More than a cute face: Unpacking the Alpaca at the Melbourne Royal Show

Plenty of character, fleece and good breeding will be on display as the best alpacas from around Australia are showcased in the Melbourne Royal Alpaca Competition at the Melbourne Royal Show in September.

Exhibitors have until Wednesday 7 August to enter the fleece and halter sections in Victoria’s premier Alpaca event that is set to attract hundreds of entries in two main breed categories, Huacaya and Suri.
The difference between these two major breeds? Rather than the bright, crimpy fleece of the Huacaya, the Suri has a long hanging, dreadlock type lustrous fleece that hangs close to the body.

The alpaca community relish the opportunity to show there’s much more than an adorable face to these cute and curious animals, and this year, show patrons won’t have to go far if they have burning questions.

Select exhibitors at this year’s Show will be sporting badges emblazoned with ‘Want to know about alpacas? Ask me a question’.

“We used to get ‘do they spit?’ a lot but these days people are asking great questions like what we do with the fleece, their life span, and their dietary needs and we love answering them,” said Trevor Parry, Melbourne Royal Alpaca Committee Member.

The Melbourne Royal Alpaca Competition has become a popular attraction among an increasingly interested and diverse audience looking to get in on the action, Trevor says.

“More and more people are looking for something different and that may be to get their own small piece of land and venture into a livestock enterprise. Alpacas fit the bill for a lot of people,” he said.

Alpacas have been part of the Melbourne Royal Show since 1991, with 37 entries in that first year. This year’s Show hopes to welcome more than 100 entrants from across Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania to compete.

Renown International judge Mary-Jo Smith from The British Alpaca Society will judge the halter section of the competition, with Lee Sadler from South Australia judging the fleece.

As the second largest alpaca industry in the world, following the Peruvian alpaca industry, Australia is at the forefront of breeding, fibre quality and development. Classified as a luxury fibre, alpaca fleece is typically processed into garments and homewares.

The Fleece section will be judged two weeks before the Show on 11 September, with the fleece to be on display in the Livestock Pavilion all 11 days of the event.

And while Trevor, now aged in his 70’s, has recently moved off-farm and sold many of his alpacas, he’s looking forward to seeing some of his former animals – and current friends – in action at this year’s Show.

“The organising committee is looking forward to seeing a strong number of entries and many curious people visiting the alpacas in what is a very friendly, and well-organised show,” he said.

Entries for the Melbourne Royal Alpaca Competition include a halter section, fleece section and youth section. A highly engaging competition, the Alpaca Youth Competition features the up-and-coming young paraders and Young Judges, to be held on Saturday 28 September.

Entries for fleece and halter closing Wednesday, August 7. Visit the Melbourne Royal Alpaca Competition page for more information.