Sweet Little Harmony                                   

"Sweet Little Harmony"

Do alpacas have feelings ?

Yes they do.

Do alpacas grieve the loss of one of their own?

Yes they most certainly do.

As alpaca owners we have unfortunately seen loss over the years. We have seen Mum’s grieve the loss of their babies. We have seen the whole herd grieve the loss of an older vulnerable member, but this story is about a little girl grieving the loss of her mum.

Our “Sweet Harmony”

Harmony and her mum Samba came to us in August 2022. A tiny little girl she was,  but we fell head over heels with them both straight away. She was being bottle fed as Samba didn’t have much milk. As the months passed by we noticed that now and again Harmony would play with our other cria, Harper, Haribo & Hawkins but most of the time she was glued to her mum. She was much smaller than the others so we thing she felt safer with Samba.

At six months old we noticed she wasn’t thriving the way she should. She spent a week in UCD Veterinary Hospital getting numerous tests done, but nothing showed up. Eventually thanks to Sarah Caldwell “ The Human Vet” in the UK we discovered she had a cobalt deficiency. Thankfully we could treat her for this and did so.

Fast forward to August this year and Samba herself became unwell. Weeks went by and test after test showed up nothing. Weeks in the Veterinary Hospital showed up nothing. During all this time Harmony stayed by her mum’s side. She never left her.

A few weeks later Samba become much slower than the others, so when the herd decided they wanted to wander up to the hilly fields, Harmony would look back and wait for her mum. When all the others came running at feeding time, Harmony would look back and wait with her mum. We would go up to them both and hand feed them.

All this time we were still trying to treat Samba for everything we and our vets though could be wrong, but nothing was working. Day by day she was getting weaker, but Harmony stayed by her mum.

Two days before Samba passed away she stayed in the field at the back of the house, she wasn’t able to go any further. Harmony wandered away a little from her, but kept looking back. She wanted to follow the others, but didn’t want to leave Samba alone. We were watching them 24/7 and could see this little girl was torn between her devotion to her mum and wanting to join the others. She knew her mum hadn’t much time left on this earth.

The night before Samba passed away she was in the shed and we were doing a vigil watching her. Harmony for the first time sat amongst the herd and our girl Dandelion was keeping Samba company. Through the night and early morning all the alpacas one by one had come in to see Samba. They knew their friend wasnt going to recover and that she had very little time left.

At 6:00am Samba took a turn for the worse and we called our vet. We could see it in he eyes and her body that she wanted us to let her go, she had gone through enough. At 7:00 am Samba passed away with her alpaca family, our vet and us all around her. Her suffering had ended.

Harmony came into the shed with the others and saw her mum. They all looked  and smelt Samba then went on  to munch on some hay. One by one they all left and made their way up the fields.

For the first time ever, Harmony followed them and didn’t look back to see if her mum was following. She knew her mum was gone.

For a few days she was a lost little soul, she didn’t know where to sit, who to sit with. We have been giving her extra attention and TLC but it is her alpaca family that has rallied around her. They all in their way have been getting her through the toughest time in her life.

Five weeks later and we are delighted to say our sweet Harmony is coping well. She has decided that she doesn’t want to eat with the others, she prefers us to hand feed her, which we are more than happy to do. She has bonded with the younger members of the herd and is happy to sit with them and their mums. We know she is still a vulnerable little girl but we are so proud at how much she matured over the past few weeks. We know her Mum is watching over her every day.

So, do alpacas have feelings?

Yes they do.

Do alpacas grieve the loss of one of their own?

Yes they most certainly do.


To the bravest little girl Harmony and her late mum Samba  x x x x x


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Impressive Community Sense

Sep. 8, 2021

Is it possible?

Do these places really exist?

We have heard of these communes and groups that live together as a community in general peace. Where males and females live separately and meet at certain times during the year for certain important meetings.

Could this really happen today?

And could it occur without dissent among the members?

Well, the answer is yes, and we have watched a local commune live and grow together in this way.

