With the increasing popularity of alpaca ownership in the South West and nationally, bred and farmed for their desirable fleeces, the Cornwall Camelid Association (CCA) decided to host their first ever fleece show earlier this month.
Held on Saturday, August 1 under British Alpaca Society (BAS) rules and a qualifier for the BAS National Champion of Champions Fleece Show 2021, the event was an opportunity for members who are missing the usually busy calendar of agricultural shows to still have their fleeces and the breeding programmes behind them assessed.
Tim Hey, who has judged at some of the world’s most prestigious alpaca shows in America, Australia and Europe, kindly agreed to come down to Cornwall and cast his expert eye over the 65 entries, after the original judge was unable to travel over from Australia due to the coronavirus restrictions.
Due to huge demand, entries had to close earlier than planned, with fleeces arriving from right across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Awards included Supreme, Best British Bred and Judges Choice for both the Huacaya and Suri classes.
Taking place at Dark Sky Alpacas, run by Tom and Wendy Scott on the edge of Bodmin Moor, the fleece show was organised by Sandra Muriel, secretary of the CCA and owner of Alpacas of Cornwall in Praze, which acted as a collection point for the fleeces.
She said: “The CCA always held their own alpaca halter show in May, but this was also cancelled, so the opportunity to hold socially-distanced fleece show, where fleeces could be sent for judging, would be a challenge but doable for the dedicated alpaca owners of the CCA.
“The CCA team work hard to encourage all their members, regardless of herd size and experience, to get together, learn from each other and really enjoy their alpacas.”
Explaining the judging process, Sandra said: “Each fleece is skirted and prepared prior to entry, then weighed on arrival at the show which translates into points on the overall scoring. Other traits of fineness, length, brightness, handle, density and colour uniformity are all assessed and marked to form a total score on the fleece.
“Each fleece is laid out on skirting tables for assessment, the judge taking six samples from each fleece to assess and look at the overall fleece. Fleeces are classed into colours, grey, black, brown, fawn, light and white, then into age groups, 6-12 months, 12-24 months, 24-48 months and 48+months. Placings are awarded first to sixth, but first place can only be awarded on scores over 60 points.
“Colour champion and reserve champions are awarded to the highest scoring fleeces within each colour, scoring at least 70 points. Supreme is awarded to the highest scoring fleece overall.
“A Best of British is awarded to the fleece from an alpaca whose both parents were born in Britain, while a Judges Choice award is given to a fleece of the judge’s own choice, which has outstanding qualities but may not always be the very highest scoring fleeces. This scoring is done to both genre of alpacas, huacaya (the woolly ones) and the suri (the long silky fleeced ones).”
Sandra added: “With high entry levels from outside of Cornwall, from some of the very best UK studs, CCA members worked hard from when their alpacas were sheared in May / June to get them ready for the show.”
A fleece from Popham Gabine, owned by Mr and Mrs Roger Clarke, won the Supreme Huacaya, with the Best British Bred Huacaya going to Carpalla Fonz, owned by Nigel Retallack. The Judges Choice Huacaya was won by Usk Grenade, owned by Mr and Mrs Morgan.
In the Suri classes, both the Supreme and Best British Bred titles went to Winsaula Casey Mack, with Winsaula Rags to Riches claiming the Judges Choice Suri honours.
Away from her organisational duties, Sandra’s fleeces were judged Champion Black Huacaya (Crewenna Amadeus) and Champion Black Suri (Shadow Wood Night Moves). Sandra’s success comes on the back of winning the 2020 BAS National Champion of Champions black fleece title with Silverstream Night Fever, after qualifying at Royal Three Counties, Somerset and East Alpaca group fleece shows in 2019.