Alex Harrington Smith
I have now been here for over a year and am still learning and discovering something new or a fresh approach everyday. I guess that is what makes it so unbelievable that time has flown by quite like it has. Since my last contribution to the magazine there has been a lot happening.
In October John and I loaded the van and float and headed for the Nationals in Canberra. For those whose geography is on a par with my own that is a bloody long way. The Nationals in Australia is something I would highly recommend to any avid and enthused alpaca breeder the world over. As soon as you arrive you are engulfed by the sense of a shared enthusiasm and anticipation of all things elite in alpaca.
The accolades awarded are truly in recognition of the best of the best ? which is why the triumph of our own champions EP Cambridge Peruvian Savannah and Cambridge Tidemark were so pleasing to us. The buzz of leading an animal in to the ring for the presentation of the AAA National Show Supremes was quite incredible. It was one of those moments where you find yourself smiling ear to ear before you know it and not quite in control of the action. It was one of those moments you remember for a while.
That said it was small compensation for my first taste of showing at the Nationals. My good friends Bill and Jack will possibly have recounted the story a few times since the event but for those that don?t know I fell foul of the curse of the sitting alpaca. Now until I was stood (of me and the alpaca I am now the only one standing) in the midst of the throng that is the junior white female 6 to 9 months class I had thought the video cameras tracking and action (not much action on the part of illustrious now firmly planted on the astro turf) replaying events was an excellent idea.
Once my immobile alpaca and red face were being displayed in glorious Technicolor for any half wit in the audience who had failed to pick my misery first hand I grew to hate, no, loathe and despise those big screens.
There were of course a few English faces at the show but none can rival the infamous Mr Bob Hyde for pure entertainment value. I think both Matt and I suffered pain from the laughing. It all started with a little misunderstanding over names. John became convinced that Bob was in fact called Bill and proceeded to call him Bill! Bob who was ever polite failed to correct John and refused to let me remedy the situation, however he did say he would call John Jack at some point. John or Jack (by the end of the weekend I really was not sure who was who!) became absolutely scandalised and mortified when Matt proceeded to call poor Bill Bob as we left the pub from dinner. At that point John was let in on the joke but by then it was too late and the comedy duo that is Jack and Bill was born. Once the mixed bag of politics, success and on my part humiliation that is the show ring was over the breeders kicked back their heels and embarked on the arduous task of celebration! At this point I will let the photos speak for themselves.
On returning to my room following the dinner I was shocked to see that John had followed through on an earlier made threat to shut the door to his apartment so I didn?t wake him up in a drunken state. My shock was increased when I entered the living room of my half of the apartment to see John/Jack laid on a two seater sofa in the cold and with the lights off. John learnt three very important lessons that night about staying in hotels. Number 1 ? always take your key with you when making a cup of tea because there is no sound more chilling then your apartment door swinging shut with your nice warm bed on the wrong side of it. Number 2 ? Rather than sitting in the cold you can always take advantage of the spare blankets in the cupboard or embrace the wonders of modern technology and turn on the air conditioner. Number 3 ? When you are locked out your room, what you need is a pom with a credit card who obviously got left out of the mass criminal exodus to Australia and you?ll soon be safely tucked up on the right side of your locked door.
With the year?s showing calendar drawn to a great conclusion it was back to the farm for a few of the more practical elements of the alpaca year. We had the herd shorn by the end of November and averaged about a hundred a day ? no matter the country this job still sucks and when the temperatures are sat in the 30?s and the flies are prolific it becomes inhumane. In short I hated every moment ? though the dinners and wine courtesy of the shearer did ease my pain just a little! I will concede that it was an awesome opportunity to get a little better acquainted with the fleece attributes of the herd as a whole and to some small degree begin to really evaluate things with rationale. Obviously the birthing will be reaching a conclusion in the next couple of months with a good number of great babies already on the ground and the Embryo Transfer cria yet to hit the deck. I have seen a huge number of cria birthed this year and fortunately not too many problems.
Just recently we have said Bon Voyage to a consignment of animals destined for China and prior to that New Zealand, of which some of the alpacas were destined for the UK.
I guess one of the main things that has happened is my new role as editor of the AAA South Australia Newsletter ? it is a great opportunity and fortunately the people I harangue over late contributions don?t have a clue just how tardy I am about my own article writing. Simply by nature of the geographical scale of the country the Australian association also has regional committees serving the states that form Australia. It is, as is always the case an arena filled with politics and opinions that often make for lively debate but there is a great vibe and energy about the membership that drives things forward, on the whole the competition is of a healthy nature. Doing the Newsletter has given me the chance to feel truly integrated in to the region and get to know the region?s breeders with a different hat on.
We did an embryo transfer run a month back and have another underway as I write with some of the best females and genetics I have encountered in my eight years of working with alpacas. Embryo transfer has definitely got its place but, in my opinion, unless you have the numbers it is a mixed bag of anticipation, elation and occasionally pretty big disappointment. On the whole in the three runs we have done since my arrival at EPC we have been lucky.
I spent Christmas in the sun this year and had a very traditional lunch in an exotic Adelaide garden surrounded with family (not mine but they treated me so well it was almost the same) and a hell of a lot of food. Admittedly it is now that summer is giving way to autumn that I am starting to feel the anticipation of the Christmas months approaching ? I just have to decide if I am too late or too early. And a word of advice never mix Chrissy decorations with a Kelpie, my wonderful white lights only work with the help of a bandaid and there are significantly less baubles for next year than there were last ? yes for those who have heard of Ozzie he is still very much the live wire, nearly literally with those lights.
No plans to return to Old Blighty just yet, Oz isn?t a bad country in spite of the snakes, spiders, sweltering heat and immeasurable quantities of dust! It has its plus points ? good people, great alpacas, Ozzie and the wines pretty good too, which reminds me Mcleods Daughters is starting and the Lobethal Road Sauvignon Blanc is waiting ? along with a box of Kleenex for what is looking like being one very emotional episode!