Beck Brow Alpacas – Alpaca Shows, Alpaca Feed and Stud Services
How did that happen…here we are in 2024 and I haven’t updated the blog since July 2023!
Thankfully, January has given me a couple of weeks at home after a very hectic autumn. We have been busy with lots of alpaca shows – judging, exhibiting, hosting, and spectating. Also on the agenda, has been reviewing and changing our alpaca feeding regime – a decision that hasn’t been made without a lot of evaluation…and like the rest of the UK…we have been dealing with constant rain and the associated mud. Craig and I have also had a few trips out looking at contenders to add to our stable of stud males at Beck Brow.
Autumn Alpaca Showing and Judging
Alpacas at Stokesley Agricultural Show
Having decided not to exhibit at the short fleeced shows, we then made a late U-turn in order to show our support to the Yorkshire Alpaca Group, who facilitated the first-ever halter classes at Stokesly Agricultural Show.
The agricultural show had provided the alpacas with a large marquee right at the entrance to the showground, helping to ensure that the public interest was massive, to the point that queues were forming. The halter classes were very enjoyable, with BAS Judge Tim Hey managing to judge most of the alpacas outside, dodging the unexpected rain showers. We took nine Huacayas and came home with eleven broad ribbons including Supreme Champion, Best of British Bred and Judge’s Choice. A great new show for the alpaca show circuit.
Alpaca Judging Fleece & Halter Show Norway
Early October saw Paul and I fly to Norway. This would be our fourth alpaca-related visit and as always the welcome was warm, the hospitality great, and the event perfectly organised. With 114 entries for the fleece show, judging was extended to begin Thursday afternoon and continue through Friday. Halter judging took place on Saturday followed by workshops on the Sunday. The alpaca show was ran very much in the format of stand-alone shows in the UK with the majority of attendees being alpaca breeders, but plenty of products were available including alpaca cured sausage (served at the show dinner).
A Visit to the Alpaca Halter Show Northern Ireland
The following weekend I was back on a plane. This time heading to Belfast and in the company of Craig, who was ring stewarding at the Northern Ireland Halter Show. The show had a good number of interesting stands selling various goods (many non-alpaca related) which proved to be a great attraction for the general public. Interestingly, the atmosphere was very much like those at many shows in mainland Europe. A culture of attending weekend markets came to mind (not something we really do much in the UK .) The fibre and craft classes were also well supported and entries were of a high standard.
It’s always enjoyable to attend shows when not exhibiting or judging. On this occasion, the bonus was observing Beck Brow Bees Knees (owned Amberly Alpacas) being awarded Sire’s Progeny and his daughter taking Supreme Huacaya (Judge Julia Corrigan-Stuart).
Judging the Welsh Alpaca Show
Another weekend and another show. This time judging the halter show in Wales. A few hours drive away. Easier than flying you might think…No! The show was held at Welshpool and Storm Babet made sure the place lived up to its name. With widespread flooding and storm damage, several exhibitors had to withdraw their entries. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it myself when I came across flooded roads between my hotel and the showground. With all the cars in front of me turning back, and a row of abandoned vehicles in the middle of the water, I do not know if I was brave or stupid, but I got through just before the road was closed completely.
The show was well organised and with a good atmosphere, and of course, finished promptly due to the reduced numbers, This should have ensured that I arrived home in good time…nope! Those who know me well, know that… I have no sense of direction at all… do not know right from left…rely 100% on a Sat Nav, and even then have to check my wedding ring is on my left hand.
It is not the norm for me to travel on my own but Wales was deemed to be pretty idiot-proof…that was until they closed that flooded road. I had hoped that my SatNav might work it out. However, after an hour of obviously going around in circles, I arrived back at the closed road 2 mins from where I started…Thus, I went back to the venue and waited until the show organisers had packed up and followed them north (to be fair the detour was 10 miles long!)
