A HIGHLAND farmer has bought a pair of alpacas to guard his flock of prized turkeys from countryside predators.
Every year Craig Michie rears an 800-strong free-range flock of turkeys for discerning Christmas diners on his farm near Oldmeldrum in Aberdeenshire.
But as they roam freely the hapless birds often fall prey to badgers and foxes, which savage the flock and threaten to bankrupt his business.
Now he has enlisted the help of two unlikely guardians for the turkeys – a pair of white alpacas who have merged with the flock mentality, chasing off any peckish predators who fancy their chances.
Mr Michie, 33, explained that any predators who reach the flock can ruin his business – with each luxury turkey worth up to £95.
The burly alpacas take action when a threat comes close – stamping their feet and lowering their heads in confrontation.
But they have also taken a more gung-ho approach in their duties as protectors of the prized turkeys.
“One day I came out and the turkeys were going mad”, Mr Michie said, “I looked up at the far end of the field and saw the two alpacas chasing a fox out of the field.”
As well as warding off unwelcome guests who make it through the range fences, the alpacas also provide mobile security, allowing the birds to roam more freely.
“The alpacas bring added security in warding off predators, allowing the turkeys to range further for a more varied diet,” the farmer explained.
“This allows them to reach the game cover, brassicas and grasses on the boundaries of the farm. This diet helps to enhance the rich gamey nuances of the bronzes.”
He revealed that the idea for importing the South American alpacas came from the traditional farming techniques used by the family of his Colombian wife, Maria, 30.
The pair, both male, have even been named Valderamma and Higuita – after legendary Columbian footballers Carlos Valderamma and Rene Higuita.
The turkeys initially gave their new minders a frosty reception, but they have eventually warmed to the new additions.
Mr Mitchie said: “To start off with they were quite different, but over time they have merged together, and now the turkeys are quite confident around them.”
And they have been a massive hit with his daughter, Vilu, 2.
“My daughter calls them ‘pacas’ and the whole family has become attached to them. They are here to stay, but the main benefit is to the turkeys.”
Alpacas are primarily raised for their much sought-after wool – which is renowned for its soft texture and flame and water-resistant properties.
They are native to South America – although farmers across the UK have been raising herds for decades.