by Paul Burdziakowski
Those who attended the 2017 North American Alpaca Show (NAAS) from March 31 to April 2 were treated to not just one, but three separate events under the roof of the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA. The two additional shows included as part of this year’s package were the Northeast Alpaca Expo (NEAE) and the Bay State Small Breeders Blast (BSSBB).
NAAS show manager Scott Young says having three shows in one venue is the first of its kind for an alpaca show and allows exhibitors the unique opportunity to save a lot of time and money.
“We’re the first alpaca show in the country to do this,” Young said. “It gives exhibitors a chance to get more bang for their buck. It’s one trip, one hotel and one vet work document for exhibitors to deal with.”
Expansive and innovative ideas such as this is fast becoming the calling card for Young and his show partner Kevin O’Leary. Together they have organized over 54 alpaca shows across the country through their company, Alpaca Show Management Services. Over the years Young and O’Leary have been able to generate growing numbers at their venues.
There was a total of 98 exhibitors and 378 alpacas registered for the show. “We have more exhibitors than last year by about 25 but a few less animals,” Young said. “We had at least five farms with some conflicts this year but we also had more first time showers this year.”
The BSSBB, which is in its inaugural year, consisted of both a halter and walking fleece show. It is geared towards smaller alpaca farms who have less than 25 Alpaca Owners Association (AOA) registered female alpacas. The NAAS is now in its 17th year while the NEAE is in its seventh year. In the latter two shows, the alpacas which came away as champions of their respective classes were eligible to compete in the Judges Choice Competition for best overall in show.
Lynn Edens of Little Creek Farm in North Salem, NY was awarded the Judges Choice Award for the top female alpaca in both the NAAS and NEAE shows. Ian and Jennifer Lutz of Cas-Cad-Nac Farm in Perkinsville, VT were awarded the Judges Choice Award for the top male alpaca in both the NAAS and NEAE shows.
All three of this year’s shows were run in accordance with the current rules of the Alpaca Owners Association (AOA).
According to Young, competitive shows such as the NAAS offer good opportunities for alpaca owners to market their animals and get valuable feedback from judges.
“The more an alpaca wins the more it’s worth,” Young said. “A lot of people use shows like this as an evaluation method for their alpaca. The judges give farmers feedback on where their animals can be improved. Another reason is for marketing…It’s another way to get your name out there.”
Education and training also played a large part in this year’s show. Dr. Stephen Purdy, an adjunct associate professor of animal science at the University of Massachusetts and a NAAS seminar instructor for the last 10 years, led several free seminars throughout the show. His topics included breeding, herd health basics and a Nunoa Project update, which is an organization headed by Dr. Purdy which provides education and support for alpaca farmers, students and veterinarians in both the U.S. and Peru.
The seminars are designed to provide both new and experienced owners with information which helps to make their herd health and breeding management more efficient. Dr. Purdy and his fellow students help with the show in many other ways as well.
“Our function at the alpaca show is to provide assistance to the show management staff, to make the show run smoothly and to assist breeders with showing their animals,” Dr. Purdy said. “Students from the Nunoa Project get exposed to the business side of the alpaca industry. They work with the show judges as ring stewards and gate keepers lining up the animals for each class as the show advances. Owners also approach me looking for assistance on their farms for shearing their herds and as farm sitters when they are away.”
Dr. Purdy received much needed financial contributions this year through a special silent auction which was held during the show. Exhibitors were the ones to step up and donate a wide range of items for bidding which included gift baskets, artwork, alpaca products, rights to breed with high quality offspring, and reservations for a four-day farm stay. Approximately $3,300 was raised.
The success of the silent auction served as evidence alpaca farmers are willing to lend a helping hand where it is needed. At the same time alpaca farmers are always looking around to see where they can get the next source of income for their animals. Some, such as exhibitor Joseph Crocco of Millerton, NY, are fortunate enough to develop an elite champion breeding stock with individual male alpacas selling for an average of $25,000. Like most alpaca farmers Crocco also shears his animals and sells their valuable fiber for additional profit.
Alpacas are generally sheared only once annually and they can produce anywhere from seven to 10 pounds of fleece per year with an average price of $3 to $6 dollars a pound. In the past, only certain small level markets accepted alpaca fiber but today farmers can send their product to private mills, agricultural cooperatives or alpaca fiber processing solutions such as the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP).
Fiber processing solutions like the NEAFP pick up donated fiber from regional collection points before processing the fiber into products which are then sold back to alpaca farmers. Owner Shelley Riley gave further explanation on how this process works.
“They don’t sell it outright to us, they contribute it,” Riley said. “We take it as raw fiber straight off the animal and take it through to a finished product ready for sale. We sell these products back to the farmer at fiber pricing. It’s the best price they can get because they contribute fiber to the project and contribute a manufacturing fee. In turn they take those products and sell them at popup markets, on farm stores and online. That’s where alpaca famers realize their profit.”
For more information about The North American Alpaca Show visit their website at www.naalpacashow.com/NAAS .