend Lucy/VGFL (our partner-in-crime and One Girl and Her Cows’ Chief Photographer), and I decided we’d save him a job and carry out the task of corralling them into the barn ourselves.
It turns out, those well-handled Alpacas we promised are actually much better described as single-minded and slightly feral…
Half an hour of unsuccessful herding later (apparently, my mum and I on our wheelchairs aren’t worthy rivals for sheepdogs…), one had scrambled over my mum twice, and both had jumped our makeshift rope fence, which had created an alleyway straight to the barn door, and were hightailing it up the lane towards the village, closely followed by VGFL sprinting up the field parallel to it.
Luckily, she’d already had a practice run earlier in the year, when having to head off some escapee cows, so was well versed in hillside running.
Unbeknown to us, she managed to overtake the lolloping pair and valiantly throw herself through the hedge and onto the lane to head them off.
Meanwhile, my mum and I were in a fairly panicked state as it dawned on us that… A completely empty yard, with everybody else out working, the two of us being unable to drive anything faster than 6mph wheelchairs, and the Alpacas heading towards either open fields or a road leading towards a busy A road, wasn’t exactly one of our (well, my) best ideas.
Pure relief flooded over us when they came careering back into the yard, straight into their paddock!
Safe to say, we failed at Alpaca Herding… and we owe VGFL at least a year’s supply of tea and cake!
They were shorn the next day- after being caught by Farmer Roger/my disgruntled dad. We’re banned from going anywhere near them this year.