Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reflections of a Rainy Show Weekend

It has been a busy week and I have been putting off writing about the show last weekend (mostly because I knew it was going to be a long post). I have a lot on my plate right now; I work full time, help run our farm, maintain our home, am pregnant and keep a whole other pregnancy blog and I am having a difficult time keeping up right now. So here are the highlights from the 2010 Michigan Alpaca Breeder's Show and Fiber Fair from last weekend.

Getting to the show went smoothly. The weather was warm and sunny. We brought 4 of our own alpacas and 2 from our friends at Oak Haven Alpacas. This show is held at the fairgrounds in Davisburg, MI. The facilities are pretty nice compared to the fairgrounds around us. I normally like this show because it is outside, but this weekend, they were forecasting rain. Here are some pictures of the facilities.

Our stalls were located in the far barn in this picture.

There are 3 barns that contain stalls. This year, it ended up being a level III show with over 200 alpacas and 75 farms in attendance.
The barn above is where they did the shearing and photography. The far barn in the picture has bathrooms/showers for guests and campers and this is the building where the vendors set up their booths. There are also some other barns and buildings at the fairgrounds where they held the seminars and Breeders Dinner, but I didn't get any pictures of these buildings.

This is the pavilion where the show ring is located. There are bleachers inside for seating. They don't normally have the tarps up, but they wanted to keep the rain out this year. Below is a picture of the show ring set up for the performance class (kind of like agility for alpacas).

We took some time to set up our two stalls when we got to the show. Most shows provide you with panels for stalls, but this show everyone needed to bring their own. They do supply the sod for flooring, electricity and water though. Here are some pictures of our stalls set up. We had one stall for girls and one stall for boys. In addition to having water and hay in each stall, we had 3 fans running in each stall because of the heat on Friday and then the humidity from the rain on Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, by Sunday the judge commented on how most of the alpacas fiber was wilting in the wet muggy air. We also put up some banners and pictures, business cards and each of the alpacas ARI certificates on the stalls.

I thought the picture above was just adorable. Jolie was napping with her head resting on top of Paisley's head. So cute! Below are some pictures I took of the other stalls in one of the other barns.
Pictured above is our sad attempt at creating a MI-ALPACA booth. We will be having a booth at the AOBA National Show as well and hope to snazz it up a bit by then. We did have our banner and brochures (which I designed), our most recent newsletter and a sign up sheet for the committees we are working on forming. I am thinking we at least need a table cloth and a candy basket or something for the booth at Nationals.

After we finished setting up our stalls, we volunteered as color checkers. This is always my favorite thing to volunteer for at shows because you get to meet a lot of different breeders and you get your hands on a lot of different animals to check out their fleece. Last year when we colored checked at this show, we did it outside in the rain. Luckily this year, it was bright and sunny! After doing this for a few hours, we finished decorating our stall then went out to dinner at the Buffalo Wild Wings by our hotel and then crashed in the hotel for the night. I think I was in bed and sleeping by 9:30pm....I was very tired.

Okay, now onto the actual show. Because this is a smaller show, there is only one judge and one show ring. Many larger shows have 2 or 3 show rings going at once. At this show, they started with dark colored animals and alternated between male and female and huacaya and suris. If there were enough animals in each color class, they would hold a color championship. Unfortunately, because this is such a small show, they tend to lump colors that would normally be separated at larger shows together. I understand why they do this, but it isn't always beneficial. For example, they lumped beige and light fawn animals together....and then medium fawn and dark fawn animals together. Traditionally, lighter colors animals have had the advantage because their fiber is normally more advanced due to longer selective breeding. I suspect this will change though in years to come as breeders really improve on darker colors.

The judge for this show was Dawn Brooker. Noah and I thought she was very thorough in her assessment of each alpaca and gave a lot of very helpful feedback on each animal. The only downside to being so thorough is that it takes longer to judge and the show goes by very slowly. Noah planned to show the alpacas on Saturday and I planned to show on Sunday. We thought we would at least get through all the blacks, browns and fawns (so Rosco, Jolie and d'Artagnan) on Saturday, leaving the 2 white boys and our grey suri for me to show on Sunday. Unfortunately, Rosco who is black was the first class up of the day and Jolie who is dark brown didn't go to almost the very end of the day. They took a short lunch and ended the show later than was scheduled and still didn't make it to fawns. There is normally not that much time between colors, but the show was moving very slowly. Although there was a lot of waiting around the whole weekend, Noah and I did appreciate the time the judge took to evaluate each alpaca and give useful feedback on each alpaca.

