Text Box: Heathylee Guanaco

The guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is a wild South American camelid, the wild ancestor of today’s domesticated llama. Classed as an endangered species, it can survive extremes of temperatures and can live in the most hostile of environments. 

We farm a small group of 50 animals in the more windswept moorlands of the Peak District.  The high altitude and harsh weather appears to suit the guanaco and our small herd have settled in well.  Our first guanaco came over 10 years ago and we have built up a sizeable breeding herd. They are breeding well, which is always a good sign that they are content and happy.  We currently have a few select animals for sale.  Females from £1000 -  £1200.  Males available too.

Guanaco Fibre

Guanaco fibre is one of the finest natural fibres in the world. It is finer than cashmere and 3 times warmer than wool. Our lambs can often be found cuddling up to a reclining guanaco rather than their mother.  Guanaco have a double coat similar to cashmere, the under coat is a fine fibre and ranges in colour from honey brown to dark cinnamon. The outer coat consists of coarse fibres called guard hairs, these are a darker brown and help to keep debris and moisture out. Guanaco fibre must go through the dehairing process which removes these coarser guard hairs and leaves the downy undercoat which is the valued part of the fleece. The guanaco fibre is typically between 14 and 18 microns in diameter.  We have fibre available for hand spinning in 50g quantities.

As they are endangered, guanaco are on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES. All guanaco fibre sold by Heathylee House Farm is fully traceable back to our farmed animals. 

We now have fibre for sale from our animals, extra fine 2-ply yarn and handwoven pashminas. See our webpage on the pashminas

Guanaco and conservation

Heathylee House Farm has joined the Higher Lever Stewardship scheme.  As part of this scheme we are conducting a trial. in conjunction with English Nature, using guanaco as conservational grazers. 

Guanaco do not like 4 legged predators in their territory, such as fox or badger and will chase them away.  They also graze in a mosaic like pattern and will graze areas right down to the ground whilst leaving other grasses totally untouched.  With their liking for gorse, nettles and thistles we feel they are ideally suited to grazing an area of land within a Site of Special Scientific Interest.  The aim is that they will protect the nesting curlew and lapwings from the predators whilst grazing the land to provide the ideal habitat for the nesters and their young chicks. 

Keeping Guanaco

Guanaco will not normally test standard stock fencing, although for breeding or territorial purposes they find it easy to leap stock fencing, and fencing similar in height to that used for deer may be required if running separate breeding groups.

The period of gestation for a guanaco is around 11.5 months.  They tend to give birth only in the day as they do not lick their young, the chulengo, but allow the sun to dry them.  They can hold on to their chulengo for a number of days depending on weather  conditions and we have found they have an uncanny knack of having young at the same time as perfect haymaking weather. 

Our guanaco love to nibble on nettles, gorse and rushes as well as grass.  During the winter months we feed them on hay and we give them a little dairy corn as a treat.  They shouldn’t require concentrates, but as a management tool, dairy corn is perfect.  One rattle of the bucket and our guanaco will follow wherever you want them to go.  Although hardy, we prefer to house them in the winter as the relentless rain we get in the Staffordshire Moorlands doesn’t suit them too well.  We also like to put a bit of copper piping and a few zinc bolts in the water to help with their mineral requirements.  Guanaco need the sunshine and in the winter they don’t get enough—we keep an eye on them and have noticed that they look a little pink around the eyes when they need a shot of vitamin A, D and E.  The youngsters in particular may need a shot of the vitamins as a supplement.

Guanaco bullYoung female guanacoGuanaco and chulengoChulengoGuanaco headRoy feeding guanacoJust born chulengo
Text Box: Check out our limited edition 100% guanaco fibre pashmina shawls click here