If I were to introduce myself to you as an agriculture student, you would assume at point blank ‘Oh, you work with sheep and cattle and stuff.’ Well generally, yeah, I do. So when it came to deciding where to do farm placements for the Professional Experience component of my degree, I certainly didn’t expect to be here at Alpaca Magic. I was fine with volunteering on your typical sheep farm, something I am particularly familiar with – until Christine decided it would be fun to do something different.
So here we are; four Animal and Veterinary Bioscience students from the University of Sydney, three days into our placement, and being reminded every day that Alpaca Magic is NOTHING like a sheep farm.
Arriving here the first day, I expected the llamas and alpacas to behave very much like sheep; frightened herd animals, each one undistinguishable from the next – and really not that intelligent. Well, after meeting these gorgeous creatures I now have a very different opinion; each one has its own unique personality – whether it be like inquisitive Louis, stroppy Whisper, the ever hungry Buttercup or Queen Bee Sally – there is never a dull moment.
Oh, and if I could clear up one thing – the spit. Yes, alpacas and llamas spit. In fact, I personally had a lovely reminder from Sally who REALLY was in charge, just after moving her out of my way. But for the most part, llamas and alpacas, particularly the llamas, are affectionate creatures who love hugs and scratches on the bum – and most certainly wouldn’t say no to a nice piece of carrot! Once you get into your head that, really, the spit is just grass and WON’T kill you; take your time to learn their body language, in kind learn how to respond and you will be rewarded with love and affection. Alpacas and llamas are unlike any other animal I’ve met – you can’t treat them like you would a sheep, or speak to them the way you would a cow, and to gain their trust just remember they are NOT a dog.
From an Ag student’s perspective, the alpacas and llamas are fairly low maintenance; despite being more expensive to shear etc., farming these animals reaps its own personal reward. Watching Glynda interact with her llamas and alpacas, you can tell how much she cares for and loves her babies, and how much they love her in return. Well, in Sally’s case it’s probably more a case of grudging obedience, but she knows who the true leader of the herd is.
With over a week still to go working on Alpaca Magic, we have a lot left to look forward to – and yes, we will all be sad to say goodbye to these amazing, intelligent and enigmatic animals. They will surprise you and keep you guessing, and was the best choice of placement we could’ve picked (thanks Christine).
Madeleine Close (2nd year AVBS)