9:40 pm on 15 September 2017
A large herd of llamas live on Keith Payne’s 30-hectare hill property tucked into the secluded Blythe Valley in North Canterbury. His is one of only two guanaco studs outside South America.
Several of Keith’s llama males have been DNA tested for breed purity and now they form the basis of his breeding programme. He wants to protect the genetic integrity of the animal.
“The goal of the programme is to take your hybridised llama and inject some original breed vitality and genetics back into them,” he says.
Many llamas in New Zealand have been crossed with alpacas because people believed the larger frame of the llama would lead to the production of more fleece, Keith says.
“It’s actually worked to the detriment of both breeds… They are two separate breeds and by crossing them it’s like crossing a germen shepherd with a cocker spaniel!”
So far the breeding programme at the Big Ears Llama Ranch is proving successful and, with more crea due on the ground in December, Keith is edging his way to a new, purer line of animal.
As well as farming llamas, Keith is the current president of the New Zealand Llama Association and has a large collection of llama-themed art.