Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Building maintenance

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Being on a farm involves ongoing maintenance, and sometimes that includes building maintenance as well. Many of the fittings were poorly installed before we bought the property, and we have gradually repaired and replaced most of what was sub-standard. This month was the turn of the garage windows, which were originally 2nd hand, and installed without flashing, so the wood surrounding them gradually rotted. We now have brand spanking new glass windows with aluminum surrounds, and flashing!


Before replacement commenced

The old windows out

New windows installed

Autumn news

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Now that we have reached late Autumn, our summer tasks are ending, and winter ones beginning. Matings are over now until Spring, although we still have some pregnancy scans to confirm pregnancy happening later this month. Our Spring cria have now been weaned and have started their halter training, this will continue on an ongoing basis as the summer and autumn cria reach 6 months of age, and are weaned in their turn.

We have sown the last of our pasture to be regrassed. This has been ongoing over the last 3 years, and our pasture is showing the effects (see the photo  of  Masterclass standing knee high in grass). The last paddock has been fenced off with a temporary raceway at one end so we can get the alpacas down to the roadside paddock to graze. This new fence caused some consternation with our alpacas the first few times we used it, as they didn’t know where it was taking them!

Cheryl has also split the roadside paddock in two with temporary fencing. This will give us more management control by enabling us to leave paddocks ungrazed for a while to recover and regrow. It is a temporary fence only, as this large paddock is also our hay paddock, so the fence will come down in Spring to enable the hay to grow. By then our resown pasture should be ready for grazing, so the temporary raceway will come down then too, with a more permanent fence going in down the fenceline that has been just a row of posts for several years!

Masterclass kneehigh in our new pasture

This seasons cria

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Pictured are some of the lovely cria we have had this season – and from 13 cria, we only got 3 males! Some of these cria are for sale, together with their mums, and if you are looking at investing in alpacas and want above average, DNA Parent Verified animals, they are well worth looking at. Most haven’t made their way onto our For Sale page yet, so contact us to find out more.


The Pioneers: A brief history of the importation of alpacas to NZ

Monday, October 10th, 2016
1864! Most people are unaware of this! A herd of 336 alpacas were shipped to Australia by Sir Charles Ledger. Many died on route, only 276 alpacas survived the sea journey, with some of the survivors ending up in Lyttleton, New Zealand. It is not known what happened to these alpacas in either Australia or New Zealand, as there are no descendents of either group.
120 years later, in 1985, Ian Nelson convinced the then Minister of Agriculture in NZ to change the status of alpacas and llamas from zoo animals to farm animals (see our earlier article on Ian Nelson).
1986: 2 alpacas and 3 llamas were air freighted from London Zoo by Ian Nelson, the start of the dream! 1 of these alpacas lived until she was 28 or 29, and following her death about 5 years ago, Ian finally retired from farming!
1987: A Wellington Syndicate had grand ideas to import 500 alpacas to NZ from Chile. However, the 1987 stock market crash destroyed this plan before it could be completed.
1988: Clyde and Roger Haldane imported 300 alpacas to NZ. These alpacas were destined for the US market, but remained in New Zealand until import protocols were organised with the US. This herd increased in size to several thousand before being finally shipped to the US. Thereafter the US imported alpacas direct from South America.
1989: Murray Bruce imports 273 alpacas from Chile after 4 1/2 years of negotiation. Despite receiving an import permit in 1986, protocols were not finalised until 1987, and an outbreak of foot and mouth in Chile delayed the export until Chile was declared disease free in 1988.
The rest as they say, is history!

The smallest alpaca

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

img_6101Our first cria for the season was born on 20 September. Rather small – weighing in at under 6kg, and managed to get chilled in the cold wind, so lost a lot of strength. We put a cover on the cria and brought mother and baby inside where the baby also sat on a hot water bottle – she was able to cush, but not stand. We bottle fed the cria with milk and glucose so it could regain strength – but it was the next day before the cria could stand and feed from mother. A true black – as you can see from the photo, no brown tinge on this cria! And just to show we don’t always get it right, after 2 days of thinking we had a male cria, we discovered in fact, we have a female!

