Peter?s pick of the alpacas
By JULIA ILES
ALPACAs are curious creatures ? an eclectic combination of deerlike gracefulness, an anteater neck, a camel-cross-hyena face and a gentle disposition.
Although only a small industry, the Valley has four dedicated alpaca stud farms, with several other smaller operations farming alpacas, which are cousins of the llama and native to Peru.
On the Clarence Valley Alpaca Stud Farm, a red-dust coloured alpaca called El Paso enthusiastically licks leaves from a citrus tree.
"I don't usually let them into my backyard garden, they just love eating the roses and would normally destroy my bushes, but this one will be exhibited at the Inverell Show soon," alpaca farmer Peter Dunn said.
Mr Dunn has a herd of 34 alpacas on his property.
"You stay there, you're not following the females," Mr Dunn said, talking to a cheeky black male alpaca in an adjoining yard this week.
Unlike sheep, which scurry when approached by humans, alpacas have an inquisitive nature and although some moved away as we walked through the Ulmarra paddock, they remained close as if to say 'who are these odd white creatures?'.
Dunn, 60, until last year primarily sold tractors, but had a revelation and decided to farm alpacas after a farming accident.
Recently the rookie farmer won second prize at the Tenterfield Show in the whites and fawns class, and another second in the black with black and others class.
For Peter, alpacas are a family affair. His daughter, Simone Diver, who runs Jackadgery Alpaca Stud Farm, gave him the idea.
"For me it was love at first sight, they are such great animals, for a city person they are so easy to farm, you don't have to crutch, they don't destroy the land because they have soft, cloven feet, more like pads and it's easy to care for them," the former Sydney-sider said.
"They are such a beautiful animal."
Primarily the two farms make money from breeding, but the wool is also shorn and sold.
The coarser hair is used for carpets, while the finer for clothing which can fetch eight dollars per 100 grams.
Mr Dunn and Ms Diver plan to exhibit a full display at the Grafton Show in May.