The Alpaca Association of Ireland (AAI) will host its annual alpaca fleece show on Easter Sunday, April 21, in Mullingar Equestrian Centre.

“This is our second year hosting a standalone alpaca event. Following on from the great success of last year, 2019 promises to be even bigger. Over 120 alpacas are expected on the day with 30 exhibitors proudly displaying their alpacas,” said Paul MacDonnell, chairman of the AAI.

“Our international judging team is well renowned and includes respected British Alpaca Society adjudicators Rob and Shirley Bettison. The show is a great opportunity for those breeders focused on producing the best traits alpaca fibre has to offer,” said Paul, who is behind Hushabye Farm Alpacas in Laois.

“As well as conformation which accounts for 30%, the alpacas are judged on the quality of their fleece which accounts for 70%. Traits such as density, fineness and softness to handle are all factors which determine what alpaca gets the rosettes on the day,” he said.

Friendly competition

“Apart from the friendly competition, it’s a great opportunity for the public to come visit the various breeders and see the alpacas on display. You can ask all the questions you need answered and there’s always a great family friendly atmosphere,” said Paul.

“On the day too, we have face painting and refreshments. There’ll be an alpaca halter competition for the kids and displays on all aspects of alpaca husbandry from shearing to skirting fleeces.

“This year is the first year we will have the AAI national craft show. We’re encouraging people to enter their arts and crafts that are Irish made from at least 50% alpaca. A photo competition showing some of the more funny and cute aspects of alpaca farming is also being run, so get those phones out and start snapping,” Paul said.

“The Spinners Guild of Ireland will also be in attendance, showing how the beautiful art of spinning fleece works. All told, it’s a great day out for all the family and budding alpaca farmers alike.”

Massive interest

Currently there are approximately 1,500 alpacas in Ireland. “The sector is very much in its infancy. There is, however, a massive interest in them and it shows like the national show that helps promote the breed. A lot of breeders also attend local shows throughout the summer and, of course, we’ll be there en masse at the Tullamore Show in August again,” Paul said.

“From flock guards to lawnmowers, pets to therapy animals, fibre producers to breeding stock, there’s a wide variety of uses for alpacas, making them the most versatile livestock in the world.

We have a lot of interest this time of year from farmers when lambing has started. Alpacas are very protective and great to keep foxes away. A lot of sheep farmers have had great success with them in the last few years.

“Alpacas are very docile and great with kids, lovely to have around the house and farm and are easy to care for. All alpacas are sold from Hushabye Farm with the reassurance of great back-up and support, especially in the first year or two when various questions will arise.

“We go through the husbandry calendar in advance to show what they get by way of veterinary care, when they get it and how it is administered. Now that the association is well established, there is a wealth of knowledge and breeding stock available to buy here in Ireland,” said Paul.

“We recommend only buying alpacas that are fully registered with the AAI and come with a complete health check from the vet and a history of all veterinary intervention. All alpacas should be microchipped too and have a pedigree certificate showing their family history.”