Mike and Gay Moller with young huacaya alpaca Lallybroch Hanneke Viorst. Photo/John Stone
Mike and Gay Moller with young huacaya alpaca Lallybroch Hanneke Viorst. Photo/John Stone

Gay Moller cried when she and husband Mike bought their first alpacas.

It was a dream of the Northland woman to have a herd of the South American animals, but initially she thought it was not possible in Northland's climate.

So when she found out people were farming the animal in the region, it became a dream again.

"I don't know why, I think I'd seen pictures of them or something - I don't actually think I'd seen a live one - but it just seemed like a lovely retirement."

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On Sunday the Mollers will be opening their Mangapai Farm - Lallybroch Alpacas - to celebrate National Alpaca Day.

The couple own about 30 alpacas now - they've had as many as 70 - but they started out with only four in 2000 - two pregnant females and two companion wethers (neutered males).

"It was just so exciting. When the first lot were delivered I cried, the lady selling them to me cried and both men rolled their eyes."

Gay Moller carrying Lallybroch Hanneke Viorst. Photo/John Stone
Gay Moller carrying Lallybroch Hanneke Viorst. Photo/John Stone

Gay said she and Mike decided to farm alpacas after researching what they could do during retirement.

She can't remember exactly why she chose alpacas other than they appealed to her, and probably because they "were an animal you weren't going to eat at the end".

"We were a bit too warm and fuzzy for that," she said.

"They are a very engaging animal and before we'd actually purchased them I'd spent lots of time by then - having made the decision - visiting lots of farms and spending time with alpacas."

The Mollers' herd just "grew and grew". The first cria - that's a baby alpaca -was born in August 2001 and they've been breeding them ever since.

"They really are a big part of our life. Most people don't handle them all that much, they have them in the paddock and they love them. But we actually bring all the animals in to the yard twice a day to feed them."

There are two different fleece styles of alpacas - the suri and huacaya - and the Mollers have both.

The huacaya's fleece is like sheep's wool without the lanolin (wool wax). It can be used for knitting, felting and spinning.

Meanwhile the suri fleece is quite different. Gay said its commercial use is in Italian men's suiting, but she uses it for doll hair.

Lallybroch Isabel Dunsany aka Bella. Photo/John Stone
Lallybroch Isabel Dunsany aka Bella. Photo/John Stone

All the alpacas are named after characters in The Outlander novels, as is the name of the Mollers' farm.

"We both read the novels and really enjoyed them and thought it would be fun to have it as a theme."

The open day will be at the farm at 655 Ormandy Rd from 10am to 3pm on Sunday.

Paula and Phil Cook will also open their farm at 998 Church Rd, Kaitaia, from 10am to 3pm for National Alpaca Day on Sunday.

Random facts about alpaca, from Gay Moller:

• Alpacas have a life span of around 20 years

• They spit, but Mike says it is the equivalent of shouting or throwing a fist during a fight. It can also be a way of testing for pregnancy because if a female is pregnant they won't have anything to do with males and spit at them.

• Pregnancy times vary - the earliest delivery time the Mollers have seen is 318 days and the latest is 376.

• They are a herd animal - they must have companions.

• They are generally very quiet but they have a set of noises they make. They hum - which is the general sound you will hear; the mothers make a clucking noise which is usually only heard the day the cria is born, and the cria will do it back; the males make an 'orgle' noise when mating; and then there is the alarm call which the animals make when frightened.