A PIONEERING alpaca breeder has sold her entire Eden herd after 30 years.
Pat Bentley, who is 78, saw her Syke House alpacas pass through the ring at the Borderway Mart during a special sale which attracted interest throughout the region.
Mrs Bentley, one of the founders of the alpaca industry in the UK, was the first to secure licences in Britain to bring the animals from their native Chile.
At the Carlisle sale she sold 19 breeding females, three females with four crias at foot including a set of twins, three stud males, seven entire males and 11 gelded males.
Mrs Bentley was a founder member and is a former chairman of the British Alpaca Society. At its peak, she had a herd of over 200 alpacas at her Newby farm near Penrith.
“Looking after them had become a bit too much for me, and sadly none of my family were in a position to take them on,” she said.
“Overall I was delighted with how the sale went, and I am pleased that on the whole they have gone to local homes.
“I am looking forward to keeping in contact with the new owners. These good animals are now in good hands, and I am hopeful that as time goes on they can build on my success, as the future is looking good for the alpaca industry.
“Alpacas graze nicely on parts of the farm that aren’t suited to other animals; they are remarkably efficient. They are a very, very ancient breed and they are therefore resistant to diseases and incredibly strong. They would do well on the fells.”
Although alpacas are becoming a common sight in showing classes at agricultural events, Mrs Bentley pioneered keeping the animals for their fleeces.
Alpaca is the strongest natural fibre after silk and keepers are now reaching sufficient numbers in the UK to make it a viable industry if it gets the correct promotion.
The Syke House alpacas had been specifically bred with stud males with dense fleeces to produce large animals with more fibre.
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Mrs Bentley added: “Although originally healthy animals came into the UK, they didn’t have the best quality fleeces. We have learned a lot and have developed much improved fleeces. The industry needs a co-operative to produce the end product and market it.”