In the dead of winter, it may seem like the Alpaca show season is a long way off. But the time goes quickly and there is much that needs to be done in preparation. At a time most traditionally used for making New Year's resolutions and plans to make improve one's self, we focus on making plans for our next show season and look for ways to make it better than the last.
The first order of business is to assess the new crop of cria and determine who is in the running for inclusion on the 'show team.' And re-evaluate last year's team to weed out any who are no longer good choices, either because of age, breeding status, or quality. Once we decide which alpacas are going to make up this year's show team, we determine which shows in which they will qualify for participation. For instance, are they too young, is their fleece long enough for full fleece, are they registered.
With our show team stats defined, we then map out a year plan outlining the specific shows we plan to attend, the specific animals participating per show, and estimate our total cost for our year's show season.
Below is an outline of usual activities and tasks that are helpful in preparing for an upcoming show.
Most shows send out notice of the upcoming show about 3 months in advance. They usually have an early bird registration period, providing some discounts in cost. It is wise to apply as soon as possible, since it is increasingly more difficult to get into shows if you wait beyond this date. You will be asked to supply ARI#, name, age, color, sex, microchip#, photocopy of ARI certificate, Permission to Show Form (for animals you don't actually own), and of course payment. At this time you will also request the specific number of stalls you require and any electric outlets needed. You might also consider making your hotel reservation at this time, as they too can fill up. And though sleeping in the alpaca trailer IS an option, it is not advised!
Begin training those alpacas new to the show team. We usually start with just getting them used to wearing the halter. The idea is to not do too much at any one time. 10-15 minutes per alpaca per day is plenty.
If possible, move your show team to the cleanest paddock or pen that you have. You should already have good husbandry practices, which keep your alpacas relatively clean. But inevitably they will get some straw, hay, or other debris stuck in their fleece. And if you are just coming out of winter, your alpacas will most likely get wet and muddy. So daily care to remove debris is a good thing to begin in earnest now. But do bare in mind, these are farm animals not house pets, or beauty pageant participants. Do not go over board with the grooming as this is not necessary, and at a certain point borders on unethical and against show rules.
Plan your show display. Do you have a banner, if not it is a great way to get your farm noticed. A 4x8 banner is a standard size that is usually hung behind and above your stall. Of course you need to determine how you will hang it, PVC, wood, or other? Do you have business cards or brochures? A business card is essential. Past years' ribbons and banners are also great items to include in your display. Be creative. Besides your animals, this is one of the most effective ways to distinguish yourself.
Your halter training should be in high gear now, especially if you plan to participate in performance classes. Most people concentrate on the 'leading portion' of training. And then exalt when they succeed in getting their previously stubborn, cria to walk with them. But this is just the beginning. Yes a judge will evaluate your alpaca as he walks around the ring. But they will finalize their decision with a hands-on evaluation. Therefore, you should be working to get your alpaca accustomed to being touched all over. In halter classes, judges will ask you to reveal your alpacas bite; they will be inspecting its fleece along the back, neck, tail and down the legs. And of course, they will need to check under the hood to see that all working parts are as they should be. Meaning, the alpaca is in deed the correct gender as identified by the class, and their genitals appear normal.
Schedule Vet Visit:
If you have not already done this, make sure you do it now, particularly if your vet has a large number of alpaca clients. In order to participate in most any livestock show, animals must have a CVI (Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.) Each show determines the health requirements of attending animals based on state laws. You will need to tell your vet the name, date and location of the show you plan to attend. You should let her know how many alpacas she will be examining, and when you plan to leave or have the alpacas transported. The transport date is very important, as this will need to be indicated on the travel papers. Note that these papers are generally good only for 30 days. So do not schedule your vet visit to far in advance of the actual show date.
Continue with your care and inspection as detailed above.
Do a dry run of your show display. Make sure your banner set up is functional and additional items work together. We often set up our own practice stall using our alpaca panels and set up the display as we have planned it. We then can see what needs to be improved, moved, added or taken away. For instance, do you have enough chairs, do you need a table, does your awards display obscure anything? Make a shopping list of what you need and get as much of it now, i.e., extension cords, electric zip ties, plastic brochure and card holders, fans, chairs, food items, guest book, metal binder rings to hold ARI certificate and/or other pen information, pens, etc.
If you are transporting your animals and/or driving a fair distance to attend the show, you may want to schedule a check up for your vehicle and trailer. Also make sure your registrations and insurance are up to date. Safety first! There is nothing worse than breaking down on the highway with a trailer full of alpacas and a deadline to make!
If you are planning to enter the Fleece competition, you need to prepare your fleece if it is not already doneskirt and bag. Make sure it is stored in clear plastic bags that are clearly marked (index card) with alpaca name, age and ARI# number. It would also be good to include the class it is entered in.
If you don't already have an emergency, travel vet kit, then you should put one together now. Alpaca shows can be stressful for all, especially the alpacas. Accidents and sickness can happen. So be prepared. Some helpful items include: Neosporin, vet wrap, thermometer, saline solution, sterile gauze, scissors, rubbing alcohol, teramycin, iodine, stethoscope, Q-tips, Pepto Bismol, mineral oil, towels, electrolytes, syringes and needles, Banamine, plastic bags and tweezers.
By now your alpacas should be very accustomed to walking with you and standing on command. You should be able to open their mouth to reveal their bite, touch and evaluate their fleece from head to toe, and lift up their tail to inspect their genitals. And if your alpaca is entered in a performance class, it should be able to navigate a variety of obstacles and maneuver through unfamiliar situations. And all of this with very little coaxing from the handler. You should also practice loading them onto the trailer. Many people forget this part of training. And come show day, they find they have a team of alpacas that are adamant about NOT walking onto the trailer. The travel itself and the new environment of the show are stressful enough. Be kind to your alpacas and prepare them for this part of the journey.
