Firstly, I have to thank everybody who has telephoned after the BAS meeting last Saturday. Si had put his name forward to be on the committee believing that the only way to get things changed is to do it from the inside. We couldn’t understand why there were so many votes against him until somebody who we had never met telephoned to tell us that there was a particularly vindictive member, and fellow nominee, who had been lobbying against him all day and telling people that he wanted to get all alpaca shows stopped. Although we believe this would be the ideal situation until the TB situation is completely under control, after all this worked with the Golden Guernsey Goat Society, or we have a reliable test for alpacas, what he had actually asked at a previous meeting was that he thought that it should be possible for members to be informed as to what bio-security arrangements were in place for each show, so that breeders could make an informed choice about whether to attend or not.
The alpaca shows are organized by people who have differing ideas as to the dangers of zoonotic diseases so some of the BAS Guidelines are adhered to or ignored according to the individual opinions of the organizers. I think that it would be in our favour to be more inclusive, following the example of the US and Australia where they share information, whereas in the UK breeders are more reluctant to help one another. A perfect example of this is the BAS website where there is a forum to share and ask for advice, it hasn’t been used for three months. People can use it to ask specific questions regarding the welfare of their herd and the questions go unanswered for years, if the committee really cared about alpacas couldn’t they check on a regular basis and offer advice? Does every breeder in this country think they know everything there is to know about alpacas? If so, it is a very arrogant attitude and will be to the detriment of the industry as a whole. Even our vet doesn’t presume that he knows everything and will often telephone drug companies and VLA to ask which medications they would recommend for alpacas, as there are no licensed medicines available.
Anyway, it would seem that this has gone in our favour in ways we didn’t envisage. We have even had a telephone call from a breeder on mainland Europe who had heard about what had happened at the meeting and they supported us and the fact that we haven’t shown our animals at an alpaca halter show for the past few years so as not to risk them catching anything. We have animals that we would have loved to have shown but we care about them so won’t risk them. One of our stud boys, Ashdale Cooper, is the son of a Supreme Champion and the brother of Supreme Champions and we would have loved to have taken him to a show or two. This breeder has also said that he would recommend us to people where they live as being biosecurity aware and previously they wouldn’t have considered buying from the UK.
Another attendee at the meeting only has a few alpacas and had recommended this offending nominee to a friend who wanted to start breeding them but has now told them to go elsewhere and has recommended us.
We know that it is unrealistic for us to have a completely ‘closed herd’ yet as we wish to mix bloodlines to improve the quality of our fibre so there are a few breeders that we would trust completely to bring their stud males onto our farm, albeit into a pen away from the main herd for their security as well as our own. We are always asked to dip and scrub our boots in disinfectant before we enter their premises and not once have we felt insulted.
We work closely with several breeders we trust, and have purchased alpacas from, and regularly use the services of, Wellground Alpaca Stud in Wiltshire. They are completely bio-security aware and have not attended any alpaca halter shows for two years either and we have some stunning progeny from Wellground’s stud boys. We love the fact that we can feel completely safe using them and they are always on the end of a telephone for any questions we have but they also share any new information via their blog to help new alpaca owners.