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see West Melton

Alpaca Articles

Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.

They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and workshops, writing articles for industry magazines in New Zealand, Australia, UK, and USA and also through articles on this website and other websites.

Click here for more articles  
 

A Passion for Alpacas

The ‘Agony and Ecstasy’ of the Novice in the show ring

By Steve Lewis, Algoma Alpacas


Steve Lewis, author

Arriving from the United Kingdom in 2003, the Lewis family were determined to do things differently. After a couple of false starts they arrived on the South Island, settled in Ashburton, on a 1 hectare section, and so the story begins.

We watched the grass grow for a while and then took the plunge, buying two  wether alpacas (neutered males) as the start of our herd, which soon grew to number four.  At the 2006 EXPO in Christchurch, we saw some magnificent specimens and met interesting breeders. Vicki Tribe, Gear Girl, chatted as we bought ‘the book’ saying “I’ll see you in the show ring soon” – and we laughed.

In less than 18 months Vicki was proved right. We’d bought a breeding package, pregnant mother with cria at foot in January 2008, from Southern Alpacas Stud, and by the springtime shows we were raring to go.

What we didn’t know was that we were on a bitter sweet journey of discovery with a number of important lessons to learn.

 


Beginning Showing Alpacas

Our first show was the National in Christchurch. What a way to start! I had one female huacaya to show. But where did I go to register her? Where did I get one of those arm bands everyone was wearing? What would happen in the ring? I had so many questions.

Lesson one, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’. Friendly folk provided the answers. Everyone went out of their way to help.

The time arrived for my class to be shown. I was the proud presenter of my Junior Female who was outstanding  – I knew! She was wonderfully controlled - clearly the best in the ring. My second lesson was imminent, ‘Pride comes before a fall’.

The judges ‘called us forward’. The significance of this passed me by since I had never experienced the show ring at first hand. Little did I realise at the time that my alpaca was now ranked in the top eight in the country for her age and colour.

Tension was building. My first ribbon was in the bag! But no, not a thing.

The Alpaca Folk closest to us worked hard to stop us from becoming down-hearted. The temptation not to continue showing was great, but hey, we’d already paid the entry fees so why not keep going?

Driving home was a sad event. Our boys and their young friend Joseph, couldn’t believe the events of the day. Joseph seemed more upset than we were ourselves – how could it be that our beautiful alpaca hadn’t been recognised? We passed Russell’s place, Homestead Farm and explained to Joseph that out of all those many animals Russell had chosen some to show  – we only had one. A salutary moment.
 

 

 

 

 

Show Success

More shows were followed in quick succession. At Ellesmere Show she managed sixth place. We were on our way to learning lesson 3, ‘Each Judge sees things slightly differently’.

Ashburton winnerStill doubting the ‘whole show ring’ thing, the next show was unmissable - our home town of Ashburton. We just had to try this one as we had entered the children in the child handling class. We could not have foreseen the next chapter as we proceeded to win our class!

Thankfully kind Alpaca Folk explained to us we needed to go back into the ring – we weren’t sure what for. But we soon learnt that all the first placed young girls were being called back into the ring, for the judge to choose Champion and Reserve Champions. Amazingly, we went on to take the Reserve Champion title!

 

child handler

Child Handler and Sires Progeny

Could the day get any better? Unbelievably yes, as Gregory, our six year old, came second in his child handler class and Callum, aged 12, came fourth. Entering the children brought a whole new experience to going to an A & P show to us as a family. The boys were enthralled by the ‘taking part’ and seem to get bitten by the ‘showing’ bug.

Then, just as we were about to leave the grounds with a good old southerly wind encouraging us home, Nic from Southern Alpacas, ran after us – could we take our girl back in the ring with one of his boys? Um, okay, but whatever for? “Sires progeny” was the answer. What’s that you may well ask? Nic’s boy was a son of Brutus and our girl was a Brutus daughter. The class was around making a judgement about the stud’s offspring (progeny). It was a worthwhile trip into the ring; between us we came third. What a day it had turned out to be!

 

 

All the show ribbons
Owning Alpacas has brought a whole new meaning to our lives. Alpaca folk may be competitors in the ring, but are supportive friends outside of it. Our thanks go to Nic and Linda of Southern Alpacas and Russell of Homestead Farm, for keeping us focused. We extend our unending gratitude to the wonderful Brendon, Jay and Brenna of Waikara Park Alpacas who nurtured not only our show girl but us as well – with their time, knowledge and practical help in boarding and transporting our girl to the shows.

Alpaca Folk are truly wonderful – almost as much as the animals themselves! Take the plunge – buy some Alpaca and join a group of people who will restore your faith in humanity.

 
 

Postscript – So, what next?

The seduction of success in the ring would not blind us to the more important commitment to breeding a high quality animal for fibre. We are looking closely at our Return on Investment Strategy and determined to enjoy the show but keep our feet firmly on the ground, remembering all the lessons learnt.

2008 had indeed proved to be a year of ‘agony and ecstasy’.

 
 

Author Profile

Steve Lewis is, on his own admission, a novice in the alpaca world.

Having decided to make a significant lifestyle change after 14 years as a successful secondary school principal, he is enjoying the discovery of raising alpaca involving his family in the venture. 

He is looking for quality not quantity in his herd management, with a view to raising the profile of the industry whilst contributing to improve the breed.
 

Updated July 2009

Nic Cooper and Linda Blake
Main West Coast Road, West Melton, RD1, Christchurch, New Zealand
Phone 0064 3 318-1917 | fax 0064 3 318-1927 | email alpacasnz@xtra.co.nz