A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

February 21, 2009

Alpaca Fiber – Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

That’s the theme for the Alpaca Fiber Symposium, which will be held April 3, 4 and 5 at Gaston College Textile Center in Belmont, North Carolina.

 

I love the theme for this Symposium as it expresses how far we have come with the focus on the fiber side of the alpaca industry.   When the alpaca industry was first established in the US the focus was definitely on breeding stock with little to no attention being given to the fiber side of the industry.  At that time alpaca breeders were interested in growing and improving the national herd.

 

Over the years we have witnessed the gradual change of focus within the alpaca industry.  The focus on improving and development of the national herd is still there, but now as the numbers of both alpaca breeders and alpacas in the US swells more attention has been given to the fiber side of the industry, and quite rightly so.

 

We are often asked by people researching the alpaca industry if it is going to follow the direction of the llama, emu and ostrich industries, all of which eventually collapsed causing the pricing of llama, emu and ostrich to bottom out.

 

My answer to that question is that the alpaca industry has studied what happened in the llama, emu and ostrich industries, learned from their mistakes and taken steps to ensure that the alpaca industry does not follow suit.  One of the biggest steps that has been taken is the development of the alpaca fiber industry. 

 

In any livestock business you have to have a purpose and an end product to market and sell.  While alpacas themselves could be considered an end product, the real end product of the alpaca industry lies in the beautiful fleece our alpacas produce year after year.

 

It’s not been an easy path, there have been mistakes along the way, no doubt there will be more mistakes in the future, but gradually the alpaca industry has put more attention on the fiber side of the business, developing product, improving processing techniques and educating consumers in the wonders of alpaca products and the availability of alpaca products made from North American alpaca fiber.

 

The Alpaca Fiber Symposium has a variety presenters including the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA), The Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North American (AFCNA), The Alpaca Blanket Project, North American Alpaca Fiber Producers (NAAFP) and more.  Keynote speakers will be Dean Godfrey of North Carolina University’s College of Textiles and John Anderson, the Director of the Textile Center at Gaston College, Belmont, North Carolina.

 

To me this is an exciting time in the world of alpacas, there are many things going on behind the scenes to develop and promote North American alpaca fiber and the products that can be made from alpaca fiber.  Where once it was said that there was not enough alpaca fiber in the US to run commercial mills, we now have commercial mills producing runs of product made of alpaca fiber and that, to me, is a significant step for the alpaca fiber industry. 

 

Many of the people involved in this development have devoted numerous hours of their time to ensure the future success of the alpaca fiber industry, a subject that they are passionate about.  Several of those “alpaca fiber pioneers” will be at or represented at the Alpaca Fiber Symposium where they will get the chance to share news of their efforts with attendees.

 

The Alpaca Fiber Symposium promises to be an interesting event, not only for alpaca breeders new and old but also for those contemplating purchasing alpacas who want a more in depth explanation of the history of the development of the alpaca fiber industry and where the future lies for the alpaca fiber industry.

 

Rosemary

January 21, 2009

Getting the young folks involved

 

The Alpaca Breeders and Owners Association recently announced the formation of the AOBA Youth Association.

 

Years ago when we first joined AOBA the Paca Pac Club was in existence.  I must admit we didn’t pay too much attention to the Paca Pac Club, as we didn’t have small children to keep entertained at shows.  It seemed as if the Paca Pac Club mainly went into action at the Annual Conference and its purpose was to provide something for children to do while their parents showed alpacas and attended seminars.

 

Not too long after we had joined AOBA the Paca Pac Club was fazed out.  The exhibitors did not utilize it, perhaps because at that time the majority of alpaca owners were past the age of having small children around (I’m trying to be diplomatic here about the average age of alpaca owners in the 1990’s)

 

Looking back at the Spring 1999 edition of Alpacas Magazine, I see there was an announcement of the 1st Annual Writing Contest for Children.  I’m not aware that there was ever a 2nd Annual Writing Contest for Children so I am not sure what happened to that venture.  (I have always told Ric that I would need to refer to those old magazines one day, today’s the day and how interesting to look back on how things were then!)

 

These days we have younger families owning alpacas and joining AOBA.  Some of the families already have children, others still have that part of their lives to come (maybe) but there are definitely more young faces at alpaca shows and events these days.  There are also children who do not own alpacas but are very interested in learning about them.

 

Hence the time seems right for the formation of a Youth Division.

