Excitement hosting World Alpaca Expo

Kaiapoi alpaca breeder Kit Johnson is looking forward to opening the World Alpaca Expo and Conference in Hamilton this weekend.

''We have been waiting for this for a long time, since we got chosen back in 2007. This is the big event and we probably won't get it for another 20 years,'' the Alpacas Association of New Zealand president said.

''As the host president, I get to speak at the opening of the expo and the closing of the conference. The rest of the time I will be showing my animals and fleeces.''

Mr Johnson said there were 50 delegates coming from Australia and other delegates from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Canada.

The World Alpaca Expo, from September 20-24, incorporates the annual New Zealand alpaca expo, which has attracted record entries of 471 animals in the breed classes and about 400 fleeces, including fleeces from Australia and even from Europe, Mr Johnson said.

''We had to get an import permit from the Ministry of Primary Industries to get the fleeces into the country and we have had a really good response.

''All the animals get shorn in November, so these are last year's fleeces and they are judged on their quality and colour. In the breed classes, the animals will be judged on the fleece that has grown back since November.''

Mr Johnson said there would be a strong Canterbury contingent at the expo. He has personally delivered 115 fleeces to Hamilton on behalf of breeders throughout the South Island and he believed there were around 150 altogether from the South Island, with the bulk of them from Canterbury.

The breed classes will be judged by Paul Garland, of West Melton, near Christchurch, and Australian Angela Preuss, while the international fleece show will be judged by Hawkes Bay breeder Sarah Busby and Australian Lyn Dickson.

An international alpaca vet conference was also being held in Hamilton, to coincide with the alpaca expo, while an alpaca auction will be held on Friday evening, with seven animals going under the hammer. The expo will also feature 60 trade sites from New Zealand and Australia.

The conference will feature speakers from China, who will speak about opportunities for exporting alpacas to China, Australia, South America, the United States, Switzerland and New Zealand.

''China could just about buy the national herd 20 times over, so it would be a huge opportunity for New Zealand,'' Mr Johnson said.

New Zealand's national herd comprised around 25,000 animals and just under 700 breeders and the local industry had been going since 1986, Mr Johnson said.

He said there was growing interest in coloured alpacas, but he believed the future was still strong in white alpacas.

''I believe the white animals will remain the focus, because you can dye the fleece and do more with it.''

Alpacas were shown at A&P shows throughout New Zealand and the next big Canterbury show, is the South Island Colourbration Show being held at the Canterbury Park Showgrounds in Christchurch on Saturday October 5.

- David Hill

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