It's show time! Spring is when the show season really kicks into gear and the choices are though. How many shows should I go too? Should I go to the larger shows or smaller more local shows? How many alpacas should I take? All of these are good questions that don't have an easy answer since everybody's show comfort level and budgets are unique. However, at some point, your decision will be made and the fun begins. Incidentally, all of these good questions should not be raised in the Spring but in the preceding Fall or at the latest, Winter. The reason is that all shows take time and preparation in order for your farm to look good and present well.
Remember that these shows will serve a dual purpose. First they are an opportunity for you to showcase your alpacas against other farms so that you can get a realistic appraisal of the quality of your herd. Second, they will allow you to market your farm to other alpaca farm owners and the public. So it is not just a question of registering for the show and throwing the alpacas in the trailer.
With that in mind, what should be done early?
Advance Show Prep.
Register early This ensures that you get better stall placement since many shows assign stalls based on a first-come-first serve basis. Registering late will almost ensure that you get the stall in the back outside of the normal foot traffic.
Composite or full fleece This may determine when you schedule your shearing. Many larger shows have shearing at the show so after your alpaca is shown you may be able to shear right at the show.
ARI certificates mailed early Getting the right documentation is always critical and a correct ARI certificate is a must. If you need to get a corrected copy of your alpaca's ARI certificate it may be a matter of weeks to have a new copy mailed to you. By doing this you ensure that you can locate a copy when it is needed and certainly reduces stress when you are coming down to the wire. Also, it is a good idea to ensure that you have either the microchip number on the ARI certificate or have the barcode sticker that you can attach to the certificate since that will be needed as well.
Show Advertisement Many shows will encourage participants to advertise in their show schedule or online. If you have not advertised before and are interested in doing so it will take a while to design the layout, graphics, message and artwork. Many shows can also take your business card and use that as an advertisement. If you don't have business cards this would be an ideal opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Create a business card that can be used in your advertising and also produce attractive business cards to hand out at the show.
Marketing Booth Many alpaca owners rent stall space for their alpacas but also reserve a stall space for themselves. This enables them to showcase their farm and alpacas. If you would like to do this and take the shows to a different level, then you have to think about the booth space and how you are going to arrange your display. Do you need table skirts, banners, literature stands, etc. Almost everything can be reused but many of the items will need to be designed, like the table skirts (with your farm logo or farm name) of the banner.
Show Logistics How are you going to get to the show and where are you going to stay. If it is a popular show, and many of them seem to be getting bigger every year, then reserving a hotel early is essential. You can check with the show site or with other farms that went the previous year to find the best accommodations. Next you will want to Mapquest your route to ensure that you leave yourself enough time to get there in time for registration.
Alpaca Transportation Once you figure out how many alpacas you are going to bring to the show, you can easily determine if you have the means to get them there or if you will have to schedule for transportation. The show coordinators can usually steer you in the right direction on who the usual transporters are in your area. You should also check with neighboring farms to see what they are doing for transportation. One year we were able to add our alpacas to another farms transport. They had a couple of extra spaces in their trailer! So checking around is a good thing and it may save you some money. You will also need to check on the health transportation requirements which may be different than the show requirements.
Health Requirements Veterinary Health Certificates and necessary inoculations are closely watched at all shows and what is true for one show may not be true for another. Be sure to closely watch not only the requirements but how soon they are needed. If you are going to multiple shows map out when you will need to get the vet out to do the tests. Note that some tests may take a week (like BVDV) and some need a follow-up visit from the vet (TB), so plan well in advance. Most tests also have a time limit (within 30 or 60 days of arrival at destination state).
Alpaca Sitter Most shows are held over weekends but have alpaca check-in on Fridays. Therefore, unless it is a local show, you will be staying the weekend away from the farm. Scheduling way in advance your farm sitter will certainly give you piece of mind.
Once you have made all of the arrangements for the show you will have to start gathering all of the essentials for the show itself. For the care and feeding of the alpacas you will probably need many if not all of the following:
Stall Mats Each show seems to have a different type of stall mats that they use for the alpacas. Bringing your own stall mats ensures that if the show has mats that are not up to par, you can throw down your own mats. Some of the show vendors may also have the stall mats for sale if you forget them.
Water buckets You will need one for each stall that you rent. You may also want to bring an additional one in case you find that the alpacas are fighting over the water. If we are driving to the shows we tend to even bring our own water. That way we ensure that it is what the alpacas are used to drinking.
Hay feeders, hay We use the hanging feeders or the round fabric floor feeders. It is probably not a good idea to just place the hay directly on the mats since the alpacas could contaminate the hay with their waste since they are in such an enclosed area. We usually transport the hay in a large trash bag or in hay bale bags where you can carry a whole bale.
There are some reports of alpacas getting their necks tangled up in the fabric feeder bags that hang on the stall panels. We don't use these feeder bags anymore.
