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Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:

Letter from Australia

Alex Harrington Smith

I have been living and working in Australia for three years so many things seem like second nature now, others still perplex and amuse me. In November 2008 Lawrence Shapland of Leytown Alpacas (note that this is the plug he has asked for, I drew the line at italics, bold font and size 72 lettering!) joined the team at EP Cambridge in November for three months work experience. At his request this involved being in the shearing shed for the shearing of some 2000 alpacas ? I am sure there was more than a flicker of regret crossing his face at times. He must be given credit for being the life and soul of the shed with his constant pranks and quit wit! Strangest part is his adamant refusal when asked to stay for next years repeat event?..he has however agreed to stay on and help out over the coming months and with the national show and sale which is taking place in EP Cambridge?s home town of Adelaide.

I was invited to join the committee of the Australian Alpaca Association South Australia in November 2008. It was with some degree of trepidation that I attended my first meeting but soon learnt that the other members of this regional committee were very easy going but incredibly committed individuals who were going to make learning the ropes easy and at times entertaining ? we even have a bona fide belly dancer in our midst! It is a little bit of a pom take over though with at least half the committee hailing from various parts of old blighty. This has also lead to my joining the working committee for the AAA National Show and Sale ? did I mention this will be in Adelaide this year???

During the horrendous heat wave which recently saw us enduring temperatures of up to 45 degrees we found that many of the cria simply couldn?t keep ahead of dehydration without a little intervention so we were all hands on deck milking out the mothers of newborns to keep them going. It was a very trying time with a lot of challenges the like of which not many have encountered. On one of these evenings I had some added drama which was very unwelcome. Many of you will remember my writing of Ozzie, my over indulged kelpie. I had left him and his companion (equally over indulged collie by the name of Alfie) in the garden to take advantage of the slight drop in temperature whilst I went to meet with Lawrence for some more milking out. On my return Ozzie was behaving a little oddly, at least more so than usual. My initial reaction was that he had over done it in the heat and was now suffering the consequences. However as I turned back towards the house I felt ten years slide off my life and came uncomfortably close to passing out at the sight of a metre long red belly black snake on my verandah. Once the shock had subsided I was relieved to note it was well and truly dead (apologies to all snake lovers but as per a conversation I was having last night self preservation is all). Ozzie had taken a hit for the team and now he was in big trouble. I quickly reached for the phone and called Matt and Cathy (I think it has since been asked as to why I wouldn?t call the vet but I was panicking in a the-dingo-got-my-baby-esque fashion). Cathy quickly arrived on the scene and took charge. We were advised by a vet to wait and see but a call to Matt gave much more palatable advice ? act now! Once Cathy had tracked down the anti-venom (surprisingly and for reasons I don?t know not many vets stock it) off we went to the vets leaving Alfie in the care of Lawrence (canine babysitter). And close to $700 later my baby boy was back at home safe and almost well. Ozzie would like to advise you that snake hunting isn?t all it is cracked up to be and the hangover is worse than a night on the gin and tonic.

Back in the hum drum of daily life in the alpaca business things have taken an exciting twist in the breeding yards over the last few months. There is always room for some new males around the traps and this year has certainly been one of the most exciting in my time with alpacas. We now have a variety of young males working who bring together not only the strength of our most potent male lines but now the most eminent of the EP Cambridge female lines are blended in to the mix. Birthing next year seems more distant than ever! Amongst my favourites are The Boss (the product of Showstopper (a Ruffo daughter) by Commisario), Escalabar (Trinity (another of our Royal Ruffo daughters) by Commisario), Dealbreaker (Xanadu (a Conquistador girl) by Spartacus) and The Prodigy (Sculptress (who is a Commisario girl) by Gianmarco). When you start blending these lines with similar depths of pedigree in the female lines it is like the stuff of dreams imagining just what may arrive in the coming months.

And next on the calendar? Well I am packing my bags for three weeks holiday. I am off to see the Rock, visit the land of the crocodile (Northern Territory) and then for a week of relaxation on the beaches of Kangaroo Island. I love Alpacas but I am sure crocs have some good points too ....