Our Pioneers – Ian and Virginia Nelson

Monday, September 5th, 2016

The Alpaca industry has now been in New Zealand for around 30 years, and our industry pioneers have long since moved on, their fascinating stories lost. However, here in Masterton still lives the man responsible for introducing alpacas to New Zealand and the world. We were lucky enough to meet up with Ian Nelson again recently when he was a guest at our local alpaca group. Now aged 90, Ian retired from farming alpacas only about 5 years ago. We took the opportunity to catch up with some of Ian’s reminiscences on how he became involved with alpacas.

Ian and his wife Virginia (Dinny) were Masterton sheep farmers most of their lives. In 1985, Ian decided to retire, passing his sheep farm on to the next generation. However, as with most farmers, his heart was in the land, and he and Dinny decided to buy a small holding (around 10 acres) up near Taupo. Having farmed sheep and cattle for 40 years, they decided they wanted to do “something different” as their retirement hobby, and started to investigate farming llamas. At that stage, their were about 5 llamas in New Zealand in zoos, and Ian managed to acquire 3 of them. During Ians study of llamas as a potential hobby, he also heard about alpacas – but nobody knew anything about them.

Ian and Dinny then decided they would take a vacation in Chile, and while they were holidaying would take the opportunity to investigate acquiring some llamas to bring to New Zealand, and would also take a look at some alpacas if they could. It is now history that Ian was blown away by the fleece of the Chilean alpacas, and from that moment on, llamas were no longer part of the equation – especially as Dinny had found the llamas too large and overpowering.

Ian then returned to New Zealand and applied for a licence to import alpacas from Chile – and was turned down flat by our Government, who were concerned alpacas might bring exotic diseases into New Zealand that could potentially devastate our existing sheep and cattle industries.

However, Ian was not going to give up. He enthusiastically promoted alpacas as a future farming option for New Zealand to anyone who would listen – and their were a number of people who became caught up in his excitement. This group of people continued to lobby the government for permission to import alpacas for farming, and eventually gained a partial agreement from the NZ Government, on condition that Ian and his associates built a quarantine station on Niue Island in the Pacific, and paid to have it managed by Agresearch staff.  While they were on Niue Island, they would be studied to ensure they carried no diseases that could affect sheep, cattle and other primary industries.

Obviously, the experiment worked! With Ian finally granted permission to import alpacas, things turned out to be not quite that simple, as there were no rules (protocols) regarding the importation of alpacas into New Zealand from South America. So while the New Zealand and Chilean governments started working on protocols, Ian (who had been years lobbying the government) was too impatient to wait any longer. He was given permission to import some alpacas from a zoo, and so his first 3 alpacas actually came from London Zoo. One of the females, a brown, was extremely “spitty” and was given the nickname “Vomiting Violet”!

Without meaning to, Ian became a world changer – as soon as New Zealand agreed to the farming of alpacas, many other countries (Australia, UK, Europe, USA, Canada) quickly followed suit, with the result that many of the first alpacas  imported into New Zealand by various entrepreneurs who had jumped on the bandwagon, bounced out of New Zealand to the rest of the world within months of arriving here.

Ian continued to farm alpacas for around 20 years, only making his second retirement a few years ago, when “Vomiting Violet” died, aged 28 (because she was purchased from a zoo, unlike other imports, her birthday was known).

Alpaca owners the world around owe an enormous debt to Ian and Virginia Nelson.


Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Winter is the time we make time for ……changes. This year it was the turn of wisteria in our back garden to come in for a tidy up. Since we have been at The Alpaca Place, the wisteria has grown, and grown ….and grown, until it not only covered the punga fence back extended over the front of studio at one end, and over the top of our potting shed at the other. Probably would have grown into the raceway, too, but a frequent application of alpaca teeth at least kept it trimmed there.

The punga log fence was starting to collapse under the weight of age and the wisteria, so that needed replacing too, so Liz and Gordon got busy with the loppers and trimmed the wisteria right back to a stump, carting trailer full after trailer full of branches to our fire pit. A convenient storm blew the now unconnected wisteria off the top of the potting shed after Liz had spent hours worrying about how she could get it off!

