Story and photos by Carmel Liddell.
Getting up close and personal to alpacas at the Royal Easter Show in the 1990’s, proved life changing for Sue Maynard. She was besotted with the animals, so she bought one… then another… and today, with partner John Hays, there’s a whole lot of love going round on their Gunnamatta Stud farm in Galston. Dedicated alpaca breeders since 1993, Sue and John follow a selective breeding programme to ensure their animals have the desired fleece density, crimp, lustre and fineness. Gunnamatta’s 90 huacayas not only look good, the way they lean into a neck rub fills human hearts with that warm, fuzzy feeling.
So, when did the industry begin? In the 19th century, Charles Ledger smuggled alpacas into Australia from South America, however our modern industry took off in the 1980’s. Although Peru still boasts 80% of the global herd (3.5 million animals), Australia now has 2,300 registered breeders with over 200,000 alpacas – and counting. Ian Frith, President of the Australian Alpaca Association says (quote) ‘Once the domain of hobby farmers, the industry has become fully sustainable.’
Alpaca fleece, used for luxury clothing and bedding, can be light or heavy in weight, depending on how it’s spun. Similar to sheep’s wool, it’s warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin which makes it hypoallergenic.
The Australian product is in demand. Since 2012, our bales have been stamped with the Australian Wool Exchange stencil, an assurance that only premium quality alpaca fleece reaches the international market.
Meanwhile at Galston, Sue Maynard (secretary for the Hawkesbury Blue Mountains region of the Australian Alpaca Association) and John Hays, pamper their animals. Both female and stud male alpacas have guaranteed fertility and the prize winning herd is happy. Gunnamatta provides a mobile mating service. Yes, love is in the air. John has just cranked up the ‘stud mobile’. The boys are at the fence, awaiting starter’s orders. On approach is the crushed velvet voice of ‘Love God’ Barry White – mood music – (for the alpacas, not John)… They’re willing; eyes bright; ears up – (the alpacas, not John)… So, who’s the lucky boy?
‘…Mm-mm, can’t get enough of your love babe… oh yeah…’
References: Wikipedia, Australian Alpaca Association, Gunnamatta Stud, ABC Rural news.