Halter and Fleece Judging in France
So it was I took Paul with me to Lyon, to the fleece and halter show I was judging there. This was way beyond my navigational skills with connecting flights, trains and car hire. But apart from ensuring that I got there, I was rather pleased to have the company. It was a long day leaving home at 4 am and not arriving at the hotel until 7.30 pm. En route, I had been imagining the lovely French food that we might experience at the hotel. Maybe a rather nice glass of red wine too.
Remember The Shining?
We arrived at a large hotel (possibly 100 rooms) with only one car in the car park. Upon closer inspection, the solo vehicle had the hotel logo on the side. I rechecked the details that I had been given…correct! We go to the front door…locked! Then we peer further through the glass…and we spot a plastic chair (as found in infant schools) on it is a key card with our name on it! Eventually, we figured out that there was a number for the night porter (who was off-site). Putting to the test our school grade French we managed to tap the correct number into the keypad to open the door…voila
There was not another soul in the hotel. We had one tea bag and one sachet of coffee in the room. Situated on the edge of a very tiny village the small shop was already closed. Never mind the nice food and glass of red…we couldn’t BOTH have a cup of coffee! So as you do when you don’t know where you are and you are starving…we Googled ‘MacDonalds near me’ (yes, we rather like our Michelin-starred restaurants but desperate times call for desperate measures). Bingo…20 minutes drive away. As it happened we rather lucked out as next door to the MacDonalds was an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet restaurant (to be fair it was better than the ones at home with scallops, oysters, and lots of fresh fish cooked to order on the griddle)…sometimes you just have to be grateful for what you get!
Halter & Fleece
Thankfully the show organisers looked after us very well and ensured we got breakfast and meals at the showground. It was so friendly and very much a family affair. Again there were lots of stalls selling many different products (mainly alpaca-related). Even the local major attended, opening the show on day one and presenting the Supreme winners with their prizes on day two (a power drill as well as a trophy!). The show drew in lots of visitors with agility classes and a fashion show, as well as fleece and halter.
Will that be rarebit for breakfast?
Monday morning and we left the hotel (bit of a misnomer) and decided to call in the ‘cafe’ in the village which was open for the first time since we had arrived. This turned out to be someone’s front room with a coffee machine on a counter and a cat sitting on top of the cover housing the breakfast muffins. Well, it was warm and relaxing…that was until the cat suddenly jumped off the counter and chased something that had scuttled under our table…turned out to be a pet rabbit…life’s an adventure!
Northern Alpaca Fleece Show
There is no chance of me getting lost for our next event – hosting the Northern Fleece Show. This was the first time that we had insisted on standardised noodling for the show. This entailed wrapping the fleece in the same size and grade garden fabric, and it worked well. We took mid-side samples to send to Art of Fibre for micron testing and opening up the already noodled fleece made this task much easier. The show had a great team of experienced helpers and Mary-Jo Smith did a great job both judging and educating the team.
We were awarded Supreme Champion Huacaya with Beck Brow Indiana Jones in a close run contest. Congratulations also go to CS Alpacas who won Suri Supreme Champion
Among all the shows, we had a Judge’s Calibration. The British Alpaca Society has a well-respected and robust training scheme for both trainee judges and those already qualified. Part of this is ensuring that the BAS Judges continue their professional development by attending at least one BAS-organised educational workshop each year and one calibration clinic (where possible). The clinic was kindly hosted by Debbie and Paul at Barnacre Alpacas in Northumberland with Suri alpaca classes brought in by Bev of North West Suri.
Craig and I had visited both farms before the event to put together test classes. With eleven BAS judges attending it was very reassuring to see how close we were with our results. That didn’t stop us from having lots of interesting discussions and debates which all added to the calibration process…singing from the same hymn sheet as they say!
New Alpaca Feeding Regime
Those who know me, know my views on the importance of feeding for fibre. It is something that we have focused on well before it became a general consideration. Mess with feeding and you risk not only changing the quality of the fleece exhibited on the alpaca, but even more importantly, possibly the genetic potential of the alpaca in utero (if secondary derived fibres are not developed in the last trimester due to poor nutrition).
