Show season is a fun time of the year. It is the time to showcase your ranch, breeding program and to interact with fellow breeders. For us, this runs from October to May with a few breaks during the winter. While show season is work with the travel, loading and unloading, it is rewarding with the benefits of ribbons and accolades to your program. Disappointing at times, yes, but it also makes you open your eyes and not to be "barn blind" with your own alpacas. Great time to see what other ranches are doing, how their programs work and look to see what to strive for. Time to meet other breeders and become more involved with the alpaca breeders across the country.
Shearing season is the time for harvest. This is when you look at your alpacas in a totally different way. Yes, they are funny looking for a few days after shearing with the long skinny necks, legs and bodies but you sure can see their conformation. Sometimes we forget what our alpacas actually look like. This is a great time to really assess the crias. For instance, we have been told at shows that a cria has front legs that look angular when in actuality is was the way the fleece was growing on legs that made them look that way. Once that fleece comes down you see the legs at front and back. You see the straight backs and great conformation. Yes, you also see the flaws which brings you to the reality too. Shearing and having your fleece harvest in front of you is the best way to evaluate your fleeces. Take a good solid look at them on the skirting table, check the uniformity, check the length, check the brightness and all aspects that make a beautiful fleece. Send the histograms for statistics to see what improvements might need to be made. Then, decide what to do with these lovely fleeces. Yarn, roving, batts, sell the fleece- the choices are endless.
Cria season is such a fun time of year! No kidding to anyone, it can also be stressful and heartbreaking too but most of the time it is filled with total joy. Watching the incredible births and how quickly the moms and crias bond. See the little ones stumble and tumble while getting their legs under them is absolute fascination. Watching the new cria find that milk bar for the first time is when one can breath a sigh of relief. No one needs a television when you have a pen full of crias running and learning to pronk. That is entertainment beyond belief! It is funny how we will check the fleece everyday to see how it looks! Did our chosen breeding for a certain dam create what we hoped and planned for? Sometimes we know right away, sometimes we don't.
Breeding season kind of overlaps with cria season as we usually rebreed the dam right away. Lists are created all year with the thoughts of who will get the nod to breed to a certain dam. Although there are times that we wait for the cria from a dam/herdsire combination before we make a full determination on the next breeding. If it is what we planned for, time to rebreed same combination! Some dams are slated to go off the ranch for breedings to a herdsire who brings characteristics that we want to bring into our program and who we feel will be a great fit to our dam. Improving quality is what it is all about!
Whatever the season- alpaca ranching is awesome! Laughter, tears, joy and yes, hard work all year but so awesome! Embrace these incredible animals that God put on this earth!