We are the Mark and Sue Steele and  together with our son, Gus we run Patou Alpacas from our home in Ridge, near Tisbury in South Wiltshire. 

We formed the herd in 2006 with the purchase of three pregnant females and the herd has grown from there. At the time I was a village bobby in rural South Wiltshire and Sue was a community midwife covering more or less the same area. 
Getting alpacas was the start of a journey that would lead to running Patou Alpacas as a business after I retired in 2013.

Mark Steele - this is now my full-time job and I love it!  I manage the day to day side of the alpaca business. My main jobs are:

Looking after the health of the Patou herd. 

As I write the herd is about 70 alpacas strong and all are fit and healthy. It is my main job to ensure they stay fit and healthy. A fit and healthy alpaca is a happy alpaca! This involves day to day husbandry including vaccinations, parasite control, vitamin supplementation, general feeding and anything else that involves keeping the herd healthy. I also speak to our vet regularly about herd health. It also involves a lot of standing about looking at alpacas!

Breeding and birthing.
I decide, after discussion with Sue, which males we will be using over which females each year. These decisions are based on several criteria but always with a view to improving the quality of the herd. I am also responsible for the mechanics of this procedure ensuring that matings occur in optimum conditions so that females have the best chance of conceiving successfully. I also take the males out for outside services when required. Basically the big important stud boys are my domain!
I am also the chief alpaca watcher during the birthing season, primarily because I am here most of the time. Any problems with birthing and I step in to assist. Together Sue and I plan and carry out any additional care that is required for newborn cria if there is a problem.
Fleece production and preparation.

I organise the shearing each year, for not only our herd, but also the many smaller herds that we have helped set up over the past ten years or so. This may sound relatively simple but with the famous British weather, whereby anything is possible in May or June it can be somewhat stressful! Alpacas need to be dry at shearing time!

I also organise the processing of the fleece from our herd. Skirting and sorting and delivering to the  processors that we use. We send the best fibre to The Two Rivers Mill in Wimborne where it is processed into yarn. We then send the yarn to The Border Mill in Scotland where it is hand woven into beautiful luxurious garments. The coarser fibre is collected and taken to Penrose products in the midlands where it is used in the manufacture of luxury bedding.

Alpaca Sales.

I deal with all enquiries relating to alpaca sales. Foremost in my mind when selling alpacas is that they go to a good home. It is very important that anyone who buys from us has the knowledge to look after their alpacas as we would do. I spend as much or as little time as necessary with new clients to ensure that the alpacas are cared for properly. We are always here for advice and help, it is so important for us to know that new owners have the right amount of support from us.

Alpaca Shows and events.
It is my job to firstly select and then enter our show team into as many alpaca shows as I can go to, as I love it!  Sue doesn't like towing the trailer so I get to go to all the shows! It is great fun and always good to chat to other breeders and look at other peoples alpacas. I will also take alpacas to village shows and fetes when asked and love talking to people about our alpacas.

As well as all that I have been the Chairman of the South West Alpaca Group (SWAG) for the past three years and help organise several alpaca shows in the region. I am also on the committee for the British Alpaca Society National Show which is the biggest alpaca show in Europe.

Sue Steele.
Sue's main role as I see it is ensuring I don't do anything silly. Sue is the calm head of the operation and after almost 28 years of marriage, knows me better than anyone. Her advice and help over the years has ensured that I am still relatively sane and able to function. Without her I would be useless.

Gus Steele.
Gus used to enjoy showing the alpacas and has grown up amongst them but now approaching 15 years of age he has other priorities. He will always help if asked and has a good way with the animals. Paying him helps.


If you would like to talk to us about anything to do with alpacas please give us a call and we will introduce you to some of the most interesting, gentle and productive animals in the world. 

  
We believe that the future of the alpaca and that of the alpaca industry in the UK is very positive. The demand for alpacas and alpaca based products is increasing year on year.

Bumpkins at the top of The Shard in London!

Gus helping at feeding time before he became taller than me.

Sue with Snow Goose at the National Show in 2017

Mark with Hollister at the North Somerset Show 2017

Gus with a very successful Woody at The Bath and West Show in 2012.

Gus with the wonderful Wasimba in 2015.