Where is this community, you might be asking now? Let me tell you what we have seen and how close this group has become.

We have no idea what the group calls themselves because they do not communicate with us verbally but they do share their feelings with us using body language.

This group is not like those we hear about in stories from around the world and occasionally see on television especially when things go terribly wrong. No, they allow us to mix with them and they allow us to watch them as they perform their soothing and calming exercises each day. It is magnificent to be a part of especially during the recent restrictions on movement put in place because of the global pandemic, Covid-19.

But I’m just giving you a general taste of what it is like mixing with this particular group. Let me tell you about a certain recent incident which demonstrated how tight this band of like-minded individuals actually is.

This entire story took place over a three-week period. It commenced when the most senior female took ill. They allowed a special doctor to come and see her and it appeared that the old lady had developed a lung problem and was or was on the verge of contracting pneumonia. She received special medical assistance for a ten-day period before the decision was taken by the specialist that she needed an even more dedicated medical attention. The one difficulty with this was having to travel to the work-place of this expert. She eventually agreed to go because deep down she probably realised that this would be her best chance to a full recovery from the terrible illness. We were able to assist her to get there and to make it easier for the older girl to manage being away from her group, her daughter went with her.

This old lady and her daughter were away for seven days and the females at home performed their mindfulness during that time to ensure that they could continue in a state of restful ease. It was so impressive how they managed to maintain a soothing sentiment among them, as a group.

Regrettably, the old lady lasted just two days. It appeared her lungs had been damaged much more than originally surmised. She deteriorated rapidly on the second day and eventually it was decided that medical assistance would be required once more.

After spending a little time to listen to her lungs, the medical person decided after agreeing with all those present that the old lady should be put to sleep so that she would be able to escape the agony she was suffering with. But before the final injection could be administered, all of the group – males and females – formed what could be described as a guard of honour from their paddocks. It was impossible not to feel admiration for the entire group.

Us humans believe that we are untouchable when it comes to celebrating life and dealing with death. But we here at Hilltop Farm Alpacas have seen that alpacas are far better and the spirit created in their community is far more understanding of what is occurring around them and are much better at dealing with it.

Yes, alpacas have a gloriously impressive community sense than most other groups.

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Sep. 1, 2021

Plus and Minus

Jul. 16, 2020

This is not an ad for a new Ed Sheeran album. Yes, two of his albums have been named after mathematical symbols, but this blog story is completely different. There are some similarities between this story and popular music in that both are about gain and loss, personal and general.

So let me start with our story. Some of you will have read some of our previous blogs and some of you will have been here to see our alpacas. For those of you newbies, we are Hilltop Farm Alpacas. We are a small holding of 17 alpacas ranging in age from two weeks to ten years old at the time this blog has been posted. Hilltop Farm is set in North Offaly and is a perfect setting for those of you who want to get away from the busy lifestyle that is considered to be normal, if there is such a thing as normal any more. But that’s a discussion for another day.

On the 18th June 2020 a new cria (baby alpaca) was born into Hilltop Farm. A male; another progeny of our magnificent male, Bronson. Again, those of you who have been here will know all about Bronson and what this guy is like. He loves human attention and he adores being photographed and he even stands for selfies and that is something he taught himself to do – believe it or not.

This all sounds great, right? This little male born on the 18th June was very little. His mother was a first-timer. She had never given birth before. Early on the morning she gave birth she was showing signs of discomfort. Bella was her name and she was four years old. She was a fit female and had a deer-like face and always appeared to be smiling. You may have guessed that speaking about her in the past tense that she is no longer with us.

Bella was unable to give birth to her cria by herself. Our vet told us that the cria was not in the correct position to be birthed and that he would have to operate there and then – a C-Section. The little cria came into the world smaller than the average cria. The average weight of a new-born is 7kg but this little boy was only 4.8kg. He was tiny. This pure white fleeced boy was given the name Fargo and he looks like a Fargo although I can’t quite say what a Fargo should actually look like.

