Sunday, 30 March 2008

First Alpaca Show of the Year

This weekend started off very early. Mike reminded me that the clocks need to be put forward which we did.

We spent some time on Friday preparing for the South West Alpaca Group Show at the Bristol Sales Centre.

I have a check list which we run through prior to shows - we clean the horse box (which we use for transporting our animals) pack the white coats which are compulsory when competing in any livestock show, make sure there is a halter and leading rein for each alpaca, take safety pins, string, knife, advertising leaflets and posters, hay and haynets, water containers, poop scoop etc:

We set the alarm for 3.45 a.m. as I wanted to make a 5 a.m. start! The alpacas have to be in their pens and ready for a vet check between 7.30 a.m. and 9.a.m. but you have to allow for loads of people unloading their animals and manoevering stock boxes everywhere, so it pays to arrive early so you can unload near a door and get your animals settled in to their pens in plenty of time. You have to fill up their water troughs, set up the hay nets, put straw down and generally attend to their well being before collecting your schedule, numbers to go round their necks and a list of the times estimated for the classes (which is usually vastly different to the actual times). As I was showing mainly inexperienced alpacas (plus I had fallen behind in my halter training) I was not sure how long it would take to load them into the horse box. As it happens it was fine.

The vet then checks the alpacas for any signs of ill health, parasites etc: and confirms their identity by checking the microchip. A steward accompanies him or her to verify that the alpaca is entered for the right class in terms of colour, age and sex.

I was surprised that I was one of the first to arrive, and soon found the reason was that we had put our clocks forward a day early. I spoke to Mike later to tell him and he excused himself because he thought Friday was Saturday!!

The weather was apalling all day on Saturday but we had an enjoyable time despite that. I did not win anything with my alpacas until the last class of the day when Laurel's Don Alvara, a small black male was awarded a fourth place rosette in his class.

I now have a lovely group of alpaca people friends and although some people stayed the night at the venue in their vans or brought camper vans, I shared a room at a nearby Travelodge with Lynsey Skinner who breeds alpacas near Honiton. We have become good friends and when not showing, had a good time laughing, talking and sharing information.

The event was very sociable with a well used canteen which served hot food and drinks all day.

Today, Sunday, dawned and was lovely and bright and sunny. Lynsey had set her mobile phone alarm for 7 ensure we had plenty of time to get back to the venue and feed the alpacas, muck out and get to the canteen for breakfast before the morning rush. I thought it seemed quite dark for 7 a.m. even allowing for the clock change. Sure enough when we checked with the television we found that once again we were up an hour early. Lynsey' phone was self adjusting and she had also adjusted it manually!!!

We both had some older alpacas to show but were feeling a little deprived because all the rosettes seemed to be going to the big breeders who have a lot of animals in their herds and so obviously have more chance of producing prize winners.

We soon had smiles on our faces, however, when Lynsey's intermediate male won his class and my intermediate brown male, Laurel's Don Pedro also had a win.

We helped each other to load up and set of home with smiles on our faces. I sang along with the radio all the way home. Luckily noone else could hear!!

The alpaca crew were delighted to see grass and sunlight again, but equally delighted to gallop in to the barn when they heard the feed bin rattle at bedtime followed by the familiar call of "Paca paca pacas" meaning that feeding time has arrived. For more information about shows and alpacas in general

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