Time to be brave
So, why are we changing our hard feed? We cannot complain about the density we see in our cria, but this is influenced by all feedstuff not just Camelibra and Fibregest (which we have fed for 15 years). One of the (some would say few!) advantages of being a judge is seeing lots and lots of alpacas. Of course, I always come back to the farm and compare our own herd to what I have seen. Increasingly post-COVID I had noticed alpacas in the ring with brighter fleeces than some of ours. Feeling that this was unlikely to be purely genetic, as we have many different lines within our herd, I investigated further. A recurring theme was a change of feed to Waterhouse Alpaca Mix. In a move that surprised even me, I requested a bag of the feed to sample. We used the yearling boys as the trial group and the yearling girls (the same mix of genetics and next to each other in the paddock) as the control group.
After four weeks we could see the increased brightness coming in at the skin in the trial group when compared to the control group. It was time to bite the bullet and make the changeover. Working out how much to feed and making comparisons to what they had previously had has been monitored closely. Lots of weighing and evaluation has taken place as we weaned off one feed and introduced the new one. We have settled now on Waterhouse Alpaca and Llama mix but add in 12gs per alpaca of JG Animal Health mineral mix, as advised by the ever-helpful Jonathan Guy. Time will tell, we will continue to watch things closely, but our cria fleeces are looking noticeably well nourished.
Mud Control Mats
A recent new (ish) addiction for me is Mud Control Mats. We first purchased these to lay down at entrances to the shelters and barns, and this has worked a treat. However, the recent very wet weather has tested some of the field shelters to their limits. The land on the left of the farm is clay and holds the water much more than the sandy soil, which is on the majority of the farm. Our five acres of isolation paddocks house several small field shelters, each with rubber matting down on the floor. Unfortunately, the relentless wet weather meant the land had become totally waterlogged, and had started flooding the mats from below.
With mud control mats laid below the rubber matting (including small stones in the gaps as recommended), the problem was quickly and effectively solved. A good option for anyone with mobile field shelters too as the mud mats can be lifted and moved.
New Stud Males – Stud Services 2024
As mentioned in the intro Craig and I have been rather busy shopping and have added some new males to our stud stable. The first to arrive was Pottery Prima (light fawn) who has an impeccable pedigree and has retained excellent fleece qualities as he approaches his fifth year. He will be covering some of our white females as well as colours. Second to arrive was Capital Camber (mid-fawn) who had been on Craig’s wish list for a while…. a really stylish-looking male who has a fine, highly organised fleece.
These two new Huacaya males were brought in to add some more diversity to our genetic pool, but we will also be introducing some young homebred boys to the stud group. One of many exciting prospects is Beck Brow Centre Stage (sire Beck Brow Glory Daze) who has a list of females hoping he will be working in the spring.
Whilst Centre Stage is being kept in-house, we are now in a position where we can offer up more stud service options to clients who have purchased females from us.
One area where we certainly need new genetics is in our Suri herd. Whilst Wellow Amadeus Golden Arrow has performed well for us, we now need to cover his daughters. Having sponsored the Suri Supreme Championship at NWAG last year, we were delighted to award this to North West Suri Gladson, a light-coloured son of Thistledown Luka of NWS. Having waited to see his second fleece, we are delighted to confirm that he has joined our suri stud. Gladston has an impressive dam as well as sire and has an incredibly dense and lustrous fleece. Another exciting addition
Beck Brow The Laal Lad
Last and indeed least, a mention about our teeny weeny alpaca, who has been named The Laal Lad. As you can see from the featured image at the top, he has everyone wrapped around his little finger. Born at full-term weighing 3.6kgs he couldn’t reach the milk bar for a day or two due to his short stature. He is now 6 months old and weighed in this morning at 15kgs. He is robust…just short of leg!