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KATIE FRANKS


after animals that would reward staying in one place! “After we were married in 1968,


Nicko’s work for the Navy meant we moved 27 times in our life before moving to Devon,” she said. “I’ve always loved animals, learning about and caring for them, so I thought that I would keep goats. I had helped look after them while living in Kent, but the more I heard about Alpacas the more intrigued I became. I was spurred on by friends telling me I was mad to even consider it because it would tie me down, so I wanted to prove them wrong!” “I contacted an acquaintance near here who owned a herd and went to meet her. I bought a pregnant female Huacaya and was loaned a Suri female so it started from there. Often people start with three castrated males, but having a pregnant animal seemed so much more interesting to me – it makes it more challenging! Their arrival was such an exciting beginning to my new adventure.” Starting out in a small paddock field just in front of their house, Katie began to learn about the basics of Alpaca husbandry. “There is a lot to learn,” she


tells me. “There are injections you have to administer, mites you have to check for,. You have to cut their toenails and check their teeth. When the ladies get pregnant it can become a real challenge – one of mine changes from a sweet docile creature to being very difficult to deal with! All my herd are trained to walk on a halter; I start training the crias when they’re about six months old, which takes a bit of work but is fun and rewarding and is vital for so many situations.” The training is starting to pay off in many ways, not least as Katie was able to exhibit two of her black-wool boys at the Devon Show last year. They came second and third in their classes, and Katie said she intends to continue showing as it was great fun.


As we walk among the alpacas at


feeding time, Katie is checking out each animal in turn, making sure they get enough to eat, looking to see they are walking correctly, paying special attention to the two babies in the group. She chats away about their personalities, how they were named (each new animal is named using the first letter of one of her and Nicko’s nine grandchildren) and the challenges each one faced during their young lives. It’s clear looking after the animals is not straightforward and requires dedication – but where do you learn it? “There is a marvelous support


network amongst owners and associations who can put you in touch


with experts and training courses too,” Katie tells me. “It’s wonderful always to be learning something new. “I’m also very lucky to have help


from a wonderful lady called Anna, who has helped me so much over the last few years.” Katie said the responsibility of


having Alpacas was one she took very seriously. “Sometimes it is a worry,” she says, “When the rain is hammering down or the wind is howling or they have a problem you worry that they will be ok. You become very involved with them. You fall in love with them – who wouldn’t want to look after these gorgeous creatures?”•


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