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News article  2004-08-01 - Defra and Mayfield Alpacas.

Alpaca farm thrives in Yorkshire

Wayne Page (left), Farm Business Adviser with Business Link South Yorkshire; and Elaine Sharp, Partner in Mayfield Alpacas

Wayne Page (left), Farm Business Adviser with Business Link South Yorkshire; and Elaine Sharp, Partner in Mayfield Alpacas

Elaine and Nigel Sharp kept alpacas at their home in the Mayfield Valley near Sheffield as a hobby; but when nearby farmland was put up for sale they saw the opportunity to create a viable farming business. With the help of Business Link South Yorkshire's Rural Business Growth Programme, funded by the EU and Defra, they now run Mayfield Alpacas.

"Our alpacas began catching the eye of passers-by," said Nigel Sharp. "Our own interest in the animals developed and we saw the opportunity to produce high quality breeding stock to help build the alpaca as an animal capable of producing fleece on a commercial scale in the UK.

"Business Link South Yorkshire provided invaluable help and support in developing the rural tourism potential through the Rural Business Growth Programme. With around 25,000 of funding we were able to get the business off the ground.

"Unsurprisingly the alpacas, now based in an authentic farm setting, attract even more attention and we are coping with a steady stream of visitors to the farm."

Alpacas are native to South America. They were first domesticated in Peru, about 5000 years ago, and numbered in the tens of millions by the time of the Spanish conquest. Alpacas were first imported into the United States in 1984. There are over three million alpacas in the world today.

Alpacas are adaptable to most climates and conditions. Six to eight alpacas require only one acre of pasture, making them ideal for small acreage farms.

During the Incan civilization, robes made of alpaca wool were reserved for the nobility and royalty. Alpaca wool is remarkably lightweight, strong and resistant to rain and snow. People who are allergic to wool can wear alpaca garments.

Wayne Page, Farm Business Adviser with Business Link South Yorkshire, said:

"The business was well suited to the Rural Business Growth Programme, which is designed to support diversification in farming and tourism in rural areas. Mayfield Alpacas has a well-founded business plan developing the market for the intriguing alpaca and its highly prized, luxurious fleece. The interest the animals are attracting will hopefully bring a lot of people to the area to see them in the beautiful Mayfield Valley."