Alpacas are social animals, but they don’t like to be petted.
“It’s not in their make-up. They won’t nudge or buck each other, either,” Sian Rickard from Omaru Alpacas explains.
“They’ll come right up to you though. They will eat wheat out of your hand.”
In fact, alpacas regularly charm guests at Sian and Rob’s stud farm Open Days, held once a month.
And they’ll be starring attractions in the Shire-wide Open Farm Day 2020 on March 21.
In this year’s annual event, 15 farms and rural enterprises within Nillumbik Shire—including orchards, wineries, bakery and nurseries—will open their doors sharing insights into farming the Upper Yarra Valley.
Yoga at Omaru Alpacas. “They’ll come right up to you though. They will eat wheat out of your hand,” says Sian.
OMARU ALPACA’S PLANS FOR OPEN FARM DAY 2020
“We’ll do a few things for the Open Farm Day 2020,” says Sian.
“We have a few particularly friendly, gentle animals, and we’ll open up a specialised paddock so visitors can greet them face to face.”
Curious for a look, other individuals will nose paddock fences waiting for a feed. Sian reckons the guests love it.
“People really just like feeding the alpacas,” says Sian.
Walkers can also chart newly-formed walking tracks for unique views of the Yarra Valley, purchase hand-crafted alpaca fleece knits on-site or pack or purchase a picnic pack.
“We have plenty of room for picnic blankets and a few tables and chairs,” says Sian.
Sian and Rob will also join fellow experts to field questions.
“It’s a big day, so I usually have my fellow breeders to help about.”
Unique views of the Yarra Valley at Omaru Alpacas.
BETTER SUITED TO SMALLER HOLDINGS
Sian and Rob Rickard first introduced alpacas to their property in 2011.
The couple had ran cattle but found alpacas a better fit for their smaller holdings and less intimidating to their former bed and breakfast guests.
“Cattle are big,” she says.
“Alpacas have less impact on the environment. They weigh and eat less and they blend in well—they will graze alongside kangaroos.
“They have padded feet which are much softer on the ground, too. And they are very gentle,” she says.
Today, Sian and Rob breed alpacas for their fleece and to sell, welcome guests and sell alpaca fleece goods at the farm gate shop.
“We’re always looking at different ways of running the farm. We’re able to take a very rounded approach, we’re very lucky.”
Fibre production is their latest foray.
“I bought the equipment from America [in 2017] and that did take a lot of setting up,” says Sian.
It wasn’t always on the master plan, though.
“Having the alpacas generated its own learning curve.”
ACQUIRING THE FLEECE
Alpaca’s silk-like fleece is soft and durable. Containing no lanolin, it’s hypoallergenic and requires less processing compared to sheep.
Quality fibre and animal husbandry go hand in hand. And the couple work hard to maintain the soil.
“The soil here is notoriously poor, so we plant beans and fertilise it. It is important to make sure the pastures are maintained.”
Genetics also play a role in determining the fibres in the fleece.
“I breed appropriate males and females, to ensure it’s got the blend of fibre qualities I need. And I like to have a lot of different colours.
“Some breeders like to specialise in a single colour.”
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