WHEN Pauline Glasser bought her husband Colin an alpaca to for his 50th birthday, she didn't know it would spawn a new obsession and career.
"We've been breeding alpacas since 2005 and my husband got one as a present for his 50th," Pauline explained.
"He had always wanted one and we would always go to see them at the shows, so I bought him a black one and we've been breeding them ever since."
Alvin the black alpaca is still running around on the property on the Clarence Valley near Grafton and, as Pauline said, he'll be there forever.
Their stud, Wahgungurry Alpacas, now has 60 breeders on the ground, which is enough to keep them busy and entertained.
And for a couple with a background in beef showing, it has been quite the learning curve.
"Yes it was a big j-curve going from beef to alpacas but that was part of the fun and we do it together," Pauline said.
"We breed and sell for pets and guard animals, as well as showing."
Demand for alpacas is swiftly growing as their reputation for guarding flocks of sheep from predators such as foxes, wild dogs and eagles grows.
"I guess the demand depends on the size of the properties because you have to have two," Pauline said.
"They're a herd animal and they're not the thousands of dollars that they used to be."
While the pet and protector market is growing, the real passion of the Wahgungurry stud is genetics and good bloodlines.
"We have huacaya, which are different to the suris, and we're working on five different bloodlines at the moment," Pauline said.
"We're trying to get the fineness into the fleece, as well as the character and the density.
"At the moment we can get the fineness but we can't get that density, which is why we're looking at putting across our herd a male that has more density in his fleece."
But it's a bit of a lucky dip breeding program, she said.
"It's 11-and-a-half months before you get anything on the ground, so it's an anxious wait," she said.
"We've had experiences where you've put a black male to a brown pointed female and you end up with a white."
Pauline and Colin have competed at the Heritage Bank Toowoomba Royal Show for the past few years and while they have yet to snare the supreme fleece or animal sash, they've got a sizable ribbon collection at home.
"We get our fair share, let's put it that way," she said with a laugh.