An alpaca at a rescue farm in Puslinch (Jessica Smith / CTV News Kitchener)

Farms focused on rescuing animals in southern Ontario are hoping to recover from a tough year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Brae Ridge Farm and Sanctuary in Puslinch is home to Acacia the alpaca and a few of her furry friends

Penny Burton started the sanctuary three years ago, and like most small businesses owners she's had to make drastic changes in this pandemic. Previously booked up until March, Burton said she has had to cancel or reschedule visits.

“So it's totally shut us down. So that delays any improvements that we wanted to make or bringing in any rescue animals or anything like that. We’ve had to stop that until we can get back on our feet, said Burton.

After closing their gates last March, the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, also located in Puslinch, is facing an uncertain future.

“So we were not open for any of our open season. We were closed completely the entire year. Not just to visitors but also to volunteers. So what that meant, the impact to us, was a loss of quite a bit of our donation, said Lesley Bayne, executive director.

The cost of caring for a rescued donkey or mule starts at roughly $1,500.

At the alpaca farm, the cost generally isn't as high, but the commitment is a lengthy one. They requiring tender loving care to give them a sustainable future.

“Their fibre is particularly versatile,” said Paityn Eidt, the Vice President, Alpaca Canada. "It's one of those things, because they are a long lived species, I mean 15 to 20 years, we can potentially get 15 to 20 years of fibre.”

The Donkey Sanctuary plans to hold more virtual events heading into 2021. For Burton, Acacia and the rest of the alpacas, until they can reopen any money made from the alpaca scarfs and hats they sell goes right back to caring for the animals.

“They're super curious. They’re super friendly,” said Burton. "They just offer this peacefulness around them.”

Her focus moving forward is on the spring and summer months and hopefully being able to invite people back to the farm to experience the calming effects of alpacas.