The punga logs were removed by Gordon and carted off for burning, and then Liz and Gordon rebuilt a new, and stronger fence for the wisteria to grow over. Now all we have to do is wait for the wisteria to resprout (and if it doesn’t we’ll plant a replacement). In the mean time we may plant some sweet pea to cover the brand new fence until the wisteria takes over.

As it was! The wisteria covered everything!

As it was! The wisteria covered everything!

The job half done - wisteria gone, new fence going up

The job half done – wisteria gone, new fence going up

The new fence now in place, waiting for the wisteria to grow

The new fence now in place, waiting for the wisteria to grow


Yet another use for alpaca – weedmat!

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

I am not much of a gardener, preferring to spend time on the farm or with the alpacas. However, I  love eating raspberries! So a few years ago I dealt with my anti-gardening prejudice and bought a few canes of raspberries, which have been producing delicious raspberries every year ever since.

As with all gardening, the worst part is the weeds, as as they grow when I am busiest on the farm, most years the raspberries have to compete with them, while I make the occasional effort to remove them.

This year I decided to try something different. I have long known that scrap alpaca was reputed to make a great weed mat, and as we had a number of odd scraps of alpaca lying around, I decided to make the effort to see how it works. After pruning, and hoeing the raspberry patch to remove as many weed seedlings as possible, I laid down a thick layer of compost to ensure the raspberries had sufficient food and moisture, and then carefully laid down a patchwork of alpaca fibre (quite a bit came from wool samples taken at our 2009 shearing and never sent for testing – it was a trip down nostalgia lane, as with one exception, all these alpacas had been sold).

So now all I have to do is wait and see how effective alpaca fibre is as a weedmat. I did strike a problem today when wind threatened to blow all the fibre from the garden, but got around that issue by dampening down the fibre.IMG_6006

Alpaca fibre: now the first choice for filtering smoke!

Friday, August 19th, 2016
Alpaca fibre has a great future! We all know that, but the sheer variety of uses for alpaca apart from the beautiful garments it makes, never ceases to amaze. Here is yet another use for this endlessly variable natural fibre:
From the winter edition of “New Zealand Alpaca” I recently reread an article by Jenny Durno about an amazing new use of alpaca fibre. Jenny’s article discusses a fire fighter mask with an alpaca filter, invented and developed by Australian Mike Taylor.
Mike didn’t set our to find a use for alpaca, rather he was looking for a solution to keep smoke out of your lungs when fighting fires, withour having the product melt all over your face, or leak smoke around the edges.
By chance, while Mike was researching natural materials he wandered into an alpaca show, and purchased felted alpaca to test along with other materials he was working with. The alpaca performed so well he went looking for a source, and together with an enterprising alpaca owner came up with the ideal solution for his face mask.
When CSIRO ran the alpaca filter through their tests, the results were so impressive, the respirator was the first and only respirator to pass two International Standards for fire resistance.
Not only, but also: the face masks have also been used for protection against word turning dust and allergens!
Says Mike: “I now have  a completely new electrostatic material which uses alpaca. I have called it “Pacastat”. By itself it removes 99.9% of 5 micron particles and over 85% of 0.3 micron. Fantastic texture too.”commercial

Our website works for us too!

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Just yesterday, we discovered one of weanlings with a slight head tremor, typical of staggers. We knew she couldn’t have rye grass staggers, as not only is it the wrong time of year, being winter here in NZ, but we don’t have any ryegrass. However, a number of years ago I did a study on the different types of staggers, and wrote the results up in an article in the Health and Welfare section of our website. So although I remembered there were 3 different types of staggers, I couldn’t remember what the additional 2 were, or their treatments. So I looked up our trusty website, and found Tiffany fitted the profile for PE – staggers that normally occur mid-winter, when there is a lot of fungal activity going on. With a damp and mild winter, we have had fungus growing in odd spots around the farm. The result an be a thiamine deficiency, and the treatment – B12.

Our website is a great resource – even for us!