About an hour ago, I received a call from James saying that we had just won first place at the Great Western Alpaca Show. Yippee! I texted many friends and family members the good news. Almost every one of them wrote, "Congratulations! What does it mean for your farm?" Good question. How much stock should we put in alpaca shows and winning a ribbon?
The goal for us heading to the show was to see where we are at on a national level with the rest of the alpacas out there. Our goal was never to be the best of the best. That is a lofty goal that I cannot finance. However, I want to be competitive in the fleece market. I want to know that our work is heading in the right direction. I want my job to last for years to come. Thus, winning a ribbon helps add validity to our breeding program that we are in the running for fiber quality. However, you need to see where the ribbons came from to see how strongly they may impact your fiber and marketing program. We have one girl who took first place at the Sun City Sizzle...the what? It is a lower level show - level 1 or 2. The National Shows, such as the Futurity and the Great Western Alpaca Shows, are level five shows and some of the largest and best available. There are more alpacas, great judges and excellent competitions. Many of the biggest and best farms are there. One competitor noted that it wasn't fair that the "big boys" were winning all of the ribbons and some of the smaller farms should get to win. I believe in the opposite. We want them there. They do set the bar high. True, I may get intimidated that with 19 animals one farm already had 8 blue ribbons on the first day. But, they are a worthy "opponent" if one would call them that. They increase the meaning of my ribbon - or even placing. With hundreds of alpacas comes a lot of overhead so they need to win ribbons to sell and pay their bills, just like we do. If I want to win all of the time, I need better animals. With that, you either buy them or breed for it, just like I did. As I stated above, we cannot finance that type of program, so we need to breed on our own farm for better progeny. A great part of the show is learning about the animal you have brought. Supposedly, the animals brought to the show are the pinnacle of what your breeding programs has worked toward. When Hooligan won the ribbon, the judge stated he had super soft fleece, fine crimp and overall the best fleece he had seen that day. Now that says something about your farm. Unfortunately, if you do not place, they rarely comment on the animal. But, the best education is going around to other farms to see what is out there. See who did and did not win a ribbon, check out their fleece and talk to the owners. Have them tell you about their alpaca. There is a wide range to see and experience. If they do not win a ribbon, or receive 3rd or 4th, go and see who the competition was. Talk to the judges if possible. You paid for the event - an education - go get the most out of it.
Our farm often buys herdsires who has won ribbons. A ribbon count isn't the determining factor, but it certainly helps in knowing for that day with that certain competition, that alpaca was decidedly better than the others around him. That is who we need on our farm to move forward. That is what it means for our farm. Getting better fleece production with the right animals. Packaging great color, conformation and fiber all together and hopefully passing it on to their offspring. Yes, we will likely ask more for Hooligan's sale price. But a ribbon helps represent that we are doing well with our goals of producing great cria.