Urban Farmers Pin Their Hopes On Alpacas

Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday March 16, 1996

By ANTHONY HOY Rural Editor

Lesley Drake is one of a growing band of urban alpaca breeders jockeying for the inside lane on the fast track to agricultural fortune.

Lesley and her husband Alan, of Ourimbah, have pinned their hopes on Giles, the nine-month-old Huacaya progeny of a $22,000 dam.

Alpacas are shorn once a year for an average fleece yield of 4 kilograms. The fleeces are snapped up by hobby spinners at $100-$150 a kilo. According to the Australian Alpaca Association, this member of the camel family is making a mark on Sydney's urban farming scene.

An association spokesman, Mr Ken Wray, said: "In recent years there has been enormous growth in alpaca breeding in the Hills district around Galston, Kenthurst and out to Windsor."

The hardy animal requires no special management other than vaccinations and worming, routine trimming of toenails and teeth, and annual shearing.

They are bred each year, gestation taking just over 11 months and with a generally problem-free pregnancy.

The president of the association's Sydney region, Mr Hugh Scarlett, of Lindfield, said the future of the fleece-based industry was excellent.

A breeder, Mr Arthur Mavros, a former private hotel owner from Coogee, said the alpaca industry was at the crossroads, producing too much fibre for the cottage industry and not enough for commercial processors.

Ms Wendy Billington, of Cedar House Stud, Moss Vale, is one of the industry's biggest breeders. With her partner, Peter Sultan, she has bred and sold 150 animals during the past six years, for an average return of $22,000 to $25,000, and just invested $2 million for 110 Peruvian superfine fleece animals.

© 1996 Sydney Morning Herald

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