Alpaca breeder interview – Robyn Anderson

On Saturday 1st December, we had a launch day for the book. We did a few breeder interviews and the first one up was Robyn Anderson of Awatere Alpacas in New Zealand. Thank you Robyn.

Why and how did you get in to alpaca breeding?

Really it was more like “what took me so long – how can you resist those beautiful alpaca. The gentle humming noise, those huge beautiful eyes and lashes, just their gentle ‘being’ . And then they have babies – I was sold. We did enter the industry as a business venture though.

We all get sold on the babies 🙂:) Tell us a bit about the business where you live.

There are quite a few alpaca breeders in our greater area – Canterbury in New Zealand. So it is a very supportive area and they are all lovely people. We can so relate to some of the initial difficulties you have experienced Alan – but we are very happy to report, things turned around. People here are doing amazing things with their fibre. Alpaca sales have slowed a little with the economic times but what is really encouraging is to see new breeders entering our industry, and some of them are younger. They are bringing different talents and focus, and they often have different reasons for becoming breeders.

Sometimes new blood can bring fresh ideas 🙂:) What are your main objectives as a breeder?

They haven’t changed too much recently. We are keen to continually improve our herd fleece statistics, fibre yield, and fineness and to maintain consistent standards in fibre production. 
We want to to improve our breeding stock
We already have a pretty robust herd of 60+breeding females and we want to maintain that. 
To grow our alpaca business 
To produce sought after, exquisite alpaca product that showcases the uniqueness of alpaca fibre.

That all sounds great, it makes our tiny group of alpacas seem very small! Does the area you live in provide any specific difficulties or challenges?

I have to say we are pretty lucky where we are – if anything we tend to overfeed the herd as we have such great pasture. Alpaca have been imported into NZ in the past and their micron increases by a few points once they get on to our good grass. We can say that won’t happen when we export. Winter time can occasionally be a challenge here with snow / sleet etc but usually easily managed.

We are always jealous of the places that can grow good pasture. We have to buy all our feed in. A couple of times a year we manage to grow a little bit of grass when we move the animals around 🙂:) What do you do with your fleece?

We have just had a big shearing day here today so we are soon to send another large batch to the mill for processing. Currently we have most of it commercially processed into knitting yarn which is no trouble to sell. Hand knitters and weavers love it, and the rest is sold for hand spinning or felting. Even the shorts, belly, necks, and legs etc are sold and processed. I have tinkered with hand dyeing which is great fun. We have a few ideas about what else we would like to do with it but we need to do a bit more homework yet.

We have trouble here with the fleece. As there is so few animals, there is no market for the fleece. Hopefully one day we will find people to do something amazing with it 🙂:) And finally what are your plans for the next year?

Perhaps you could look at the hand craft market – would there be interest in Spain?? Our plans – I hope the same as you all are doing!! – The 2013 World Alpaca Conference and Expo is being held in New Zealand in September next year. There is a very talented team working on it so we are really looking forward to it, and to welcoming more international alpaca friends. 
Gosh there are heaps of other things – for example I’d like to see us get a long way down the road of achieving national fibre classing /sorting standards. 
So much work to do!!

Aww, sounds like you will be busy. Thank you so much for being our first brave interviewee Robyn. Do you have a web site where people can find you?

It was fun Alan – I was only a little bit nervous!! Thanks very much for asking me. Our website www.awatere.co.nz

 Happy alpaca-ing in Spain – we hope to come back. I loved your book – I laughed out loud in several parts, and was a bit sad in other parts. A great account of your lovely life there, and a great read. Thanks Robyn
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