Some 12 years ago, Liz and I were offered the opportunity to purchase land adjoining our cottage. With an offer accepted, we looked at each other, and the question was – what would be the best use of such fields? We both love animals, it clearly was an opportunity to look after some, yet my comment to Liz was: ‘I would prefer not to have to eat them, ride them or milk them!’……… Having lived in Peru for over 20 years, alpacas won the day!
Whilst familiar with the look of them, we certainly were not feeling up to speed with how to look after them! We visited our nearest breeder, and returned having bought a grey, a white, a brown, a fawn, a black and a full day one-to-one course………. We had no idea what we had started! It did not take long before we developed more definite ideas regarding what we liked. Jude Anderson, a highly experienced International Judge, invited me two years running to join her in checking all entries for the top US Show, the Kansas Futurity. An amazing experience and, of course, the opportunity to see the top US alpacas and to crystalise our preferences.
We eventually joined a syndicate bringing nine Snowmass alpacas from Idaho and, some years later, we set about importing a further 9 Snowmass champions. It took us well over a year to bring them over via New Zealand. I flew down under for two days, and managed to mate two of the males to a pair of females in the group– the two female offspring took part in their first UK show at barely 6 months, and each won their respective colour championship! They went on to win championships, including two Supremes and a Judge’s Choice.
Over the years, we have formed our own opinion regarding how we prefer to look after our alpacas. Rather than closed barns, they all have unhindered access to handsome shelters, very popular when the sun is beating down or during long spells of heavy rain. We can feed them under cover with dry troughs, yet they can go out to graze at will.
After ten very rewarding years with alpacas, I was pleased to join the BAS Board. A task of particular interest was to help put together a Breed Standard which could guide breeding goals, screening imports, etc. I am pleased that this process is now nearing completion following careful research and extensive exchanges with judges and other Board members. The expectation is for such document to undergo regular reviews as breeding techniques reach higher levels of sophistication with the help of EBVs alongside fleece improvements year-on-year.