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Breeding Alpacas in Hungary

Cecilia Kerkhof-Demjén

Cecilia Kerkhof-Demjén
Breeding alpacas in Hungary is a real challenge.
Our story began in 2008 when we bought a piece of land just behind the land of my parents in Jobaháza, Hungary. All together we had one hectare of land and we were thinking what we should do with it. Our plan was that my parents and especially my father should work on this land so it had to be something he can handle alone and if possible not day and night but a few hours relaxed working a day. Soon we decided to do something with animals. But what kind of animal? For a long time we were making plans to breed ponies. Horses are a booming business in Hungary and we have never done it, we could not even ride a horse. But in the right time we were advised by friends in Holland that we should breed alpacas. ALPACAS???? What are alpacas?
So we started to learn more about alpacas. We started to build a shelter and fencing and when everything was ready there was the economic crises and we had no money for the alpacas anymore.
But we couldn?t wait until the end of the crisis and in the summer of 2010 we bought our first alpaca females with a bank loan.
There was no information in Hungary about alpacas, there were no vets who knew anything about alpacas and there are no facilities if an alpaca gets pregnant or sick. Even now it is a problem to screen a pregnant alpaca, there is no vet with an echo. We can only detemrine progesterone level in blood to be sure the female is pregnant. We have no plasma bank and until few weeks ago we had to buy alpaca nutrition from Austria.

Soon we had the first problems. Bluetongue. There were no studmales in Hungary and we couldn?t take our females to Austria or Germany for mating. We had to buy studmales.
So we started an alpaca farm in Hungary not knowing that we were the very first one. Soon we were in the regional and later national newspapers, national television and people began calling, writing and visiting. Most of them were just curious, others very sceptical, but our door is always open and we kept trying to give the best possible information. I visited conferences, alpaca shows, met other breeders. I educated myself from books and the internet and even did the BAS alpaca assesment course with my husband. I give course every year in October in Hungary and there are every year about 20 people who would like to know more about alpacas. We are very pleased there is so much interest in alpacas in Hungary. People are trying to be open minded but Hungarians are very careful and wait for the first success of somebody before they dare to jump in.
We had to decide if we stayed isolated in the region and use our international contacts and knowledge for our own benefit or are we going to promote the alpaca business, educate people and make the alpaca business bigger in Hungary. Hungary is a strong agricultural land and the circumstances are excellent for breeding alpacas. The only problem is the knowledge and the financial state of the people. People who have money will not jump too fast into alpaca business.
But there are lots of changes. Now there are more breeders and more alpacas. Quality is not an issue yet which I regret. People want to buy alpacas and they don?t look at the quality but the price. I advise them to buy less good quality alpacas instead of more bad quality. I am trying to educate people to watch out when they buy an alpaca to avoid the poor quality alpacas that will be dumped in Hungary. As the number of the alpacas is growing Hungary there is more interest for shearers to do the annual shearing or firms to sell alpaca nutritions in Hungary.
We have very good contacts with the veterinary and agricultural university in Budapest and in Gödöllö. Students come to our farm to have their internship and to do their Phd work on our farm.
In 2014 and 2015 we participated in the show in Austria as the only representative from Hungary and we even won a 2nd and a 3rd place. It was a new experience for us and we made new friends.
It is a big responsibility to be the first alpaca breeder in Hungary. Hungarians don?t speak languages and mostly don?t make contact easily with breeders abroad. So we are still the first if they need advice.
In 2012 my husband passed away. Beacause we have started something we strongly believed in I have decided to keep our alpacas and go on with breeding. I visited the alpaca conference in Hamilton, New Zealand and met lots of breeders. I have bought alpacas from Sarah and Peter Busby from Gilt Edge Alpacas and I still hope I can set the standard in the region. We had lots of failure last year and bluetongue complicates our progress again but it only makes us stronger.
I belive that processing alpaca fibre and producing alpaca products has to be the motor of the alpaca industry. We can not sell alpacas only for breeding and not do anything with the wool. You have to have a clear goal as to why you are keeping and breeding alpacas. That is why we started to sell alpaca products and as soon as we have enough fibre of our own we want to produce our own products. We have contact with lots of home spinners and we visit wool festivals and markets on a regular basis.
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