Coniston alpacas are keeping lambs safe from foxes

The Westmorland Gazette: Shayla Garrido with one of the alpacas who look after the sheep at Bank Ground Farm Shayla Garrido with one of the alpacas who look after the sheep at Bank Ground Farm

A CONISTON farmer’s wife who was sick of losing lambs to foxes has hired an unusual pair of security guards.

Shayla Garrido, whose husband runs Bank Ground Farm, has brought in a pair of ‘guard alpacas’ to keep watch over the sheep – and says model employees, Bubble and Squeak, have not lost a single lamb to predators this year.

“I think both of the alpacas bonded with the sheep,” explained Mrs Garrido.

“They’re very curious animals but not scared of the foxes or dogs.

“If there’s any danger they just put themselves in the middle of the threat and the sheep.

“We’ve seen it in action with our dogs - it’s quite amazing.”

Alpacas originally hail from South America but their natural ‘guarding’ abilities were spotted by Australian sheep farmers, who use them to keep dingoes away.

When faced with a threat – such as a fox or a dog – they have been known to spit and kick out.

However, simply chasing away predators is more usual. Bubble and Squeak – both males, aged four and five years old respectively – were born on a farm in Crosthwaite but moved to Coniston earlier this year, where several lambs were killed by foxes last year.

They spent a month bonding with the pregnant Jacob sheep - and Mrs Garrido now wonders if ‘they think they are sheep!’

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“We got them in February and then we lambed in April, so they had a while to get used to the sheep,” continued Mrs Garrido.

“I don’t know if an instinct kicks in and they think the lambs are theirs, but they’ve protected them so well.”

Now the lambs are older the alpacas will form a petting zoo for visitors to the farm, which also has a tea room, restaurant and accommodation.

When they are sheared their wool will also be on sale at the waters-edge farm.

“They are certainly earning their keep!” added Mrs Garrido.

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