Sunday 28 June 2015

Fleece and field - all baled up.

Watching the rain fall this morning, with a warm glow of satisfaction, as we got the hay in last night. A good day of hot sun yesterday, burnt off fridays' rainfall, and I mustered help from local friends to lighten the load.
We've only one alpaca left to shear now, and we'll do that before this weeks heatwave, then we can get on with a few matings. Following shearing, the herd have gone from the cuddly 'fluffy teddy-bear' look, to animals of elegance and grace.
Scrumpy, before;
Scrumpy, after;
Apple Vale Golden Delicious, with her cria, Flamenco - both just shorn;
Florina, Fiesta, Elstar and Fortune, post-shearing;

Friday 5 June 2015

"Give me a couple of seconds" - Royal Bath & West Show 2015

Apple Vale Fortune sire: CCNF Talon of C.M.E
The Royal Bath &; West Show was the location for the South West Alpaca Group (SWAG) 2015 show. We had been given a new location on the site, not quite on the fringe as before, but without the large canvas marquee that had housed all the pens and the show-ring in previous years, provided by the show Society. This had given the organiser Di Davies several challenges, particularly in terms of layout, shelter and economics. Assisted by our Chairman, Mark Steele, a plan was hatched, modest marquees were purchased by SWAG, and breeders were encouraged from far and wide to show their pedigree alpacas, 180 in total - some travelled from Wales, East Anglia, the Home Counties, and Cornwall - a tribute to the status of the show in the alpaca breeders calender, and to the tenacity and hard work of Di, Mark and others.

I had been 'invited' to be part of the set-up team, erecting the marquees, setting-out animal pens and other stuff necessary to put on a livestock show - I assumed that I had been invited partly due to my well-honed physique, muscular and lean (pot-belly excepted), the body I wished I had twenty years ago, and belying my true age - a physique gained from the outdoor life that comes with alpaca farming - it was a chance to refresh the skills learned in the Scouts, and for male bonding - I was led to believe that the team would be 'strong, mobile, fast, multi-talented and a charismatic group of volunteers' - I wanted to be part of that - we were lured by the possibility of 'some general all-in wrestling in order to warm up' - we were enticed to think of the 'satisfaction, pride and camaraderie...but that tears may be spilt at the end' - I was prepared to take the rough with the smooth. What I hadn't considered, was that the day before we were to assemble, I was struck by a stomach virus that hit full force the night before, and there was no way I could be more than 5 metres from a lavatory for the next 36 hours.

Fortunately, it was all over by the days I was showing alpacas in the ring, and I was able to fulfill my committment to help with the breakdown of marquees and stacking hurdles on the final day - hopefully Mark's suggestion of 'Squitty Dave' as a nickname won't last.......

On Day One, rain arrived along with those of us arriving in the morning - it became torrential for a while - the gazebo had been water-proofed and so most of the rain ran off quite well, but the rain was so heavy that a fine spray was forced through - fortunately, I had brought our battery-driven cooling fans, and we were able to dry off the alpacas. Greys and blacks were judged inside the marquee - a cosy, but damp affair. The rain disappeared, so that by the time the browns were showing, the show went outside. . We then had a junior brown female (Apple Vale Florina) with a lovely soft, fine fleece, in a class of 4 entries, however, disappointingly she was the only one turn up on the day. She was awarded second place, which I understood, as her fleece is lacking in character and density, but was disappointed that in summing-up the judge placed more emphasis on the negative than the positive traits, of which there are several - hey,ho - she was literally, 'second to none'. We then had a junior fawn male, followed by a junior fawn female in the ring, both of whom have reasonable but not stunning fleeces, and we weren't surprised to pick up rosettes near the poorer end of the line.
Moved up to second place...but will we stay there?

Day Two dawned with better weather in prospect. Apple Vale Fortune found himself in a class of ten, of which all turned up! Great, a real competitive class. We were in the middle of the line-up - they enter from youngest to oldest, and he was in the middle of the age range. After the first round of assessment, the judge started to sort into placings - we were moved up into second place, but I thought this was an 'approximate' place and was ready to be shuffled back a bit. I was flabbergasted to find that was our final place, and Fortune was awarded second place in a class of ten. RESULT!

What a difference a 'couple of seconds' can make!
Yess! second place rosette being presented by apprentice judge Jo Bridge.

Further to my summary of the Devon County Show, we did find that possibly the best place to get a mobile 'phone signal, is in the show-ring! well at least that was true for Andy.........perhaps his white coat improved reception!

Having, cleared away our pens and pitch, taking coffe cups to the bins, I was amazed at how many more coffee cups I found when clearing out the car and trailer at home.

Now the come down - showing is over for us this year - four hectic weeks in we must concentrate on shearing and matings.
With thanks to Scott Stevens for the photographs.