A life less ordinary
A life less ordinary

It was in april 2014 when Helli Weithaler and Steffi Mößinger of the Pirchhof farm in Plaus were awarded yet another prize as the top dairy producer of the year. As on previous occasions, there were handshakes and congratulations all round. Shortly after, the pair decided to give up dairy farming altogether and try something new.

Four years later, we’re now standing in an empty cowshed. “Understandably, our decision at the time was greeted with disbelief in the farming community,” recounts Helli with a smile. A South Tyrolean mountain farm without dairy cows? How’s that supposed to work? “The wellbeing of our animals have always been our top priority and of course this applied to our dairy farm. Which, by the way, is how we managed to produce the best milk! Nevertheless”, adds Steffi, an astute German, “we could simply no longer identify with this type of farming”. Yet giving up the mountain farm was also out of the question, especially for Helmuth. This is where as a boy he looked out across the grassy pastures, listened to the buzzing of the bees and where he grew up.
Both he and Steffi knew that they wouldn’t let the difficulties put them off. After selling the dairy cows they started looking for alternative farming opportunities.
16 llamas (10 mares, 5 geldings and one foal) are currently living at Pirchhof
They thought of rearing cattle, maybe local Haflinger horses or even sheep. Then they happened to read about the llamas in a local newspaper and were immediately convinced. “At first we considered keeping some of our farm animals, but then we decided to only keep llamas and alpacas,” they explain, as we make our way over to the pasture. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they learned.
Currently, sixteen llamas and two alpacas coexist peacefully at the Pirchhof. The first attempts at breeding in 2016 were successful from the start. This proved itself in the harmonious proportions, lush wool, straight legs and overall appealing appearance of the offspring. As I observe the majestic animals, they stretch their heads and gaze back with seeming curiosity. Aren’t they all pretty, I think to myself.

It’s quite obvious that Helli and Steffi are completely at ease with the llamas. Their species-specific approach to husbandry seems to work well. For example, the foals at the Pirchhof are kept much longer with their mothers than is usually the case. The herd is mixed, with mares, geldings and older animals, creating a stable environment for rearing.
This is especially noticeable during the llama treks, which take place a few times a week. The docile and compliant nature makes the llamas ideal travelling companions and even have some therapeutic value. If the rider wishes to keep some distance, the Lama follows. And if the rider prefers to lead, then the animal will follow too. Public interest in the llama treks is on the increase: “People are drawn to simple, authentic activities out in the open.” In an age when just about everything is checked for Instagram compatibility and the like, these llama treks are great for a digital detox! An easy trek with a docile llama is the perfect antidote to sore feet from the
concrete jungle and Monday blues. Helli suddenly hands me the harness as Lucy the llama gingerly approaches, her eyes exuding a strange mixture of curiosity and circumspection. As she tilts her head to one side, the sun shines straight into her deep blue eyes creating a dazzling effect. She’s cast a spell on me! This is when a
creature from another world looks right back at you at close range—an encounter with a friendly alien!
These are the kinds of encounters that fascinate me the most!
“These are the kinds of encounters that fascinate me the most!”