It rained and thundered a little bit Saturday morning, but had pretty much stopped by the time our first alpaca went in the ring. First in the show ring was Ashton Stones Little Miss Rosco (who was born on our farm, but is now owned by our friends at Oak Haven Alpacas). We showed Rosco's mom, a grey girl named Cinderella, a few times a couple of years back and she never did that well in the show ring. The issue was that she was incredibly soft for a grey, but had little density. I suspect the same is true for Miss Rosco. There were 7 alpacas total in her class (they only place 1-6) and Rosco didn't make the cut. It is always nice when the alpacas place, even if it is at the lower end so you can get feedback from the judge. When they "get the gate" you don't get any feedback which is a bummer. At least Rosco behaved well in the ring and didn't even seem to mind not getting a ribbon. Here is a picture of Noah showing her. The judge is checking out her fiber.
The next to show was Ashton Stones Jolie Rouge. At the last show she attended, she showed in bay black and took first place in a class of 3. She ended up showing in dark brown at this show in a class of 5 other juvies. (I suspect when we shear Jolie, she is going to have spots or patches of bay black and dark brown throughout her fleece). Noah showed Jolie and she did okay in the ring. She was pretty jumpy though. Below the judge looks at Jolie's fiber.

Jolie must have felt pretty comfortable in the ring though...both times she was in the ring (for halter and then again for get of sire), she pooed and peed. Pictured below is Noah and Jolie stepping out of the way so the ring steward could clean up her mess.

The judge put Jolie in the first place position for about 10 minutes while she evaluated the rest of the animals. Here is Noah looking very happy to be in first place!

Unfortunately, after the judge lined them all up and stared at them for awhile she re-evaluated Jolie and the animal standing in second and moved Jolie to 2nd place because she had slightly less density than the 1st place alpaca.

Here are the judges comments on each alpaca in Jolie's class. She said that Jolie is well proportioned and well boned for her frame size. She also said that Jolie is a bit narrow in the hind end and could use more width. Jolie has a fine handling fleece, but could use more consistent crimp from front to back. The only thing that moved her from first to second was that she was slightly less dense than the alpaca standing above her. Jolie also made it into the color champion class, but did not place.

Jolie was the last of our alpacas to show on Saturday. After we fed and watered the alpacas, we joined everyone else at the breeders dinner. I like attending the breeders dinners at shows because it gives you a chance to sit down with other alpaca people and network. It is normally pretty entertaining as well. The judge gave a talk on conformation (specifically focusing on the hind end conformation) and answered lots of questions. Noah and I left the dinner before the fashion show started because I was not feeling well and had a horrible headache. Again, I think I was in bed sleeping by 9:30pm that night.

The last day of the show went a little quicker than the day before (although they skipped lunch and still ended almost 3 hours late). Unfortunately, it rained on and off the entire day. The first of ours up that morning was Ashton Stones Peruvian d'Artagnan. He showed with medium and dark fawn juvies in a class of 3. He took 6th out of 8 at the last show he was at, so I was anxious to see how he would do here.

The judge said that all the alpacas were very similar in this class, making it very competitive. Here are her comments on each alpaca. The judge said that Dar, along with all the other alpacas in the class were a little tight in the hind end. She said that Dar was not quite as fine as the alpacas standing above him and was slightly less dense.

