When people come to visit Hilltop Farm one of the questions that is asked regularly is, what do you do with the fleece? Unfortunately we have done very little with ours. That answer then leads to; what is the point in having alpacas if you cannot gain something from them? That is a fair enough question especially if you are someone who wants to get into alpacas just to make a living.
In our case, our animals are now self-sustaining in that they don’t cost us anything to maintain. That might just sound absurd but it is true.
The problem with creating products in Ireland with alpaca fleece is that there are no woollen mills in this country. Britain has several well established mills but then the cost of transport over and back has to be taken into consideration and unless you have a large amount of animals, it’s not really cost effective. However, we are planning to create a product with some of our fleece that is not being created anywhere in Ireland at the moment. There will be more on this when we move into production…
But how is Hilltop Farm sustainable? It’s people who make it so. Every weekend and even on the occasional weekday evening we have visitors coming to see our alpacas. But it’s not just having a look; oh no, it is an alpaca farm experience. It starts by visiting the paddocks, meeting the docile animals and getting to rub down some of them, some of whom even go so far as to lie down at your feet while you caress the silky, cloud-like fleece on their backs and necks. When you have met them all, you may then bring some of them on a quiet stroll. Finally, the log cabin is available for light refreshments – tea/coffee/water and something light to eat while talking about anything and everything including alpacas. A new venture into visits has also commenced with a visiting equine school and, believe it or not, a hen party. Yes, a hen party who had book their visit well in advance. They stopped at Hilltop Farm on their way to their final destination. Both were fabulous successes.
We can almost guarantee that you will have a smile on your face and maybe even a light fluffy feeling within you as you leave Hilltop Farm Alpacas to go home.
Why not come to Hilltop Farm and experience the experience and similar to us, you might even want to embark on your own adventure into farming.
Alan and Catriona
‘If you have livestock you have deadstock’, is a saying within the farming community. Having been raised in a town myself, it was not something I would have heard, or understood for that matter. That was until this summer. Here at Hilltop Farm Alpacas we started breeding from our own for the first time and most of the cria (babies) born this year would be our own. By the 29th June we were due to have four cria on the farm. But this is not the case. Two of our babies died, one at birth, the second – at four days old.
The first cria suffered a complication during the birth. The mother (Cloud) had a twisted uterus making it difficult to birth her baby and when the vet eventually managed to help it out, it had lost its fight and died because of the stress it had suffered during the process. The second cria was born to Apollo with fluid in one of its lungs and the high levels of humidity made it difficult for the little one to breathe easily. We did everything we could for the little one, but it wasn’t enough, Mother Nature had other plans. These two cria were named Evolution and Empress.
But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. We have had two healthy cria – Eureka and Elijah – with one more expected in late August. You just have to accept that not everything will go your way and for some unknown reason the ‘powers-that-be’ decide that harmless creatures be taken from their bereaving mothers. But that’s just how it is. We have to enjoy what we have and just remember the ones that are no longer with us.
However it must be said that the two crias that we have are pure bundles of joy and we will undoubtedly have hours of amusement with them.
Until next time
Alan and Catriona
Hilltop Farm is busy at the best of times, but now it is about to get a little busier still. Oh yes it is. Things are happening here apace. One of our girls is due to give birth for the first time and it could happen any time from now on. It's a little unusual for a cria (baby alpaca) to be born this early in the year, but she and the male got a little frisky when we weren't expecting it. These things happen and how it came about was completely unexpected. We are on watch her all the time now to make sure everything is as it should be for the mother-to-be. but you know what they say about watched kettles.
But that's not all that's happening at Hilltop Farm. Oh no it's not. Just last week we entered into agreement with a company called Weddings Ireland who have put us on their magazine (online and hard copy versions). We already had two weddings booked for this year and the growing interest looks like that number might just increase. We were excited and delighted to have been placed on Weddings Ireland and hope we continue our good relationship with them.
And that's not all because today, we completed our Outhouse, our outdoor toilet, that works like the outhouses that were the norm in olden times in this country and possibly many others as well. All the waste deposited in the outhouse will be disposed of naturally - in keeping with the environmentally friendly alpacas. Visitors to the farm will be able to use the outdoor toilet from now on. Visitor numbers have began to increase of late so the completion of this construction couldn't have come at a better time.
