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Andes Touch At Manfeild

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A cultural festival played out in the mountains of South America for many centuries provides the theme of an alpaca show at Manfeild Stadium this Saturday, September 11.

Pukllay is the name of a traditional festival held in the Central Andes. The world is the native Quechua meaning for 'play', and is appropriate for the start of Spring in New Zealand.

In South American culture it is specifically used in reference to the blossoms playing in the winds of the end of the rainy season, a portent to harvesting time.

A new word associated with alpaca showing seems all the more appropriate since the event is also hosted by a recently-formed association.

The Alpaca Breeders Association of New Zealand (ABANZ) is actively working towards establishing a viable fibre industry with a focus on high-end commercial quality alpaca fibre and products.

Show organiser and recently-elected ABANZ president Eric Lister believes this is the route to ensuring the long-term future of the alpaca industry.

"This will be the foundation for a predictable profitable and sustainable alpaca farming business in New Zealand."

In 2009 it was estimated there were more than 15,000 alpacas in New Zealand. Mr Lister is doing his bit for the breed. His well-established Thief Of Hearts stud near Palmerston North is home to 600 alpacas.

The best of the Suri (long hair) and Huacaya (fluffy) breeds will be on display at Manfeild to remind that alpacas are a sustainable investment with a coat that provides one of the softest, most lustrous and most versatile fibres in the world.

While similar to sheep's wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and bears no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic.

Visitors to Pukllay with properties suitable for alpacas are eligible for a draw to provide a home for a pair of pet wethered male alpacas.

Another unique feature will be the 'Sale Street' where breeders will each have up to four animals for sale. Along with this there will be displays of highland cattle, miniature horses and cattle. There is also a play area for children.

As a show of national importance, the Pukllay will have a serious side, but there's plenty of opportunity for the public to get up close and personal.

There's even opportunity to take an alpaca for a walk, which is a surprisingly undaunting exercise.

Alpacas are remarkably hardy animals - in South America, they graze at altitudes of 3500 to 5000 metres above sea-level - yet their ruggedness is matched by a remarkably gentle disposition which makes them easy to handle and care for.

Their appearance is equally as friendly; some of the longest eye lashes in the animal kingdom and the softest coats are appealing to all ages.

"They are just beautiful animals with a brilliant attitude, very characterful and charismatic," commented Manfeild chief executive Heather Verry.

"It is remarkable when we have alpacas in the stadium. Not only are they well-behaved but they are also very quiet, you're barely aware they are there."

There will be spinning and felting demonstrations of the versatile fibre and the finished product will be for sale in the craft area. Alpaca fibre is used for making knitted and woven items, including blankets, jerseys, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and bedding.

Pukllay judge Russell Nelson and his wife, Carolyn, have been farming alpacas on their Canterbury property for 12 years and had the country's first Suri stud.

Judging the association's first show is an honour, Mr Nelson says. His greatest thrill is seeing other people winning with animals from their stud genetics. His successes have included winning supreme champion Huacaya and Suri, on the same day at the same show - a feat achieved at five big events.

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