Paul Hetherington – 19th April 2021

21 April 2021     British Alpaca Society     BAS Board

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.

Back in January we put in a planning application for a new shed after coming to the conclusion that, with around 70 births due this year, we wouldn’t have enough indoor space to comfortably fit in all the mothers and cria. Then we agreed to host a judges calibration in the new shed before any of the work had actually started. Nerves were getting tested as the date of the calibration loomed and the shed wasn’t finished. Thankfully everything came together in the end, the electrics were finished two days before and our shed builder was here at 7am on the morning of the calibration tidying up so everyone had somewhere to park their cars!

Calibration is an event where the judges get together to judge the same animals or fleeces then compare their results with each other. It’s not a pass or fail test – the purpose is to try and ensure judging is consistent whoever judges a show. If there is a difference in the placings between judges then they can discuss their reasoning. There will always be some variation between judges but the results should be generally in the right order with the better animals coming at the top of the order and the lesser towards the bottom.

A lot of work went on before the event to choose classes that would test the judges a little bit. We used a mixture of our own animals, and some from other herds, to put together classes that were representative of those likely to be seen at a show. Both Huacaya and Suri classes were put forward. Most of the classes were juniors or intermediates as the highest proportion of animals entered in halter shows come from these two age groups. Some single animal classes were put forward, the question being whether that animal should be awarded a first place or not and, if deemed worthy of a first place, whether a champion or not. Shorn fleeces were also judged and the scores compared. Any differences in the scores for each trait were discussed.

The calibration went well with some good discussion between the judges about the classes and individual animals and fleeces.

After the calibration we had a ‘day off’ and then we spent two days shearing. We used to shear around the end of May, just after the Northumberland show. Last year however, due the uncertainties of getting a shearer, we took an opportunity to shear in April and decided that was actually a much better time. Getting sheared before the birthing and mating season makes life so much easier. How many times previously did we have to crawl around trying to see if a cria was actually suckling on a fully fleeced dam or trying to see if the male had hit the target when mating – never mind the heat stress on the male when mating in full fleece.

When we booked the shearing date a few months ago we didn’t anticipate half an inch of snow and night time temperatures of minus three degrees on shearing day! Luckily we have enough field shelter space so everyone was locked in overnight with plenty of straw bedding and extra feed rations.

After a couple of days everyone had acclimatised. It’s quite amazing really to adjust from fully fleeced to shorn in such a short time.

So, it’s on to the birthing season, with 70 cria due over the summer, and 40 due in May alone, there’s going to be some busy days ahead!”