Monday, September 28, 2015

Soapbox time–light fawns

Non-alpaca readers, please feel free to move along, nothing to see here...

Time to be a bit controversial, pull out the soapbox and have a bit of a rant.

Caveat: Perry's personal opinion - not that of the Association and not necessarily shared by the rest of the tribe - they may agree but they're so sick of hearing me go on that they don't comment...

So, with that warning, let's talk about light-fawn alpacas (I can hear the groans from here...).

Now, we are, primarily, breeders of coloured animals: browns and fawns. We have a few nice blacks and some top whites but mostly, it's about the colours.

I like light-fawn animals, that pale shade with maybe a hint of apricot is very attractive and something that I really like to see in the herd.

I firmly believe that the show ring should reflect that...

Here's what the rules say though:

"An alpaca is to be shown in the appropriate colour class, when it is predominantly that colour. "

No problem there, agree completely, but it's immediately contradicted by:

"Animals with light fawn on the neck or backline should be entered and shown in the light fawn class."

And that's where I part company with the rules. As a result of this our light fawn classes have become a showplace for b-grade whites.

I'm terribly sorry, but if you have an animal with a pristine, snow-white fleece over 98% of its body and a tiny patch of fawn on the back of the neck, then what you have there is a, quite possibly very nice, colour-contaminated white, not a light-fawn.

And yes, I know about 'true-white' phenotypes but the truth is that they are about as common as hens' teeth and the majority of white animals shown in white classes would fail that test. As far as I'm concerned there is a stronger case for creating a new 'off-white' or 'mostly white' class than there is for shunting colour-contaminated animals in with the light fawns.

It's making a mockery of the colour classes, there have been many cases where the same animal is presented as light fawn in the ring and white in the fleece class. The public can't (with good reason) understand what they're seeing at shows and it's about time that we grew out of it and recognised light fawns for the unique class that they are rather than using the classification as a way to hoover up more ribbons for white animals that might not be able to cut it in their own class.

There, rant over. Thank you for humouring me, I feel better now and promise not to mention it again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

And so it begins...

Saturday saw the first shearing job of the season over at Strathalbyn. A gentle start to the year with 41 animals at three farms.

The way it’s looking it seems likely that we’ll clear 2000 head this year for the first time at well over 100 properties in South Australia (and a handful in NSW on the way back from a trip).

I always have mixed feelings about shearing – it’s hard work and it takes us away from the property where there’s so much to do but, on the other hand, there’s no better way to get out and about, meeting owners and seeing a huge range of animals and farming operations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What are these things with short necks?

Sorry, couldn’t help getting all artistic…

And suddenly, we've got sheep. We never intended to have sheep, it just happened that way.

A few months ago we sold a package of female alpacas to a couple that wanted to change away from the Wiltipolls that they currently kept on their property, As part of the deal we agreed to take four pregnant ewes in part exchange.

It’s all part of our aim here to be as self sufficient as possible; while we’re certainly not eco-activists, we do care about knowing where our food comes from and how it’s raised.

So now the first two have given birth and we have spring-loaded lambs bouncing around one of the home paddocks. They do, of course have their own, personal alpaca guard – woe betide the fox that tries anything, I wouldn’t argue with her.

Got to admit that they are cute but I’m not going to get too attached – we have to remember what they’re here for.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

You want them halter trained by WHEN????


We’re getting towards the tail end of the showing season here, just two more to go before shearing and mating starts in earnest.

Tomorrow is Strathalbyn Show (it’s a public holiday weekend here). Strath is one of my favourites – it’s our closest for a start, only about 40 minutes from the farm gate. It’s a great, traditional, country agricultural show, a real family event with a well supported alpaca show.

This year we’re taking a team mostly made up of juniors on their first outing. So, less than 24 hours away and guess how many have had a halter on before?

And there’s a suri to do… We like a challenge.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Compost, compost everywhere



I’ve had enough of organic fertaliser…

Look, I know it’s great for the land; I know it’s environmentally friendly and will result in sufficient good karma to reduce the chances of me being reincarnated as a sea slug or reality tv contestant but I’m fed up of eating, breathing and wearing the stuff.

Three tonnes of Neutrog Rapid-Riser and a week or so later and I can say that it was probably worth all the hard, smelly work.

But what I want to know, what I really want to know is why my younger, fitter son gets to run the slasher from the big tractor with the comfy, air-conditioned cab while I get the spreader and the 50 year old, bone-shaking MF135?

Maybe the good karma isn't working immediately...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Composite and Production Classes

An interesting development as we move ever closer to recognition as a 'proper' emerging agricultural industry is the growth of Production or Composite classes at shows.
We had our first go at the Royal Adelaide Show this year. I'd call it a success, we put in three animals, got two firsts and a second and took home the overall trophy and broad ribbon for the event.
So, for anyone unfamiliar, how does it work?
Well, judging is a three stage process. Stage one is just like normal halter classes (though, in this case, there was no separation by colour, just by age and gender), the animals presented are judged on the same overall criteria as a normal show and points are awarded. Stage two sees the animals being shorn, the fleeces skirted and presented to the judge as a fleece exhibit.
In the final stage the animal is judged without fleece on with the points being awarded for conformation and structure.
Personally, I really like these classes for three reasons: first is that it concentrates on the commercial side of things, something that I want to see encouraged. Second and, more selfishly, it allows recognition of some animals that we would not enter in the main event; in this case a top girl with a damaged ear from an injury (perfectly within the rules to enter I know, but not a good look) and an ex-champion white male that has developed a small fawn spot. The third and probably most important reason is that, at a public show like the Royal, it is such a draw card - the visitors love it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A new sideline?

We’re heading towards the end of the show season: a fairly quiet one by our standards but still a few things to be excited about – more about that in a later post.
But here’s something I wasn’t expecting to win – Champion photo at the Nationals!
It loses a bit shrunk down to blog size…
It wasn’t a planned photograph, just one of those ‘Kodak Moments’ and a few minutes in Photoshop.
What I really wasn’t prepared for though have been the offers to buy prints. Maybe there’s something in this?
Hey! I've just noticed, this is my 100th blog posting.