WITH their big eyes and long eyelashes, alpacas have faces that can melt the hardest of hearts.
As Roland Schwertner said at Grafton Show on Saturday when asked why he became an alpaca breeder five years ago: "How can you resist a face like that?.
"When I was looking to get involved I saw some up on a hill and playing and was hooked."
Both Mr Schwertner, of Erwin Alpacas at Alstonville, and 16-month-old Bella Rose were making their show debut at the weekend.
"I was going to being three alpacas but had problems with the other two so it's just Bella Rose and me," he said.
Since we started breeding I've sold 11, four as herd protectors."
That's right, the woolly, sweet faced animals can turn downright nasty when faced with foxes and dogs.
Mr Schwertner said they were used to guard animals such as sheep, goats and chickens.
"Recently I saw them in a paddock with a fox going up and down the other side of the fence," he said.
"If it had come through they would have killed it, stamped it to death.
"They get up on their hind legs like horses."
Fortunately, around people they are generally on their best behaviour.
Bella Rose is already a veteran of visits to schools and old people's homes, and is only too happy, if you get down to her face level, to plant a kiss on your cheek.
"They have very good natures," Mr Schwertner said.
"I took her to an old people's home near where we live and she was able to walk through the wards and into the dementia ward where the residents loved patting her.
"We even walk down the main street at Ballina, and they are great around kids."
There was a strong contingent of alpacas at Grafton Show, with animals coming from farms around the North Coast and the Northern Tablelands.
Mr Schwertner said they were fairly easy to raise and are shorn once a year, with their soft, fine fleece growing in popularity.
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