By now your alpacas should be fairly clean, although if you are going through a wet period (Spring) your alpacas may be wet. It may be advisable, especially if it is raining, to move your alpacas to a sheltered area about 2 days prior to the show. This will give them time to dry out by the show. You will also want to take fans to the show, as this will help to continue drying them, and make them more comfortable during their stay at the show. You should also trim any toenails that need it.
Your show display should all be finalized and packed up ready to transport.
Make sure you confirm your hotel reservations at this time. As we all know it is not uncommon for those to mysteriously disappear. Also, you should make sure you have directions to the show as well as the hotel. Collect any documentation you need. We usually make a travel packet that includes our hotel reservation number with the address and phone number of the hotel, directions to the show (usually downloaded from MapQuest or the Alpaca Show web site), information regarding check-in details and times, contact names and numbers for show officials and coordinators, all of our alpaca travel papers/CVI's, and copies of our show applications.
Clean and prepare your trailer for transport-- hang hay bags, and install panels if needed. If you have a storage area, you can pack your show display with banner, tables and chairs, additional hay and grain, water jugs, poop scooper, feed, hay and water buckets, extra fuel, straw, extra halters and leads, and vet bag.
Even if you don't normally eat a breakfast, you might want to now. You are in for a long day. But it doesn't need to be stressful. By now, you should be fairly well prepared. Make sure before you leave, you have posted emergency numbers for family and people tending to farm while you are away.
If you haven't loaded your animal and show display items yet, do that first before loading your animals. Leave them for last, so they are not cooped up in the trailer while you get ready to leave. Review the 'check-list' (included in this document) and make sure you have all you need. Keep your travel papers and check-in documents nearby and readily attainable. Don't pack them in the show display box!! If you plan on personally showing your alpacas, make sure you have the appropriate attire. It is generally expected that handlers will where black pants and white collared shirts and closed toe shoes. No farm branding and identification should be visible on the clothing. And makes sure you have some way of displaying your showers number. Most people use a bolo tie or even just safety pins.
It is a good practice to take one or two extra leads and halters. It is an AOBA Show rule that all alpacas must be shown in black halters with black leads. So make sure you have enough black tack to manage showing more than one alpaca at a time.
If you haven't already packed this in your trailer, then you will need to take the following: hay, straw, filled water jugs (you may find that your alpaca doesn't like the water at the show, so have some from home on hand), grain, poop scooper, hay, water, and grain buckets, and vet bag.
All fleeces should be in clear bags and clearly labels. We usually stuff our fleece bags into a cardboard box to prevent anything from tearing the plastic bags.
Check your lights and brakes.
Once you are all packed and just about ready to leave, you can load your animals. We usually separate them from the general herd earlier in the morning for easy access. By now they are well trained, so loading them should not be much of an ordeal. Make sure they all have access to hay and water, which are both well secured and stable.
Upon arrival at the show, a show attendant will direct you to where you should go to unload your animals. We first go into the building and check in with the greeter and get instructions for the next steps. If you have more animals than you can take in one trip, inform the check-in attendant. They will inspect your CVI and read your alpaca's microchip to confirm they match your initial registration and ARI certificate. You will be given a Show packet which contains your class entry number cards (to be worn by handlers), the show/class schedule, and additional show related information. Do not leave the check-in without this. The attendant will then direct you to your farm's stall(s). Place your alpacas in their pens before going out to get any remaining alpacas. After checking-in all your alpacas and unloading your supplies, you will need to park you vehicle and trailer. Once that is done& the fun begins. It is time to build your farm display and set up your alpacas' temporary new home. The goal is to make them as relaxed as possible. You can do this by getting them settled in first with hay and water from home. And if you usually grain them, you will want to do that here as well. We find that fans situated at opposites ends of the animals stalls, creating a nice cross breeze, really helps to calm them and make them more comfortable. In setting up your farm display take great effort to make sure everything is secure to prevent collapse. Before retiring to your hotel, make sure you find out what time you are required to arrive the next morning. The first day of the show usually starts with a Breeders Meeting where they introduce the judges and explain the procedure and schedule for the show.
Helpful Show Day Tips
- Before the show begins, identify the classes your alpacas are entered in, check that the information (age, name, color) is correct. Clearly mark their specific class in the show book so you can quickly access that page.
- On the back of each alpacas show number card write their full name, their birth date and their age in months. You may also want to write their sire and dam names as well, especially if they are in any production classes.
- Continually monitor the posted show book pages, as there are often last minute changes to classes that may affect your alpaca's class.
- Always keep an ear to the announcer to stay abreast of the class currently in the ring and those on deck. They will also post this information right at each rings gate. Dont miss your class!
- Halter your alpaca at least a class or two in advance of their class.
- Take time to walk all of your alpacas around the show grounds to get the accustomed to the environment and to get some exercise.
- Plan who is going to show which alpaca in advance of their class. Locate substitute handlers if needed.
- Don't spend all of your time away from your farm display booth. People are always milling around visiting the various farm booths and trying to learn about alpacas. This is a great selling and marketing opportunity you dont want to miss.
- HANG UP THE RIBBONS YOU WIN!
- Make sure you get your photo taken if you win a ribbon. Many shows provide photography services for winners for the first 3 places. And don't forget to take the photo CD before leaving at the end of the show.
Animal pen sheets (ARI certificate, Animal info)
Animal sales catalog
Animals (your show team)
Ties for water buckets
Water jug (at least one filled with water from home)
Plastic garbage bags
Permission to Show Forms
Hotel information (registration #, address, phone number)
Copies of original show applications
AOBA show rules book
AOBA member directory
Show clothes (black pants and collared white shirt)
Have fun and Good Luck!!!