For four days Bella provided milk for her little boy but she was in pain from the operation. On the fourth evening she died from infection that had set in. It was always going to be a worry and the vet had done all he could for her. He had recommended that we try bottle feeding Fargo before Bella died so that he would be used to it, if required. It was and he took to it like a duck to water.

Almost four weeks on from his birth, Fargo has grown. He is the funniest animal we have ever had here. The little guy is a firm favourite of our many visitors and he knows how to play up to people so that he can get all the attention. But that is also something that has been handed down to him by his father – the one and only Bronson.

Fargo is most definitely one of the positives of the last few years. He was a miracle baby but he came at the sad loss of Bella. But as Ed Sheeran says he is Perfect and he now lives in his Castle on the Hill.

Expect the Unexpected

Mar. 1, 2020

Who would have thought that Ballinagar would be a place people would come to when on holidays in Ireland. Well, let me just tell you all, that it has become that. Since October last year we have had visitors from Fresno, Buffalo, Riga and Puerto Rica just to name a few places.

Hilltop Farm Alpacas has become more popular than we could ever have expected when we first opened the farm to visitors. But it didn’t all just happen by chance – hard work has created this growing opportunity for us here at Hilltop Farm. Out own website – www.hilltopfarmalpacas.com – has seen a large jump in viewership figures in the last eight months.

It’s not just about seeing larger numbers booking-in that is the best thing though, Don’t get me wrong, it is important, but it’s seeing the reactions on the faces of our visitors as they walk among our friendly alpacas that is the most rewarding. People are getting a real kick out of the soft nature of our animals; being able to pet them; get selfies with them and even sneaking a little kiss on occasion.

However, one of the most rewarding visits was that of a group of Puerto Ricans who came to Ireland for four days and spent one of their afternoons with our alpacas. They even sent us a fantastic video of their visit. One of the guys worked in the tourism industry at home and he was really impressed with Hilltop Farm Alpacas.

So it just goes to show that if you put in the work, you will get some return. It then just depends on how much you want to ultimately achieve.

Keep it here with us and we’ll let you know how we are getting on.


Alan & Catriona.

Look again and then you'll see it

Nov. 14, 2019

Life is as much about enjoyment as anything else. No matter what you do, there should be a time for fun and if you don’t have it, make a place and time for it. Just take a look around you; maybe you only see all the usual boring stuff. But if you look hard enough, even just a second longer that you would normally, you will see something different. It might even be funny.

As you know, we have alpacas at Hilltop Farm and the amount of enjoyment we get out of them is sometimes taken for granted. That was until Bronson, our prize-winner decided to write his autobiography. And it’s on sale on-line and at our farm.

Ok, let me go back a little bit. I will admit it, Bronson didn’t actually write his autobiography, but he has lived a fascinating life already and he is still only three years old. What really happened was, Catriona told me I should write his story to date. I wasn’t at sure first if I could create a book worth publishing, but it wasn’t until I began the process that I realised how much he had done and how entertaining he had been. I mean, anyone who has seen him in action will know what I’m talking about.

Bronson is a doer. He is also a people person. I have seen him amusing eight children under the age of ten all by himself. He has walked with children and adults who have autism and he even made an elderly man who had been seriously impaired by a terrible stroke. It’s things like this that bring joy to people, things that we have on our doorstep (almost) that can improve someone’s mental state, even if it is for a short period of time.

Bronson’s book is currently selling and a new order has been requested to manage the interest in it. It is far greater than we had anticipated. Maybe if you are one of those people who can’t see past the mundane you should come and see our alpacas and believe me there are a few characters among them. Maybe you might even want to read Bronson’s autobiography.

Come out and see us and we we’ll tell you all you want to know and give you a little insight as to what it is like to watch graceful alpacas saunter around their paddocks as if it just what was always done. As if it just normal to see these fabulous quiet animals come and look at you and wonder who it is that is coming to see them today. And if there is any way that they can improve these people’s lives. Even if it for just a time. But the memory will last forever.