We didn't show again until after lunch in the Get of Sire class. We decided to enter our herdsire Smokey in this class since we had 3 of his offspring at the show. I didn't get any pictures or video of this class because we were all in the ring. There were 5 herdsires entered in the class and Smokey placed 4th behind 3 award winning herdsires from larger farms; Lord Stanley, Accoyo Shangri La, and Accoyo American Prince. So we were pretty proud that he took 4th behind these big name boys. The judges comments on our Smokey cria were that they were all very fine and had good staple length. She also commented on how she liked their head shapes. She said that all 3 of them could use more density, better lock structure, and better uniformity of crimp from front to back. These are similar comments to those that the judge gave about Smokey cria in the last competition where he competed for Get of Sire. From now on, we plan to only breed Smokey to our females who are dense and need fineness.

The next to show was Ashton Stones Peruvian Riphaeus in a class of 12 white juveniles. This was a pretty large class. Riph was in a class this large at the last show and ended up getting the gate. I was hoping he would have placed here so we could get some feedback from the judge. I showed Riph in this class....I think he is our most well behaved alpaca.

Pregnant belly shot!

The judge looked at Riph several times for the 6th place position, but he ended up getting the gate....or as I like to think of it.....7th place! Although we haven't been able to get any feedback from judges, I think that Riph has great conformation, density and fiber coverage. He just lacks fineness, brightness and could have better lock structure. This may have been due to his rough start to life. I am hoping that after shearing and with better nutrition this year, his fiber will come back with better characteristics.

Right after Riph showed, Lightning from Oak Haven Alpacas showed. I had contemplated taking him in the ring, but ended up having Noah do it since he is a bigger boy and I didn't want him to take me and my baby for a ride. He did well for Noah in the ring and he placed 3rd out of 5.

The very last to show was Rummy's Paisley. Another farm who is experienced with suris helped us get her fiber ready for the show ring since this is the first suri we have ever had and had no idea how to prepare her. According to the other farm, Paisley was a "complete mess" and made her feel better about how her alpacas looked. Anyway, we ran a rubber brush through her locks several times and then spritzed her with water shortly before going in the ring. She looked like a completely different alpaca! She showed all by herself in the grey yearling suri class. I have been working really hard with this girl as she was not halter trained and very skittish when she arrived on our farm a few months ago. She is extremely jumpy around men which is one of the reasons I decided to show her instead of Noah. She is so funny, as we were waiting to go in the ring, she kept resting her head on my chest and looking up into my face with her big blue eyes. I sort of feel like I have a connection with her. Anyway, she did pretty well in the ring. She let me show the judge her teeth without a problem, but then got nervous when the male ring steward came to help. She jumped up and bucked twice and the second time, she got my number tag caught in her halter and ripped it from my neck (leaving a rope burn across the back of my neck). The judge ended up awarding Paisley first place and said that she has nice conformation, balanced proportions and fine fiber. She said that she could use more density, better lock structure, and more luster. We will be sure to look for a herdsire with these qualities! Here are some pictures of us in the show ring (unfortunately, we did not get the judges comments on video because our camera battery had died at this point).

After showing Paisley, we got her picture taken and quickly packed up and headed home. When we stopped for dinner, we heard clunking in the trailer. We opened it up and found that Jolie had squeezed through the panels and gotten in with the boys. We clumsily swapped the boys and and the girls thinking she wanted to be on the other side of the trailer, but found that she just wanted to be difficult; she squeezed back through with the boys. I can't believe she could fit through the hole she was squeezing through, but somehow she managed it. We tried tying hay rope across the openings, but by the time we got home, we learned that this didn't stop her and she even taught Rosco how to do it. Ugh....such a long ride home.....I kept worrying that she was going to strangle herself in the hay ropes. We didn't get home until it was already dark. We dropped our 4 alpacas off; we decided to quarantine them from our other alpacas in case they picked anything up at the show. We were just about to leave to bring Oak Haven their alpacas and trailer back when Rosco escaped from the trailer and went bounding across our yard towards the road. Noah chased after her and got in between her and the road at which point she headed towards the house. She is a black alpaca and it was pitch dark, so you can imagine how fun it was trying to round her up. We finally got her to run into the barn where the other young alpacas were and were able to catch her. I ran to get her halter, but Noah was so tired and frustrated by that point, he just picked her up and carried her out to the trailer. We dropped Rosco and Lightning off and were finally in bed by close to midnight. All in all the weekend was fun, but very exhausting!

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