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News article  2006-08-04 - Alpacas and llamas set sights on Peak District 'takeover'

Mayfield Alpacas owner Elaine Sharp believes close contact with animals can help children learn about life

Peak District or the Andes?

It might soon be difficult to tell when Mayfield llamas are trekking over the Derbyshire hills.

The Sheffield and Peak District Llama Trekking project has been awarded a 1,000 grant from the Peak District Sustainable Development Fund for its novel way of encouraging city-based young people to venture into the countryside.

Mayfield Alpacas owner Elaine Sharp is convinced that close contact with animals can help children learn about life and connect with the natural world.

"We have parties of children here all the time and some of them have hardly ever seen countryside, let alone an alpaca or llama," she said.

The Sharps' 42-acre farm has 80 alpacas and six llamas for breeding and fleeces - which fetch up to 70 a fleece.

"Stud males cost between 2,000 and 15,000 and females around 5,000," said Elaine. "When we first started farming around here I think some people thought that we were hobby farmers who wouldn't last. But this is viable and it's growing. Alpaca and llama farming is the fastest growing agricultural business in the UK. I think it's ideal for farmers who want to diversify and I believe the market will grow over the next 20 years.

"Alpaca fleeces make fantastic clothes. A fleece usually weighs between three to five kilos which makes around 44 bails of wool. We get one fleece a year from each animal. The wool has no lanolin so it makes it ideal for people with skin allergies to sheep wool and it is very soft. The animals' needs are very similar to sheep but they do need shelter when it's cold and wet. Because their fleeces have no lanolin they are less waterproof."

Article by Martin Smith. Originally appeared in the Sheffield Star, 4/8/2006