 

The AOBA Youth Division (AYA) website states:

 

The AYA will work with all youth organizations such as 4H, FFA, scouts to form AOBA’s premier youth association.

 

Components of AYA will provide opportunities to learn more about alpacas, participate in youth shows; learn to become our future alpaca breeders, leadership training and development and top notch education.”

 

 

To learn more about AYA then check out their website at http://www.aobayouthassociation.com   There you can register your child to be a member, learn more about the initial focus of the group and read about member benefits (did someone mention scholarships?).  Bear in mind that the AYA is still in the development stage, if you are already an AOBA member you should receive emails regarding the progress of AYA, if you are not an AOBA member it will be worth checking back to the website on a regular basis to keep updated with the activities of AYA.

 

It will be interesting to see the AYA develop, the alpaca industry has always professed to be very much family oriented and so to create more youth involvement in the world of alpacas is a good thing.

 

Rosemary

September 15, 2008

It’s Back! The Second National Alpaca Farm Days Is Almost Here

2008 National Alpaca Farm Days Poster

2008 National Alpaca Farm Days Poster

For the second year the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) has coordinated National Alpaca Farm Days in order to increase the public’s awareness of alpacas.  For alpaca owners, alpaca lovers and those who have yet to meet an alpaca National Alpaca Farm Day’s provides an easy opportunity to find an alpaca farm or ranch to visit.

 

The date for this year’s event is September 27 and 28 and once again the National Alpaca Farm Days web site has been set up, complete with interactive map to help people find the nearest participating farm or ranch.    Once you get to the National Alpaca Farm Days web site at www.nationalalpacafarmdays.com just click on the “Find a Farm Near You” tab on the left hand side of the screen and the interactive map will appear, complete with search fields for you to enter.  You can enter just the state you wish to visit, the town you live in or even a specific farm name if there is a particular farm you wish to visit.  Do note that the interactive map comes up as a pop-up screen so if you have a pop-up blocker installed on your computer you will need to temporarily disable it.

 

Windrush Alpacas will again be taking part in National Alpaca Farm Days and will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 27.  We will have free refreshments, tours of the farm, educational presentations on alpacas, alpaca products and of course plenty of opportunity to meet an alpaca.  I can’t say for sure that we will have any new crias by then, but you never know!

 

So mark your calendars and come and visit us on September 27, we will look forward to seeing you then!

 

Rosemary

July 24, 2008

Coming this September to an alpaca farm near you

National Alpaca Farm Days will again take place this year.  The dates have been set for September 27 and 28 and the publicity is ramping up for the event.  Last year many farms reported lots of visitors during National Alpaca Farm Days and this year we hope the response will be the same.

 

National Alpaca Farm Days was created to have one weekend when alpaca farms all over the US are open to the public in order to have a concentrated effort to introduce people to alpacas, alpaca products and the alpaca lifestyle.  It is up to individual farms to decide the times they will be open and if they want to be open both days, one day or not open at all.

 

We will be open for National Alpaca Farm Days on the Saturday (September 27) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., we are also planning on having an Open Farm Day on September 6 so that will be two times during the month of September that people can visit the farm.

 

In preparation for the event we have started to order alpaca products for our store and will be working on press releases and other publicity.

 

For alpaca breeders who are members of the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) there is information on the AOBA members website www.alpacaowners.com on to how to sign up for the event.  You will need your user name and password to log in, but once you are logged in the sign up process is easy and there are several informational documents to help you get started in publicizing the event in your area.

 

The National Alpaca Farm Days website www.nationalalpacafarmdays.com for now has a temporary static page set up, but come September 1st the page will feature an interactive map listing participating farms contact information and pinpointing where each participating farm is located.

 

So if you are looking to pay us a visit, mark you calendar for either our Open Farm Day on September 6 or National Alpaca Farm Days on September 27 and we will look forward to seeing you then!

 

Rosemary

February 26, 2008

Still Playing Catch Up

There is still work to be done as a result of the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  Judges and volunteers expenses need to be paid, mail in fleeces need to be shipped back to their owners and then there is the end of show report to prepare for the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA).  So that will be my task for today so that I can put the show “to bed” until next year, but then again ………

You see the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular Show Committee is already working on the planning for next years show!  The conference calls will be starting up again shortly, with the first one being a chance to recap what went well and what needs to be improved on for next year.

