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News article  2007-07-06 - Braveheart Diego gets a helping hand in leg battle

Helping hand: Elaine Sharp keeps a firm grip on Braveheart Diego while his mother Diana looks on. Picture: Mike Waistell

Cuddly alpaca wears splint to help speed up his recovery

FOR most of us, a broken leg is a straightforward affair that can be sorted out quickly with a pot.

But not if you're a cuddly baby alpaca...

Staff at a Sheffield farm were presented with a whole new challenge when five-week-old fur-ball Braveheart Diego was found to have a hairline fracture in one of his front legs.

Elaine Sharp, who owns Mayfield Alpacas at Ringinglow said: "We had a problem with him at birth. Normally alpacas present with their face and two feet first but this one appeared with his face and only one foot. His left front leg was wrapped around his shoulder.

"When he was first born, you couldn't tell there was a problem with his leg but there must have been a slight fracture and, as he's grown, it's become more noticeable.

"He might have to wear the splint for the next two to three weeks" Elaine Sharp

"He want lame about 10 days ago and we thought it was too much of a coincidence after what happened at birth so we brought in a vet and an X-ray revealed a broken leg, which is very rare in alpacas."

So rare, in fact, that a plaster cast was out of the question.

Elaine said: "It couldn't be put in a pot because he's growing so much, so we've made a splint for him and he seems fine with it. Hopefully it will help the leg to mend and he'll soon be fine. He might have to wear the splint for the next two to three weeks."

Mayfield Alpacas breeds Peruvian alpacas. In South America, Australia and New Zealand, alpacas are farmed for the quality of their fleece, which is highly durable and thermal yet finer than cashmere.

The UK is believed to have. between 6,000 and 10,000 alpacas but it would need to increase its herd 10-fold before it could begin to develop a sustainable fleece industry.

Mayfield Alpacas, based at Quicksaw Farm off Fulwood Lane, breeds and sells alpacas. A single female can command a price of up to 5,000 as alpacas are still Uncommon in the UK and import costs are high because of quarantine bills.

Article by Fiona Firth. Originally appeared in the Sheffield Star, 6/7/2007