CAMERON is spitting. Must be all those tax wheezes figured out by celebrities.
Alpacas, which are part of the camelid species which includes llamas and camels, pack some powerful spit.
They may look like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth but get on their wrong side and the spit starts to fly.
The good news is – for all bar super stud male Cameron – that visitors are not their target. Other alpacas are. Especially when sharing a food bowl. It all gets a bit Exorcist then, heads twisting around and ... duck.
Ducks get the treatment, too. We’re at Hambleton’s World of Alpacas, off Shard Lane. It’s a pedigree alpaca farm, and akin to being on the set of Dr Doolittle.
Ducks, hens, bantams, silkie chickens, horses – all following owner Paul Thompson as we leg it across the fields to tempt the alpacas out from their team- huddle.
In some areas alpaca are kept in with sheep and goats and hens, as they make for excellent fox guards.
Cameron is kept in a separate area. He’s been a bit grumpy lately. Even Paul, who’s having his ankles pecked by a particularly aggressive little bantam punching well above its weight, tends to steer clear.
Generally alpacas are kept together, and at the very least sold in pairs, female pairs, with one male allowed to tag along if required.
Clearly Cameron and co have been a bit lively lately for there’s four baby alpacas – known as crias – about and more on the way.
In all, there are about 40 alpaca, 10 males, 25 females, four yearlings, four cria.
They have all been sheared for summer so look particularly fetching with their fringes and top knots intact in most cases.
Paul hires an Australian shearer for the purpose, one of the best in the business, who heads over to Britain for up to three months at a time, and works his way from the south-north, shearing as he goes. The fleece, comparable to cashmere, is fine, light and lustrous.
“Guy must make a fortune,” says Paul.
On the face of it he should be on to a nice little earner, too, the alpaca sold for pets, or breeding, or an excellent investment opportunity.
The three stud males Cameron, Calvados and Sebastian, are also available for service and have produced some prize-winning offspring. There are also rare blue-eyed white alpaca.
But there’s a price tag of several thousand pounds on an alpaca so they are costly little beasts. Particularly when you have to buy two at a time so your alpaca doesn’t pine. And they require rather more space than a back garden in which to roam or munch grass.
But Paul, whose alpaca were a big hit at the Scorton Fair last weekend, and now hopes for a slot at the Great Eccleston Show (July 14-15), has hit on a winning idea. Adopt an alpaca. “I handed out 250 brochures at the show and there’s already interest,” he admits. “It’s £75 a year and you get 12 months adoption of the alpaca of your choice, 12 pre-arranged visits to the farm, a photo, adoption certificate, and lots more. Including the chance to come and see a new born alpaca – a cria.”
Paul already has some alpaca on show at Blackpool Zoo, Myerscough College and Brackenwood Garden Centre, a family owned centre on Bradshaw Lane at Greenhalgh, near Kirkham.
With Cockerham Cameron, to accord him his full pedigree name, having a personality only a deputy prime minister could love, the other alpaca, in all shapes and sizes and colours, are more likely to be up for adoption candidates. “They are lovely animals,” says Paul. “They are safe and really pleasant. They don’t bite, or butt, and don’t have the teeth, horns, hooves or claws to do serious injury. They are pretty placid creatures.
“They are healthy and hardy too – face it, they are native to South America, from the high altitudes of Peru and the like, so the Fylde coast must be a doddle. And their fleece is really beautiful.
“They are nice sociable animals and stick together. You can’t have a lone alpaca. They would fret. We have to sell them in pairs or more.”
Security has been stepped up since the theft of one of his cherished crias earlier this year – which had yet to be weaned.
“It may have been stolen to order and it was heartbreaking for us all, including the mother alpaca,” he adds.
Paul’s particularly fond of Greenside Sebastian, the stud male. “Sabby has a lovely nature. They are all beautiful and very different. We have pedigree names and our own names for them all. A lot of people see them and think they’re llama. But llama are a lot bigger and uglier – and alpaca have the best ears!”
Certainly ears prick up at the sound of approaching food. If that’s not enough, one appears to be smiling strangely at me: Cockerham Caroline. Why? Because Cameron’s in solitary...