By Steve Marshall ? Stansbury Alpacas www.stansbur
A feeling of excitement and anticipation was evident on Friday morning as delegates from around the world met and registered for the inaugural International Alpaca Fleece Show and World Alpaca Conference. The venue, Dockside Convention Centre on Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia, provided an appropriately beautiful setting for such a significant event. Leaders and representatives of the alpaca community around the world were faced with the realisation the alpaca industry has come of age and is truly a global industry.
The International Fleece Expo began with speakers providing an insight into cutting edge technology now available for fibre and animal assessment. Building on knowledge gained in the Australian merino sheep industry very rapid scientifically based genetic gains are now achievable and being realised. The International Fleece Show Judges, Jill McLeod and Cameron Holt, were stunned by the consistent quality fleeces presented for judging. Cameron explained that the initial ?Wow, you should see this fleece? comments when they started judging these fleeces became the norm as the standard was so high. Both Judges were impressed by the improvement evident in alpaca fleeces and explained that some not gaining a place in this show could have won a fleece show a few years ago.
The cocktail party Friday evening was an informal event providing a relaxed atmosphere for guests to get to know friends from around the world that in some cases had never met face to face.
Saturday morning marked a significant, landmark moment, with the official opening of the first World Alpaca Conference. Presidents of six alpaca breed organizations around the world provided a perspective of the alpaca industry from their respective countries. Daniel Eslake of Canada, Veronika Dachinger assisted by Mike Herrling of Germany, Dr Chris Strack of New Zealand, Peter-John Garbutt of Republic of South Africa, Graham MacHarg of the United Kingdom, Gordon Anderson of USA and Dr Ian Davidson of Australia represented their countries in this forum.
The presidents presented speeches that varied in focus from their passion as custodians of alpacas to the political climate and practical advice about successes and areas still to improve. However, in every case it was clearly evident that each organisation is keen to work together to learn from each other in their quest to develop alpacas as the finest fibre producing livestock in the world.
Other highlights of Saturday included Dr Jayne Wheeler?s exceptional presentation about the origins of the pure alpaca and its hybrids whilst Paul Taylor explained embryo transfer quite simply and emphasised the fact that ?It is not rocket science!?
The Gala Dinner Saturday evening was a spectacular event where alpaca enthusiasts from around the world renewed old friendships and also developed new ones. The entertainment started with a celebration of Aboriginal culture with a series of traditional dances which the audience thoroughly enjoyed. This was followed by a stunning fashion parade showcasing some of the finest alpaca garments produced world wide. Robert Gane provided much entertainment as he auctioned one painting and two alpaca rugs raising over $24,000 with spirited bidding. The party continued well into the morning for some while for others the priority was sleep to make the most of some excellent speakers on Sunday. Presenters included Dr Jayne Vaughan, with her to top ten tips for practical Alpaca nutrition. Dr Kylie Munyard announced a breakthough in her work identifying DNA markers for fleece colour and Dr Wayne C Jarvis of the USA provided very practical advice about breeding a prepotent line of alpacas and explained the risks in not linebreeding. Conference delegates were left with the anticipation of great things in the alpaca industry in future years. The second World Alpaca Conference is to be held, June 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA and already a number of delegates are making plans to be there.