A Clarington couple may be forced to sell their alpaca herd after the recent ice storm collapsed their barn. Nancy and Garth Hutchinson run 1 Stop Alpaca Farm in Enniskillen on Durham Road 3 just east of Oshawa. They have a herd of 56 alpaca which they raise for wool. On Boxing Day, the accumulated ice and snow on top of their hoop barn proved too much causing it to collapse, pinning one alpaca. Fellow farmers rushed to help to free the animal, but her leg was shattered and she was ultimately euthanized.
The barn itself was a disaster with both the metal supports collapsed and the fabric covering shredded. Ms. Hutchinson said she was shocked to find out the couple’s insurance didn’t cover snow and ice damage. “This building is insured for $30,000 and I can’t collect,” she said. Completely replacing the structure will cost tens of thousands of dollars. “I’m a cancer survivor of three years and that struck us financially,” said Ms. Hutchinson, adding the couple is still recover financially and the cost of a new barn is just too much. “We just don’t have the savings.” On Dec. 27, about fifty friends and neighbours pitched in to help remove the ice chunks from the barn so a portion of the tarp could be temporarily secured allowing the alpacas access to the barn. However, Ms. Hutchinson said the solution will not get them through the winter and they’re now looking at moving their herd to other nearby farms.
Although the alpacas have a thick fur to keep them warm, when the temperatures plunge too far they need shelter. For example, recent rain got them wet and as the temperature dropped, they had to be moved inside. “When the winter gets to -30 with the windchill it’s too cold for them, it’s too cold for anybody,” said Ms. Hutchinson. If they can’t figure out a solution to replace the barn, they’ll have to sell the herd ending 11 years of alpaca farming, and endeavour Ms. Hutchinson called a “utopia lifestyle” for the couple.
Ms. Hutchinson said the community has been wonderful in offering help. “We weren’t looking for a handout, but everyone’s coming forward and looking to help, it’s ‘what do you need?’,” she said. “We need a barn.” Alpaca Ontario is accepting donations on behalf of the couple and people can get more information by visiting www.alpacaontario.ca. E-transfers can be sent to email@example.com. Call Patti Sharp at 905-259-8250.
If nothing else, Ms. Hutchinson believes her story will serve as a warning to other farmers about the danger of ice accumulation on hoop barns and the fact that insurance doesn’t cover the damage. “It just feels like things have been ripped away from us. Is it the universe telling us to get out of the business?” To contact Ms. Hutchinson, call 905-261-4240 and for more information visit 1stopalpacafarm.com.