Many exhibitors while understanding that a show takes a lot of planning perhaps don’t understand just how much planning it does take.  In reality the cogs that make the show work never stop and there is always something going on to make the show run smoothly the following year.

Fortunately for me once my show report has been turned in there is not too much that has to be done for next year’s show until closer to the show date.  The judges for next year are already under consideration and once they have been contracted I get a little breathing space.  There are some minor changes that need to be made to the show forms and some supplies that are required that I need to get while they are still fresh in my memory.

For the Event Coordinator though it is a different matter, and our Event Coordinator Sandy Steffy of Whisper Soft Alpacas is ready to get things moving in order to make next year’s show a success.   Sandy is a hard worker and has that lovely persuasive charm that many people from the Southern States have.  It’s hard to say “no” to Sandy as she sweet talks you in her lovely Louisiana lilt!

I was very impressed with Sandy during the recent TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular, she was easily found throughout the event, she checked on the various show managers often and anything you needed she organized quickly.  Not once did I see her flustered and always she was pleasant to all she met.  I know by Sunday Sandy had to have been ready to drop, but she never once let it show.  I will look forward to working with Sandy in the next year.

So the show “catch up” will go on, although a little like a cat that chases it’s tail I am not sure that we ever really will get completely caught up, but that’s just the nature of the beast isn’t it?

Rosemary   

December 29, 2007

A Nice Surprise In The Mail

AOBA Certificate of Appreciation  Yesterday’s mail contained a large stiff white envelope addressed to me from the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA).  I wasn’t really expecting anything from AOBA but it is the time of year when we receive calendars and other promotional items in the mail from companies that we have done business with throughout the year.  So I thought maybe the envelope contained something of that nature.

Upon opening the envelope I was greeted with a Certificate of Appreciation and a lovely handwritten note from Margie Ault of the Judges Training Certification Committee (JTCC).  The Certificate of Appreciation was for my volunteering at the Oral Reasons Clinic in Shawnee, Oklahoma in October and the note from Margie was a thank you note.

It would have been too easy for AOBA just to continue business without giving too much thought to saying thank you to the volunteers who took part at the Oral Reasons Clinic.  Too often these days organizations are so busy that the little things that make the difference are neglected or forgotten, but on this occasion AOBA made the extra effort to recognize their volunteers and that gesture means a lot.

To me volunteering is always a two way street.  The organization that needs the volunteers reaps the benefits of the volunteers’ time and skills, and the volunteers usually come away from their volunteer experience having learned something new and with a greater appreciation of the work the organization does.

AOBA has historically relied on volunteers to keep the wheels of the organization turning.  It has only been in latter years that paid positions have become more common in AOBA.  The paid positions are necessary and ensure that the organization runs smoothly, after all there is a limit to the amount of time that anyone can volunteer (although I may add that there are many volunteers within AOBA who devote large amounts of their time and effort and appear to have a bottomless pit of volunteer spirit and to those people we should all be grateful).

I thoroughly enjoyed my time volunteering at the Oral Reasons Clinic.  Was it work?  Most definitely yes, but it was work that was rewarded with a lot of learning and the chance to experience just a part of what our AOBA Judges go through to obtain or maintain their certification.   My experience also gave me a greater appreciation for the work our AOBA Judges do, it is not an easy job and while the judges are paid they earn every penny of that payment during the course of an alpaca show.  Let’s face it without trained, skilled judges where would our show system be?

My Certificate of Appreciation and Thank You note will be proudly displayed in my office and to AOBA, Margie Ault and the JTCC I say thank you for taking the time to show your appreciation, it really does mean a lot.

Rosemary

October 4, 2007

Back Home Following a Great Experience

I arrived back at home Tuesday evening after a long day and a long drive.  I was up at 5 a.m. Central Time (4 a.m. Mountain Time) that morning and so was ready to just relax once I made it home, of course I first had to get smothered by the dogs who were happy to see me and check on the alpacas.  Carissima and Zeus ran up to me while the rest of the herd contentedly chewed their cud, everyone looked good and Carissima and Zeus decided to entertain me with some cria races, which Velvet, Blast and Athena decided to join. 

The Compliance Check Clinic in Shawnee, Oklahoma was a great experience, very educational and a good opportunity to discuss various show situations with other alpaca breeders at the clinic.  It was also wonderful to meet Connie Alexander, the AOBA Show Division Administrator, in person.  Ric and I have both talked to Connie numerous times on the phone and so it was great to finally meet her in person.  Connie is dedicated to her job and has always impressed us with her knowledge of the AOBA Show Rules.  It was apparent from Connie’s class that part of the reason for her success at her job is that she loves the work she is doing.  Thank you Connie for a great class! 

