Friday 10 April 2015

An Alpaca Day Out

I can't believe it's taken me nearly a week to blog about my time with these beautiful animals but it's been a particularly crazy busy week. Anyway, I am finally getting around to it now but I just hope it doesn't feel like old news having hopefully already seen some of my snaps on Instagram!

Over the past few months I have seen more and more Alpaca's gracing the fields of Essex and I have been so intrigued about these cute creatures and why people, particularly farm owners, choose to keep them. I've also had a growing desire to get up close to some and feel their amazing coat.

However, being Vegan and trying to lead a cruelty free lifestyle, I obviously do not endorse visiting zoo's or any establishment that seeks to profit from animals as entertainment. I do on the other hand support visits to local animal sanctuaries and rescue centres where you have an opportunity to be able to help a great cause.

Whilst looking at Orchard Farm Alpaca's website I couldn't initially quite work out and pin point which category they fell into. In fact I was having a minor moral dilemma about whether or not I should visit their open day as I never want to come across as a hypocrite. But at the same time I felt it was important either way to go and find out more about the farm and their Alpaca's.

I am also aware that Alpaca's coats are sheared and used as a type of high quality wool and as someone who doesn't like to wear any animal products I was curious to find out more about this process and how it impacts on the animals.

So Easter weekend we decided to set off up the road to Colchester and emerse ourselves into the world of Alpaca's at Orchard Farm.

I was initially impressed to see that the farm wasn't charging people entry to see the Alpaca's and this was already a good sign. Instead we were encouraged to purchase some animal feed to give to the Alpaca's which allowed us to also get up closer to them. Orchard Farm also had a small little cafe which sold a variety of cakes, snacks and drinks of which proceeds were going towards supporting the farm's care of the Alpaca's.

I have to say that we had so much fun viewing these adorable animals! They really are so cute and have such funny little faces and expressions. They seem so calm and peaceful but they also have a cheeky side to them which I love! Their coat is unbelievably soft and thick too and unlike no other I have ever felt before. We really enjoyed being able to feed them and see them up so close. 

I was also pleased to learn that the farm only opens its doors to the public on rare occasions so there isn't a constant onslaught of people badgering them. It's also in a pretty rural and out of the way location so unless you happened to be driving by or already know about this place then you wouldn't really know it existed. 

Once we had spent some time with the Alpaca's we decided to purchase some refreshments and I took this opportunity to ask the ladies more about the farm and their care of the Alpaca's. 

They informed me that most people like to keep Alpaca's on their land as they are very good at keeping the grass short. Also if chickens are kept alongside Alpaca's they are at a much lesser risk of being killed by foxes which is great to hear. 

I noticed that behind the cafe they were selling some products made from the Alpaca's wool which prompted me to ask about the shearing of their coats. I was informed that the Alpaca's coat reaches such a long length that it is a necessity for their health and wellbeing that they are sheared before the Summer months begin. I was happy to hear that this only takes place once a year and although its a desirable byproduct of owning Alpaca's, it isn't the sole purpose for keeping them. 

The farm also sells Alpaca manure which is a premium fertiliser for vegetable and flower gardens. 

It was clear to see that these animals were very well looked after, cared for and loved by their owners.  I was relieved to not be somewhere that was going to make me regret my visit and we could sit back and enjoy a nice cup of tea and cake whilst watching these beauties roam around. 

If anything this visit has made me love these animals even more so and I really hope that one day I can be fortunate enough to own some land and be able to keep my own Alpaca's.

Orchard Farm are holding an Alpaca experience day on 19th April 2015 if you are interested in spending some time with them yourself then they still have a few spaces remaining!

Sarah x 


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