Mineral Pellets & Pans It is always good to be consistent with your alpacas so using the same pellets that you use on the farm is preferred. We usually seal the pellets in a small feed pail and include a measuring cup.
Halters & Leads We carry two different halters and leads. One for general use and one for the shows.
Medical Kit - As the old saying goes, If something can go wrong, it will. That is why we duplicate our farm medical kit and take it on the road with us. You don't know what or when you will need it. Also, it is better to duplicate the kit and not take your regular farm kit. Remember your alpacas that you left behind.
Clean-Up Gear - Poop scooper & rake, plastic garbage bags, string/cord are all great additions to your show luggage. You can get light-use scoopers and rakes that are more compact and easy to hide under your show table.
Grooming Tools While alpacas are enclosed in their stall, we are sure that they will take the opportunity to get hay and straw everywhere. Having grooming equipment will allow you to make your alpaca as presentable as possible for the show ring.
Hose & Sprayer Shows that are held in warmer weather of climates may be extra stressful on your alpacas. If so, taking your own cooling down equipment will allow you to react quickly to easing any of your alpacas discomforts due to the heat and humidity.
Fans & Electric Cords - , Especially for Huacayas who seems to enjoy the fans so much in warmer weather.
Even if you do not have a display booth, you may still want to promote your alpacas at your stalls. Therefore, the following additional items should be considered:
Alpaca Sale Literature - Print-outs of data for alpacas you have for sale fiber data, breeding and progeny data, etc. They will give prospective buyers something to take away with them and review before they give you a call to talk further.
Color ARI certificates - Copies for studs and for alpacas for sale w/plastic holders & wire wrap to display them are always helpful for people passing by the booth.
Banners & Signs These farm marketing signs can be added to the back of the stalls and are a great way to showcase the farm.
Show Ribbons We like to place our previous ribbons for the alpacas that we are showing right next to their ARI Certificates that we have placed on the front of the stall.
Fleece samples If you have alpacas for sale that are not attending the show, fleece samples are a good way, in addition to pictures, to show the quality of the alpaca and their fleece.
If you are adventuresome and want to set up a display booth to promote your farm and alpacas, you will need a number of items to make life bearable while you are not in the show ring or attending show workshops:
Table/Chairs Tables to put any products or other items on and chairs to lessen the pain of those protesting feet.
Stall Frames & Curtains The display stalls that are usually provided look pretty industrial. However, to draw attention to your stall, you may want to decorate it in a way that promotes your farm. Table skirts, banners, stands are all good ways to stand out in a crowd.
Fiber/Yarn & Products - Everyone loves alpaca fiber. To attract the public's attention adding finished alpaca products like sweaters, soxs, and an afghan so people know what alpaca fiber can be used for.
AOBA Show Rules When in doubt, read the rules.
Bowl & Candy - Looking at all those alpacas is hungry work. To attract visitors to your stall candy is a good way to break the ice and start a conversation.
Folding Step Ladder Depending on how you are setting up your display stall, you may need to reach high places. Having all of the equipment that you need at hand is easier and less frustrating.
Alpaca Articles & Literature - If you have published or written any articles on alpacas, shows are a great way to get them out there! Plus they are great take-aways for visitors.
Once you are at the show and the display booth is set up and all of your alpacas have settled in their stalls, it is time to relax and enjoy the show. In order for you to do that there are many items that you should have at the show that will make the event more enjoyable.
Notebook for reminders At the show, you will be seeing many things for the first time and meeting many new people. It is hard to remember all that is going on when there is so much going on. A pocket notebook is a way to remember all of the details and requests once you are back in the comfort of your own farm.
Show ring attire Logos or farm identified outfits are not allowed in the show ring. Therefore, it is a good idea to bring one show-ring compliant outfit to the show.
Camera Taking pictures of the show, your stalls, display booth and other alpacas is a way to have a lasting memory, especially if you win a ribbon. The pictures can also be used for your web site, articles, and advertisements.
Cooler Complete with bottled water and snacks are a way to stay close to your stall and not starve.
Cell phones Who are you gonna call when you win or if you need to attend to farm business? Make sure that you also bring your charger as well.
People Medical Kit Aspirin is sometimes needed as well as regular medications. Since you are going to prepare a medical kit for your alpacas in case they have an upset stomach, why not prepare yourself a medical kit as well.
Contacts List - You should have phone numbers of vets and hometown farm support in case something goes wrong on the farm while you are at the show
Other life happenstances always occur when they are least needed or wanted. Even if you never attend a show the following should also be considered when traveling:
Emergency stuff In the event that you are transporting your own alpacas it is always wise to think about what would happen if you broke down (and there are alpacas in the back). In that event, do you have access to AAA and do you need to carry orange vests, breakdown sign, etc. in your vehicle?
Tool kit We usually carry a tool kit for general use. Items like hammer, pliers, duct tape, bungee cords and Velcro. These are just in case something breaks and we can fix it until we can get it properly attended to.
So plan ahead, be prepared and have fun!
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