It was hard to keep my eyes on the road as I drove into Red Hill. It’s such a pretty, rolling green hills kind of a place.
Jean at Pitchingga Ridge had warned me that Google maps sends you the wrong way to their farm. I made sure to ignore my GPS and enter from Mornington-Flinders road. The farm is on the unsealed, but well maintained Stony Creek Road. My little rental Corolla handled it easily.
David met me first, with Abbie the kelpie. He brought me over to meet the alpacas, including a cria (baby alpaca) that was only two hours old! Pitchingga Ridge keep huacaya and suri alpacas. They graze together in a beautiful setting.
The personal side
Jean had told me she had another visitor coming. Soon after I arrived, a family drove up, cradling a limp cria. Jean inspected it with an experienced hand. She suspected hypothermia and called a vet. They bundled the baby in a blanket with hot water bottles and hand fed it a sugar solution. Jean told me she couldn’t do much, but I could see the family were grateful for her advice.
In the meantime, David took me to their farm shop. The Daddos’ sense of style has come through in their choice of products. The shop offers yarn and exquisite hand-knitted garments, both made locally. There are also smart reversible coats and sleek 100% suri wraps from Peru. David leant me an alpaca rug while we talked and it was so warm I didn’t want to give it back 😉
The business end
I learnt that Pitchingga Ridge is part of Q-alpaca. This voluntary program reduces the risk of disease entering or spreading from a property. With this in place, the alpacas at Pitchingga Ridge don’t need as much medication. There is a designated vet for the program that audits their property each year.
Jean and David are members of the Australian Alpaca Association. Hearing their stories helps me understand how important associations are. They work to improve and promote their industries. They also support the individuals working within them.
Jean showed me reports on each of their fleece alpacas. These reports reveal the average micron (diameter of the fibre) and deviation from that average. These numbers measure the quality of each fleece. It was impressive to see the steps they take to produce a high quality product. I was surprised to find the reports interesting. I usually shy away from ‘dry’ numbers!
I left much later than I intended, warmed by many cups of tea and lots of stories. The family with the sick cria had left before me. I heard that the baby was showing good signs of getting better. Jean, David and Abbie the dog waved me goodbye as I left.