The University news reports on the potential for alpaca farming in Wales. A herd of alpaca at Aberystwyth University’s upland research centre welcomed two new arrivals during the lockdown.
One male and one female baby alpaca, known as cria, were born at the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Platform (close to Welsh Hideaways). They are settling down to life in the Cambrian Mountains.
They are the first cria to be born on the University’s land, and registered under the centre’s new stud prefix ‘Peiran’.
Peiran Champagne and Peiran Cosmopolitan join a small herd of alpacas who arrived at Pwllpeiran in October 2019 as part of a research project.
Scientists want to see whether the South American alpaca is suited to life in the Welsh hills. This could provide new opportunities for uplands farming.
These long-necked animals, similar to the llama, are renowned for the quality of their fibre (wool). They are happy to feed on low quality grasses which are often snubbed by sheep.
The research project is being led by Dr Mariecia Fraser at the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Centre. This is part of the University’s Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).
They say these are changing times for Welsh upland farming. The next round of support payments is expected to push for a shift away from primary agricultural production towards nature conservation and carbon reduction. They want to test whether the alpaca could offer hill farmers a viable alternative to sheep.
As well as producing high quality fibre, camelids like alpacas have evolved and are happy to tuck into invasive grasses such as Molinia. These forages grow in abundance on the Welsh uplands but tend to be shunned by native sheep. They will be looking at how well they could fit in to traditional patterns of farming here.
The establishment of the initial research herd is being funded by the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust, which was set up by the Aberystwyth alumna in 1988.