VIDEO: These alpacas guard thousands of turkeys before Christmas

FarmIreland Team

Alpacas are among the most efficient, cost-effective ways of protecting poultry and sheep flocks from lurking predators on farms nationwide.

The furry, domesticated species, which hail from South America where they live on the high plains of the Andean Mountains, are now owned by about 150 people across the country, including some sheep farmers.

The social animals warn flocks about intruders by making a sharp, noisy, high-pitched shriek.

They also attack smaller predators with their front feet, and can spit and kick. Foxes are a particular pet hate of the alpaca.

Joe Phelan, vice chairman of the Alpaca Association of Ireland, based in Greystones, Co Wicklow, told the Farming Independent recently that farmers are running up to three alpacas with their sheep.

"Alpacas hate foxes and foxes hate alpacas. If a farmer has a fox problem, they will essentially eliminate that problem. In some cases they will fend off a single dog but not multiple dogs," he said.

They also protect broods of hens or rafters of turkeys and other poultry.

"Ideally farmers should have two or three alpacas, they are a herd animal so they get stressed when they're on their own," said Joe.

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Alpacas live up to 25 years and cost between €400-€500. Large males can grow to 100kg with long legs and long necks.

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