North West Wales

Alpaca 'shepherds' drafted in to protect Snowdon flock

Alpaca. Pic: Owen Owen
Image caption The farm has lost fewer lambs since the alpacas arrived

Two South American-style alpacas have been drafted in to help protect a flock of Welsh mountain sheep in Snowdonia.

Arwyn Owen, who manages Hafod Y Llan farm at Nant Gwynant, said the number of lamb deaths there had fallen since Emilio and Domenico were recruited.

"It's too soon to say definitely whether it's just down to the alpacas, but there have been fewer losses this year since they arrived," said Mr Owen.

The long-necked animals were bred at a farm in Bodfari, Denbighshire.

A member of the camel family, smaller than llamas and usually bred for their wool, alpacas are used to high mountains and a diet of grass.

Mr Owen first came across them being used to guard sheep in Australia while on a farming scholarship placement.

"There were a lot of alpacas and llamas used on farms," he said.

"The farmers, even the most sceptical among them, felt they were beneficial for keeping predators away."

Flocking together

The farm is situated at the foot of Snowdon and is owned by the National Trust.

Mr Owen said it usually loses around 20 to 25 sheep to foxes each year, but has lost as many as 35.

He said the farm's new arrivals quickly made friends with the existing flock.

Image caption Emilio and Domenico have proved popular with their new friends

"As soon as the alpacas arrived they went straight over to the newborn lambs and seemed to be checking them," he said.

"The lambs really seem important to them.

"When we first turned them into the fields the sheep seemed to be following them around. It was quite strange to see.

Emilio and Domenico, four and five years old, arrived with officially registered names.

"My guess is we will find nicknames for them quite quickly," said Mr Owen.

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