Enjoy a glimpse of growing field of fleece agriculture
JUGGLING alpacas and business suits is all in a day's work for David Vincent.
Mr Vincent, the new president of the Murwillumbah District Business Chamber, moved to his Mount Burrell home from Melbourne with wife Margot about 10 years ago.
The "beautiful valley" and lifestyle of the region was what drew them to the area, but they then dove into the exotic world of alpaca farming while maintaining his connections to the corporate world.
"Before we came here I was a business consultant and executive coach, which I can still do because I really enjoy it," Mr Vincent said.
Mr Vincent, who is also a volunteer for the Kunghur Rural Fire Brigade, hoped to bring a fresh perspective to the chamber, which has a growing body of 207 members.
"What I'd love to do is help people with their strategic plans," he said.
"It's a forum where people can share the good times and also the bad times."
Mr Vincent established Stanfield Alpacas about four years ago and he and wife Margot will this year take part in their third alpaca farm open day.
"We met some people who had alpacas and we decided to have some," Mr Vincent said.
The couple currently has a herd of 12 alpacas, two of which are pregnant.
Mr Vincent said the herd's fleece, which is sheared every spring, was popular among local craftspeople.
The adult alpacas each grow about 2kg of fleece every year.
He said the warmth, softness and versatility of alpaca fleece was helping the animal become more and more popular in the Northern Rivers and south-east Queensland.
"Alpaca wool has a higher comfort factor than sheep's wool," Mr Vincent said.
"I find it difficult to wear sheep's wool because the fibres have little barbs on them. Alpaca wool doesn't actually have those, so it's a lot easier to wear against your skin."
While an increasing number of landholders are farming alpacas for their nutrient-rich meat, MrVincent said this wasn't part of their operation.
"We give them all names... so I don't think we could do that."
Alpacas are related to camels and originated in the South American Andes.
Despite some questionable personal habits, like spitting, which the animals used to determine "pecking order", Mr Vincent said alpacas were a delightful addition to his property.
"They're very easy to look after and they have a good temperament.
"A lot of people have them as pets. They're very gentle animals and they become quite affectionate."
He said alpacas were also less disruptive to their environment than other livestock.
"They have pads on their feet, not hooves like horses and cattle."
Commonly confused with llamas, Mr Vincent said alpacas were smaller and used for their fleece and meat, while llamas were useful labouring animals.
Australian Alpaca Week will see farms across the country open their gates to visitors between May 30 and April 8.
Those visiting Stanfield Alpacas will have the chance to meet and pat his herd and check out their fleece and products knitted by Margot.
The Northern NSW and South East Queensland branch of the Australian Alpaca Association will also hold the Murwillumbah Alpaca Show at the showgrounds on June 25.