When did you first start Spring Farm Alpacas?
When we first came here 15 years ago we bought 3 pregnant female Alpacas and it was completely barren 110 acres of land. Since then we have built up everything you see and our farm has 120 Alpacas. Chris and I run the farm together, although I look after everything and Chris has a full-time job too, so he helps out at evenings and weekends.
We don’t use any fertilisers or chemicals and we have planted hedgerows and trees too encourage a bio-diversity of wildlife.
Chris and I have always liked travelling and have been inspired by the wildlife we saw on our travels. We did our research about Alpacas, including how to handle them. They have a very gentle, timid nature, are naturally inquisitive and usually communicate with body language and noises – they make a very gentle noise but can spit to tell each other off! They like their own space.
At the start, when we learnt how to handle Alpacas, we also went on courses to learn how to handle them, and have since learnt that 99% of other Alpaca breeders don’t use the same techniques – and as a result our herd is well known for being the most friendly and will eat from your hand. If you start training when they’re born, the rest is easy, although training an adult Alpaca is not so easy!
Our farm is also bio-secure, which means that we are not allowed to graze our Alpacas anywhere else.
How is the Alpaca yarn used?
Most of the yarn is sent for processing as we don’t have the facilities here. When it returns we have various products that we can make for sale. One Kilo of yarn goes a long way.
We have two types of Alpacas, Huacaya and Suri – they both produce about 40 kilos of yarn per year.
What do you sell?
We have a variety of income streams, including those related to owning a small holding:
Once we had built up our Alpacas, we started to sell them as pets, for commercial use and for showing. We also ‘sell’ our male Alpacas to breeders to inseminate their females and we are very proud to have males with the world’s best genetics.
A year ago we started to offer Alpaca Walking, which is very popular with both adults and children. Not only is it very relaxing, but it is a very educational visit, as both Chris and myself know a lot about nature, including species of wild flowers, birds and butterflies. We concentrate on quality of what we offer rather than quantity, and would much rather people really enjoyed their visit, so that they come back for more and recommend us to others. Our aim is to increase the Alpaca Walking so that it sustains the farm.
We sell a variety of products made from the Alpaca yarn which are very popular and we sell Alpaca cards. We also sell Alpacas to breeders in the UK and internationally. Eventually we hope to sell our products online. Alpaca yarn is comparable to Cashmere but better – it’s softer and allows the skin to breathe. You also get more yarn per animal.
We offer fibre and handling workshops in the UK and internationally. We also have a holiday let property adjacent to the fields where the Alpacas are, which will hopefully see us into the future.
Lastly we make hay and haylage, partly for the Alpacas and partly to sell.
What sort of people come and visit?
We have lots of children and adults. Some students visit from college or uni as part of their educational program and some stay for a week’s work experience. Our aim is to educate and enthuse, not just about Alpacas, but about nature and bio-diversity.
What about the future of Spring Farm?
We are very proud to be the ‘no 4’ rated attraction for things to do in Sussex on Trip Advisor and aim to maintain that. We would also like to increase the Alpaca Walking, but may need to take on more staff to do so.
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