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Ineke van Neuren demonstrates how easy it is to lead an alpaca. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

People with a penchant for alpacas are invited to a farm near Waimate tomorrow (Sunday 7th).

The first Sunday in May each year is designated National Alpaca Day, when breeders around the country open their properties to the public.

Otaio Bridge Alpacas is taking part in the national event. From 10am to 4pm, owners Ineke and Jacob van Neuren will have alpaca mothers and babies, called crias, in their shed. Some can be taken for a walk.

Mrs van Neuren makes a variety of garments from alpaca fibre, which is renowned for its softness and warmth. She will help visitors to try felting or spinning.

The two alpaca species have fleeces with distinct appearances. The huacaya, which is a lot more common in New Zealand, has a crimped fleece that looks similar to a sheep’s. The suri has a fleece that hangs in dreadlocks, with a silky, slippery feel.

Alpacas come in 22 different natural colours, ranging from white through browns to black.

Alpacas are popular with lifestyle block owners. They do not need much room, are easy-care, and help graze paddocks. They can be trained to wear a halter and be handled readily. Their teddy-bear good looks and natural curiosity appeal to many families.

Mrs and Mrs van Neuren are happy to share their 13 years’ experience of farming alpacas. Otaio Bridge Alpacas can be found on State Highway 1 between Waimate and St Andrews.