Sunday, April 4, 2010


Now, looking over what I've written in the last post, it might seem inconsistent that we were happy with Cav's 4th place but disappointed with Greyt's 4th. This has more to do with our own expectations than the actual number. When an animal places where we expect them too, or better than we expect, we feel like we know what we are doing. When they place lower than we think they should have, we need to seek reasons for why. We want to know what we need to do to improve them.

I'd love to get 1st out of all our animals, but I know that not every one of them is up to that challenge. It would be near impossible to have every baby ever born on your farm be 1st place quality. Even the big ribbon winning champs who produce incredible cria sometimes have a dud. The big farms take maybe 10% of their animals to a show. They can expect 1st out of that %. Many of the big farms don't take animals they don't think can get 1st. If we took 10% of our animals, we'd be taking 1 animal. I know our best one right now is Pocahontas. If we took just her, we'd be getting 100% 1st place :) Instead of taking just 10% of our animals, we take all the show age ones (juvi's, yearlings and the occasional 2+ male, such as taking Greyt this year, and Tucker last year).

We not only use shows to place in ribbons, but also to hear the judges reasoning for the placement. We take the judges comments into account in assessing our animals. We constantly evaluate our animals at our farm. We ask alpaca owners we know to come and see our animals and give an honest evaluation. We've had some say we might not want them in our pen because they will be honest. We explain that we want them to be honest. We need to hear the good and the bad so we know what we are doing well and what we aren't. We also need to know any faults a specific animal may have so that we can address those in breeding, so we aren't repeating the problem in the next generation. When we look at our animals, we try to evaluate where they could place in a show. We examine their faults, they all have them, and assess what we think is possible in the show ring. We take into account what other alpaca owners have said and what feedback we have gotten at previous shows from judges. This gives us an idea of what we can expect out of an animal at the show.

When we were standing in the ring for Produce of Dam for Victoria and then for Get of Sire for Smokey, we found ourselves shaking our head yes to everything the judge was saying. We have already had those thoughts. It helps to have them confirmed, it makes us think we know something about what we are doing :) This industry can be difficult in that there is always something new to learn. If you aren't learning something new, your program might be stalling out. A farm that does well at shows is always progressing. We use feedback we get at a show (through what the judge says and what fellow alpaca breeders say) to give us a sense of our animals. When a judge and fellow alpaca owners say what we have already thought on an animal, it helps us know that we are doing well in our own assessment of that animal. If they say something we haven't already heard or thought about, we take time to assess that new information. I don't agree with everything I have ever heard about all of our animals, but I do take all comments into account.

I would say at every show we go to, I find there is something pretty big we learn. At the Ohio show, one thing we learned is that we are shearing our cria too early (as noted in the previous post). Another thing that really struck me was the advancement in grey alpacas. When we first got into the industry alpaca breeders would jump for joy when they had a grey alpaca born. Just having one was a thrill! And there were so few of them, you could take them to a show and get 1st and 2nds. In the beginning the grey fiber didn't even really have crimp, but they could still do well in the show ring. I remember one breeder saying that their grey really wasn't that good, but was getting 1st and 2nds because this animal was often the only one in it's class. Thankfully they knew that this animal wasn't that good and did not plan on using it has a herd sire. Sure now it's still a thrill to have a grey born (especially if you are breeding for grey), but the greys now need to have good fiber. Greys not only have crimp and bundling now, but we noticed this newer group of greys are adding fineness, with less guard hair than they used to have. In just the short time we've been in the industry greys have advanced a lot. What used to pass for a good grey is now outdated.

I haven't had time to sort out my thoughts from the Indiana show, so I can't verbalize what specifically we learned there. It usually takes me a few days to soak in everything we experienced at the show.

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