Volunteering at the Judges Oral Reasons Clinic was a great experience.  Watching the judges taking part in the education process gave us volunteers a greater appreciation for all that an AOBA Show Judge goes through to obtain their certification.  We also started to appreciate how tiring the work of an alpaca show judge can be.  We only had to stand with alpacas through Monday afternoon and part of Tuesday morning and we were more than ready to take a break on both days.  An alpaca show judge is usually on his or her feet for two full days of judging, not only standing but making decisions about the alpacas in the class and then deciding on the oral reasons that they are going to give to the exhibitors and audience for the placement of the alpacas.  It must take a lot of stamina both mentally and physically to judge an alpaca show, and alpaca owners should all be thankful that there are individuals who willingly take on that task.   

My days away while busy were most enjoyable and educational, and I will volunteer to assist at a Judges Training Clinic again if I have the opportunity. 

On our daily Zeus update the little devil did not gain much weight yesterday, his energy levels are still good and he had a good chase around the pasture with Carissima last night.  It may be that he didn’t think to nurse from Carina while she was busy eating her alfalfa the day before.  I think little Zeus is going to be a constant challenge until we can get him eating some grain and hay, but I am confident that we will get him through this.  We have a lot of tools in our toolbox of ideas and we will just keep trying to ensure he gains weight.  Last night I was encouraged to see him nibbling on a little of the alfalfa, which will add a few more calories to his daily intake.  I think having Carissima around is a real benefit to Zeus, he watches her and follows her lead on so many things, perhaps without her he would not have started to nibble on hay yet, and he certainly would not have had Carina to steal milk from! 

It was good to see that Ric was able to figure out the intricacies of updating the blog, he did such a good job in my absence I think I can plan on taking more days away from the farm – somehow I think he may not agree with my on that point! 

Rosemary

October 1, 2007

AOBA Judges Training

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Shows — Tags: , , , , , , , , — alpacalady @ 12:15 pm

Rosemary is still away on her training course and volunteering for the first ever AOBA Judges training course held in Oklahoma.  The much-anticipated judges training event is an absolute must for AOBA to ensure the high quality of certified judges.  The training each judge completes to become certified as an AOBA judge is extremely comprehensive.  The applicants are normally screened and must have been in the alpaca industry for a specified length of time.  The judges in training then go through a solid three days of textbook and hands-on practical experience.  The judges are trained in fleece, conformation, comments, minor faults major faults, and serious faults, and many other areas of observation as they systematically single out the best animal from second, second from third and so on.  The training also includes hands on with the fleece as well as with the animals themselves.  The judges in training must pass this course with a fairly accuracy score.

 

            Before the judges can be certified as AOBA judges each apprentice must then attend a specified number of level II, level III, level IV or level V shows working in the ring alongside a certified training judge.  The apprentice may discuss different aspects of each animal but the certified judge makes the final decision on animal placement in the show ring.  The training judge will then write a lengthy report on the apprentice performance in the ring and that is turned and evaluated by the AOBA show division.  Once the apprentice has satisfactorily completed all aspects of show apprenticing both in halter and in fleece then the show committee can award the new judge his or her certification as an AOBA judge.  This entire process can take up to three years or longer to complete.

 

            The next time you’re in the show ring feel confident that the judge has taken a lot of time and effort on his or her part to be there judging your animals with confidence.

 

            Life here at Windrush has gotten back into routine of getting chores completed fixing fence and completing the multiple jobs that seem to pop up every day on any farm.

 

            Today I will be challenged to get all the chores completed, check on all the animals to make sure everything is OK and get ready to go to my other job by 8:45.  I sometimes accept opportunities to substitute teach in our local school district and I accepted the challenge of teaching a high school class today so I will let you know how it goes tomorrow.

 

            Just a quick note to let everyone know little Zeus gained weight again yesterday, not as much as I would have liked but every gain is a good sign.  Last night when I checked on the animals before going to bed Zeus was playing King of the Hill and standing on the mound as he frolicked around the pasture.  I think he must take after Rosemary and is turning into a night owl, as all the rest of the animals were settled in for the night.

  

Ric

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