Saturday 19 August 2017

Alpacas put the frighteners on foxes to protect farm's free-range turkeys

Two of the alpacas guard a flock of turkeys on the Copas Turkeys farm near Maidenhead, Berkshire
Two of the alpacas guard a flock of turkeys on the Copas Turkeys farm near Maidenhead, Berkshire

A herd of "guard" alpacas are taking turns protecting 24,000 free-range turkeys from foxes this Christmas on a farm in south-east England.

Tom Copas, the owner of Copas Turkeys in Cookham, Berkshire, welcomed the alpacas to his farm after learning of their natural instinct to guard and following the killing of hundreds of his birds by foxes.

The farm now employs 10 alpacas, named Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dasher, Dancer, Donner, Onion, Prancer, Sage and Vixen.

The farm's marketing manager, Dominic Spooner, said: "They tend to stay very close to the birds and they seem to get along very well with them. They just watch them.

"It's something in their nature. They're just instinctively guard animals. But they're also very curious and they'll come trotting over if you go into the field."

Alpacas, as well as llamas and donkeys, are used as guard animals around the world to ward off attacks on livestock by wild and domestic dogs, foxes and coyotes.

It is thought that they react aggressively to foxes because they will try to kill unguarded baby alpacas.

The Copas family has been rearing turkeys for 58 years and its free-range birds stroll about the farm's cherry orchards and grass meadows from about six weeks old.

The birds reach full maturity at 26 weeks and are then slaughtered, hand plucked and game hung before they are sold for about £14 a kilogram.

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