But that's still not all. We are currently waiting for the delivery of a small Log Cabin which will be our tea-room and area where visitors can come in and talk about alpacas if that what takes their fancy.
Oh yes, we are stepping it up at Hilltop Farm and if you are interested in visiting us, don't forget to contact us to make your appointment. Please also see our Reservation Form on www.hilltopfarmalpacas.com if you wish to book some of our photogenic alpacas for your wedding.
Alan and Catriona
Over the last couple of days we have been experiencing some terrible weather. Its not that we're not used to it because the recent storm was the third named one since November - Storm Deirdre. It included gusts of wind of up to 130km/h, torrential rain and even hail showers.
A favourite past-time of us people from Ireland and the British Isles is to talk about the weather and we like to complain about how bad the forecasters are at predicting our weather. But we don't seem to take into account that most of our weather can be localised events and that the rainfall 15 miles down the road could be completely different to what we experience. We even depend on apps to help us out, but then our battery and we are left with nothing.
But that's not the case with the animal world - which does not have access to any of out technologies - but they seem to know when bad weather is on the way. Watching our alpacas, we see them moving before a torrential rain shower or high wind. They always seem to know the direction the wind is going to come from; they find shelter.
During Storm Ophelia I observed our alpacas lying in the middle of their paddock during the height of that storm. I decided to go out to see if they were alright and as I approached them I saw that they were sitting with the heads forward a little just beside a small rise in the ground. I went up to them and bent down close to them to find that the wind was skirting over them completely. Meanwhile as I stood up again, I was nearly blown off balance by the 140km/h gusts.
How did they find that spot? How did they know there even was such a spot in their paddock? There was a shelter in the field but they decided to use what had been provided by nature itself to combat what Mother Nature was throwing out.
But then I realised that Nature knows best. My experience of this is with alpacas and how they can accurately predict what weather is on the way and how they can deal with it without needing to construct a barrier to keep me safe and sound.
Nature Calls it and alpacas will provide you with advance notice of the on=coming weatherr. These are fabulous animnals and there are many reasons why they should be studied and loved.
Everywhere you go nowadays you hear people talking about healthy living - about the fruit and vegetables they have eaten this week, or the amount of steps they have taken and so on. But is that really so good for you, counting what you do so you can be better than the Jones's down the road. Sure, we shouldn't be dissing wholesome living. But is trying to out-do others healthy? Is there a better way to do it, to achieve a healthy way of life?
There is. What is it? I hear you ask. Well, it involves walking all right; but with a little bit of a twist.
Let me just say before I begin to explain, I have a 'finger in the pie' I'm about to talk about.
Imagine if you could go for a twenty-minute or half-hour walk that will help you feel better both physically and mentally. You'd probably say that you could only experience such a feeling after being to some sort of virtual reality place. Not true. You can actually achieve such a great feeling after bringing alpacas for a walk.
Bring alpacas for a walk? I hear you saying, probably with a little disdain in your voice. Well, it's true. Alpacas have something within their make-up that seems to be able to draw out the the bad thoughts and feelings that lurk in the human mind, the thoughts that are just waiting their chance to make you feel down again. You know the ones. I've seen people coming to our farm, walk some of our boys and breaking into infectious smiles. In some cases they have even opened to inform us of what was bothering them. And then when they have finished their walk, they just smile. Now that is a walk for the body and soul. If you haven't experienced it, you probably would not believe it. And I don't blame you because it just sounds incredible. The truth is - it is.
In this age of racing around, trying to be the best and trying to be the fittest, it might be time to just take stock and decide what is important; does it include pretending to be the best on the outside; or just being you with a wellness that nature can help you achieve.
We may be letting out our alpacas for walks and it may seem like this is just an advert for walking our animals at Hilltop Farm Alpacas, but there is a wellness in this activity that is worth more to you than some of the stuff sold to you by those who supposedly know what's good for you. Avacado might be one of the foods of this decade but alpacas have always been good for the human sould for almost 6,000 years.
Come along and see for yourself.