children-with-alpacas_1148x1000_acf_cropped

Our Story

Urcuchillay (ur-cu-chill-ay) was a god worshipped by Inca herders, attributed to the constellation Lyra. It was believed to be a multicoloured llama who watched over and protected the animals.

Inspired by this Peruvian mythology, Urcuchillay Alpacas is a fibre farm based in Glastonbury, Somerset that is run by husband and wife team Andre Shaw and Carla Cortesi.

shetland-sheep-between-fences_1148x1000_acf_cropped

Our Sheep Story

When we first moved to New Zealand and bought our dream five acre lifestyle block we went to an agricultural show and saw coloured sheep. We made the decision there and then we would never have just a plain white sheep and were so excited because we didn’t even know coloured sheep existed (we were city folk). And there began our journey with the different rare and colourful breeds. Our first were two Arapawa sheep which is a coloured breed native to New Zealand. Two soon became four and Marble, Josie, Lulu and Malin introduced us to our first bit of farming where we had a crash course very early on, making lots of rooky mistakes along the way and naively thinking it was all just a bit of fun! Little did we know the empire it would become!

alpacas-at-show_1148x1000_acf_cropped

Our Alpaca Story

Our alpaca story began in January 2010 when we made that fateful phone call to Nic Cooper and Linda Blake of NZ Southern Alpacas saying “we are interested in a couple of alpacas to save us time mowing the lawn”. “Okay” said Nic, “pop round this afternoon and I will bring some babies in so your children can see them”. Well that was it!

We visited their farm and we all chose our first two alpacas. Truffles was an older girl who had been successful on the Australian show circuit in her heyday and was pregnant to Aquaviva Titus (multiple Supreme Champion and son of the infamous Brutus) and a friendly black with an ear tag B720 and no name, who was mated to a stunning champion grey male who had already left the country to join a large herd in the United Kingdom. B720 soon became Roulette (because we took a gamble on her) and a few weeks later as we watched Linda expertly assist Truffles delivering a beautiful fawn female we called Urcuchillay Liberty Magic, we were hooked!

Cute and cuddly they are, but very early on we recognised that we wanted to breed top quality animals that produced excellent fibre and improve the breed in the process.

alpacas-at-show_1148x1000_acf_cropped

Tragedy Strikes

On the 4th of September 2010 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit and our town was the epicentre. Sustaining considerable damage but still in good spirits, we soldiered on, but aftershocks kept coming thick and fast until on 22nd February 2011 tragedy struck. We had all become a little complacent, but this time it wasn’t just property that got damaged. 185 people lost their lives and many survivors sustained life changing injuries. The mood changed. Our mood changed. But still we stuck with it, trying to see through our decision to have left secure jobs and a safe life in Jersey, Channel Islands to immigrate to New Zealand for the dream life we had envisaged when we moved there excitedly and so full of hope in 2009.

Finally after 10,000 aftershocks, we admitted defeat and decided to return to the UK, except we had a problem. We now had eight alpacas! We made the completely ridiculous decision to bring the alpacas with us, so we put them on a flight and headed back to the UK, carrying their ribbons on as hand luggage!

The Shows

Roulette was worth the gamble and gave birth to a stunning grey male we called Urcuchillay Smokin’ Ace to follow the gambling theme. He has sired many offspring, all of them coloureds or near-perfect greys, many of whom have done very well on the show circuit and some who are now studs themselves. He is currently on a “working holiday” in Northern Ireland at the amazing Ballymac Alpacas spreading his unique genetics around the UK.

We caught up with Nic and Linda at a show here in the UK when we first arrived and whilst flicking through their auction catalogue Hemiccoyo Matrix 2 caught our eye. Needless to say he was also put on a plane that very year and has now formed an integral part of our breeding programme, doing well on the show ring himself and producing many champion progeny, even taking the Sires Progeny Championship at the Bath & West Show in 2017.

Due to COVID we have not shown since 2019, however in the years we were showing we won many rosettes and sashes, with the crème de la crème being us winning the 2020 British Alpaca National Fleece Show, Champion of Champions. We are passionate about our animals and believe the genetics we started our herd with have been the secret to our success.

Conclusion

But what happened to Truffles and B720? Well they came with us of course! Was it the best business decision to fly those two here considering the costs and knowing Truffles was old and Roulette was never going to win any shows herself? Of course not! But they are part of our story and those two girls represent everything we stand for … start small, work with a budget, be patient, aim high, be loyal, look after those who have served you well and sometimes be a little bit crazy even if nothing makes sense!

Read on to find out how and why we now have Valais Blacknose sheep and Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys and a Skills Centre for education.

What else are you looking for?

Alpacas Skills Centre Shop