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Episode 10: Llama Love

Llama Love

You're in your late 40s, starting to think semi-retirement and dream about more travel and less responsibility.  Sound familiar?

Advertising agency gurus call them empty nesters - couples whose children have left home, leaving them ready to downsize to an inner city apartment.

But empty nesters Bob and Sandy Dawson are going nowhere. The pair, in their late forties with two grown-up children, have a sheep and beef farm - and a new interest to go with it.

Bob and Sandy married 25 years ago and have worked together ever since on their farm near Pio Pio in the King Country.  To save labour costs they do all the work themselves - and now the farm is debt-free.

Their new interest is breeding llamas - originally from South America and noted for their fine fibre and gentle disposition.

They now have a herd of nearly 50, including 12 baby crias born in the last six months.

All the llamas get personal attention.  It's not unusual to hear this seemingly traditional farming couple calling for "Polly Anna" or "Maid Marion", checking on "Little John" or asking "Cinnamon" how her day's going.

You could say they are hooked.  "They are majestic, stately animals," says Bob. "I can work a whole week in the wool shed with sheep and make no progress, but after a just few days with the Llamas, you really feel you are making progress.".

This week the Country Calendar team ventures into the King Country to discover life with the llamas. The crew filmed Bob and Sandy hard at work training, shearing and breeding their new charges - in between commitments to the sheep and cattle they still run on the farm.

When it comes to retirement, Bob and Sandy want to put the llamas to work in a tourist trekking business. They plan to open up their farm, with its striking limestone river valley, to overseas tourists and New Zealanders who are in search of a taste of something different.

Other sites to view:

* For  more information about the Dawson's farm,  
* For more about Llamas,