The Manitoba Alpaca Club is hosting their Annual Keystone Alpaca Classic on April 21-22 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.
Joan Kemp has been breeding and raising alpacas since 1998, and is one of four organizers for the event. I caught up with Joan and had a wonderful visit with her and her exotic herd of some 40 delightful alpacas out in the pasture at the Kemp Farm just north of Killarney, MB.
What does the Alpaca Classic look like for those in attendance?
Kemp says each year between 20 and 30 alpaca farms are represented at the Alpaca Classic here in Manitoba, drawing entries from across the Prairies and Ontario. Again this year, they’re hoping for approximately 100 alpacas in the ring.
“It’s a halter class,” explains Kemp. “You walk your animal around and the judge takes a good look at them, judging them on confirmation and their fleece, but mostly their fleece. Confirmation would be looking for straight legs, proper back body line, and that’s about 40% (of the score). The fleece is 60% (of the score) and that’s looking at the characteristics of the fleece, if it’s fine, it’s density.”
The public is encouraged to come down and share in the experience of these exotic animals that are related to it’s larger cousin, the llama, and hail from South America. Kemp’s alpacas hail from Peru, Bolivia and Chile. “Some of them are a combination,” she says, “but mine were all born in Canada. I had one old girl a few years ago that was an import from Bolivia so I have some of her offspring here.”
Kemp says those interested in alpacas, or are wanting a closer look as a breeder, can have a hands-on experience with the top winners in the ring. “After each of our classes, we have a ‘hands-on’ and the judge steps out of the ring and the first, second, third, and sometimes even 4th placing remains in the ring. And, you can go in and take a look. The judge will say why she placed them, and then when you go in you can take a look at the characteristics of the fleece and see what the judge saw.”
What makes alpaca fleece so unique?
Alpaca fleece is a natural fiber that is shorn from the animal typically in the spring. Depending on how the fleece is spun, it can be light or heavy in weight. Alpaca fleece is similar to sheep’s wool, but it is warmer, wicks moisture, is very soft, not prickly like wool. Alpaca fleece also has no lanolin which makes the fleece hypoallergenic. “Once you knit or work with alpaca you really have a great appreciation for it,” says Kemp. “I knit with other fibres besides alpaca, but I’m pretty fussy; it’s got to be as soft and as nice as alpaca!”
Twenty years ago, when Joan Kemp started raising alpacas, they were very expensive. “Now,” she says, “they’re affordable and the fibre end of the industry is getting bigger now so lots will have 3 or 4 animals and they just have them for the fibre. They just sheer them and do whatever they want with the fibre. That’s becoming more and more popular now than when I started. When I started it was a breeders’ market only.”
How do you prepare an alpaca for the show ring?
Shampooing is not part of the grooming practices to prepare for the show! “If you start handling the fleece a lot it’s going to start losing all of its characteristics,” she explains. “Alpaca fleece is so dense and so thick that the dust or the dirt or the hay is all on the top of the fleece. When a judge ‘opens it up’, (spreads the fleece with her fingers) it’s as clean as anything down next to the skin. It’s shiny and she can see all the characteristics.”
Inspiring kids to get involved!
“Sunday morning we usually have the showmanship classes for the kids, which is really neat for the kids to go out there and show their alpaca. And, the judge spends a lot of time with them talking about different parts of the alpaca; how to hold them properly, how to show them properly, how to handle them. We really promote that class because we want the young kids to come up the ranks participating in alpaca shows and raising alpacas.”
All are welcome to the Alpaca Classic!
“Come and take a look,” says Kemp. “Sit down and watch the show, and then walk up and down the aisles and take a look at the animals that are in the pens. Talk to some of the people that are involved. It’s just a really nice time! I just love them!”
Saturday, April 21st:
8:30 AM - Judges Meeting
8:45 AM - Show Begins - with Sire's Progeny, Produce of Dam and Breeder's Best 3 and then we move into the classes.
4:30 PM - Show will end (approximately) At the conclusion of the show - complementary Snacks will be served - courtesy of the Manitoba Alpaca Club. A cash bar will be available if you are so inclined. During this time we will be selling 50/50 tickets and the Silent Auction will close!! We hope everyone will stay for an hour or so of visiting!
Sunday, April 22nd:
9:00 AM - Show will continue starting with Suri Classes, Best Head and Junior Showmanship. Finish any classes if required, then Age Championships and then finish with Supremes.
For more information visit their website at www.manitobaalpacaclub.ca/keystone-alpaca-classic.html