Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Michigan Alpaca Breeder's Show and Fiber Fair

The first weekend in May, we attended the Michigan Alpaca Breeder's Show and Fiber Fair in Davisburg, MI. We brought Jolly Roger, Appalachia, and Oak Haven Alpaca's Sancha's White Lightning to the show. This is a smaller show and a nice way to network with other farms and fiber artists in Michigan

While most alpaca shows are inside expo-type centers, this show is at a fairground in Davisburg. There are positives and negatives to this. For example, I love being outside and being able to camp near our alpacas, but unfortunately we showed up friday evening and it was cold and pouring rain. We quickly unloaded our alpacas, had them colored checked and health checked in the rain then rushed them to the appropriate barn. We quickly set up our panels and rushed back to check in because we had signed up to volunteer at check in. I checked farms in while Noah color checked animals. Luckily, all the farms showed up earlier than anticipated so we could go back to setting up our farm display. Unfortunately, we were wet and cold by that time from running around in the rain. We put all of our marketing information out and made sure the alpacas had enough hay and water. We turned the fan on for a little while to try and dry them out. Another con about having the show outside is that alpacas can escape more easily. The pro is that everyone at the show is an experienced alpaca herder and wrangler : ) When we were cleaning poo the first night, Appalachia pushed the panel open and ran for it. Luckily we grabbed the two boys before they could make their escape too. Thinking quickly, I grabbed the food bucket and went to Apple and shook it. After taking a few more steps in the wrong directions, she heard the food and came running (we are lucky that she is a friendly little pig and will do just about anything for food...I am not sure that we could have caught our other animals that way). A few more alpacas escaped throughout the weekend and everyone worked great as a team to catch them.

Then next morning, the alpacas were still damp from the humidity and their undersides were all wet. We soon discovered that the sod that was under everyone's stalls had sat outside in the rain and was now very wet and spongy and not absorbing other liquids...like pee. Luckily Saturday and Sunday were gorgeous and sunny so we took the alpacas for a walk for a while and tried to clean out the stall the best we could. We also laid a stall mat down over the sod which seemed to help tremendously. The alpacas dried out after we sat with them in the sun for about an hour and then we put them back in the stall with the fan on.

The rest of the weekend went very smoothly. We got a chance to catch up with other farms we know and we were able to meet a lot of new people. We also got a chance to see what other farms are doing with their fiber which is something we have been researching a lot this year so we can start making our fiber profitable. We even bought a children's alpaca book and finger puppet for our little niece. The breeders dinner was yummy and entertaining. A lot of great alpaca stories were shared over dinner. They even had an alpaca fashion show this year that showed off all the creative alpaca peoples' clothes and accessories that they have made. The judge also gave an interesting powerpoint presentation on alpaca conformation that we found informative. Now that we have been involved in alpacas for a few years, we are learning more what we are looking for in a good alpaca. It was fun to sit and watch the animals be shown. We tried to pick the top contenders in each class and pointed out what we liked and did not like about the different alpacas. We would check out the winning alpacas fleeces when they came out of the ring to get a better understanding of what true quality looks like. We enjoy planning where we want our breeding program to go in the future.

Anyway, on to the showing. They started with the darkest animals (black) and then worked their way all the way to white, and then they do grey and patterned animals at the end. Jolly Roger was the first of our alpacas to show as he was placed in the dark fawn class and our other two animals were lighter colors. He was the last class to show on Saturday so he was good and dry by the time it was his turn. Noah and I laughed about how all the alpacas in line looked just like Jolly Roger...well their faces and fleece characteristics were different, but they were all about the same size and color. There were nine alpacas in Jolly's class which is pretty competitive. Only 6 would get placed and the others would be asked to leave the ring (also known as "getting the gate"). This judge seemed to have a method of pairing the alpacas that closely resembled each other when it came to fiber characteristics. She seemed to have a easy time picking out the top two, then the next two. Jolly was in the running with two other alpacas for fifth and sixth place. The judge had a difficult time locating Jolly's testicles like the judges at the last two shows, but finally located them. After sandwiching Jolly and two other alpacas together to better compare them, she decided to give Jolly Roger the gate along with two other young hopefuls. Later, when we compared Jolly to the other males, he really seems to lack density of fiber. He has a nice crimp, soft handle, nice staple length, and great coverage...he just seems to lack density which is very important. He also has good conformation and a nice bite. Jolly Roger competed in 3 competitive shows this spring and came home with one 6th place ribbon.
This is Noah and Jolly Roger getting ready to enter the ring. Notice all the very similar looking alpacas ready to enter the ring as well.

Pictured above are the top two alpacas that placed in the class (they haven't been placed yet and their final placing was in the opposite order). This is an example of how the judge placed alpacas with similar fiber characteristics in pairs. I really love the look of the alpaca on the left side of this photo (he ended up taking second place).

The next alpaca to show was Appalachia. She showed early on Sunday morning. This is the first and last show Apple will attend. We decided to bring her because we had an extra spot and no other alpacas that we could have shown. She will be starting her breeding career in another week and therefore will not be attending anymore shows. She did not seem to appreciate leaving our farm and being penned up with two maturing boys for the weekend. The boys followed her every move and she seemed to care less about them. When Apple was taken to the show ring, Jolly and Lightning threw fits and tried to climb through the panels. Lightning even mounted Jolly and then they started wrestling. We figured Apple must be their leader and peace keeper. Appalachia was placed in the beige class because she is a fading fawn. Although the beige and light fawn alpacas were combined in one class in the end because this is a smaller show. She competed with 3 other females who were all light fawn. Appalachia behaved well in the show ring and took 4th place. The judge commented that she has uniform crimp, a nice staple length and she appreciated Apple's correct conformation. The alpacas above her had denser fleece and softer fiber. We will be breeding Apple this spring to a male with dense, soft fleece to help compensate.

While the alpacas don't usually like to cooperate when having their picture taken, especially with a ribbon attached to their face, Apple seemed to love it and just kept showing off and posing. I think she was proud of her pretty pink ribbon.

The last to show was Oak Haven's Sancha's White Lightning. His class had 8 animals total and white classes are very competitive because white alpacas have been bred and improved much longer in South America than the other colors and often have better quality fleece. Lightning behaved very well in the show ring and took 5th in his class.
The weekend was a lot of fun and we enjoyed camping out, even if it was a little chilly at night. We will probably not be competing in anymore shows this year. We hope to put a good show string together for next year with all of this years crias that are due.

Speaking of crias that are due...Lady is 360 days pregnant. We are getting very anxious and impatient for the cria. We thought for sure she would have it by now. I think she is holding it in until it warms up more. We hope she has it before shearing which will be this Saturday. Stay tuned for more info.

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