Winning hearts of all ages

Roland Schwertner from Erwin Alpacas with Bella Rose.
Roland Schwertner from Erwin Alpacas with Bella Rose. Luke Mortimer

IT WAS all about alpacas at Alstonville on Saturday, as Erwin Alpacas hosted an Open Farm Day for National Alpaca Week.

The happy-go-lucky owner of the 3.3 hectare farm, Roland Schwertner, 50, was having a whole lot of fun showing a steady stream of visitors his prized 11-strong herd.

And the friendly alpacas loved the attention, with copious amounts of food gobbled down as they were fed repeatedly by a multitude of smiling faces.

It was no surprise Mr Schwertner had little trouble outlaying his affection for the quirky characters.

"A lot of people tend to think they're aggressive, but they're really not," he said as one of his herd gently collected feed from his hand.

"What do I like about them? Everything.

"The way they tilt their head and look at you with their big eyes, the way they run up when I whistle - they're just great characters and a lot of fun to watch.

"There are a lot of words which could describe them, but I'd say friendly tops the list."

Mr Schwertner said he thought Alpaca Week, from March 29 to April 6, was a great opportunity to show off the true nature of the animal and to raise awareness about their growing Australian presence.

He was at pains to get across the point that alpacas do not tend to spit at humans as stereotyped, but only each other when they are pregnant or "arguing" over food.

Alpacas not only provide fleece, and meat for the adventurous, but are starting to make a name for themselves as herd protectors for other farm animals, such as sheep.

The interesting animals also make great pets as they are often calm, approachable and great fun to watch due to their giggle-inducing antics.

"If people do have enough room on their properties and are maybe interested, come and have a look and meet the alpacas first," he said, mentioning his next open day from 10-2pm this Saturday at 444 Gap Rd, Alstonville.

"It's a great day out for the family and a good way to learn a bit about how to take care of them too."

As well as providing great companionship, Mr Schwertner's alpacas are taken to shows, school fetes and nursing homes, where they are guaranteed to conjure a grin or two.

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