Llama farmer was sick of being fleeced

Supermarkets have squeezed more than profit out of UK farming over the past decade. So in a week that’s seen Tesco twist the knife with its £1.99 chickens, it’s lovely to have a farming success story land in the Smarta inbox.Staffordshire farmers Roy Critchlow and Karen Ballington traditionally reared sheep at Heathylee Farm, but have found a lucrative new line in breeding wild guanacos, a relative of the llama.The fibre from the prized guanacos is three times warmer than wool and finer than cashmere and is used by fashion designers such as Armani.Unorthodox perhaps, but money talks: “Our last wool cheque was just £19.99 for 200 top quality fleeces whereas fibre from the guanaco fetches from £250 to £1,000 a kilo,” tells Roy.Guanaco.jpgThe guanacos aren’t the only non-traditional livestock at Heathylee Farm. They mix happily with middle white pigs, a stock of rare breed and commercial sheep, miniature donkeys, suckler cows and White Park cattle.A legion of llamas won’t solve the farming industry’s woes of course, but it’s great to see farmers innovating and proactively seeking new markets - especially ones where the likes of Tesco are out of the equation.Roast llama, anyone?

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