Autumn Sun Alpacas - Logo

Monday, March 20, 2017

Social Media Ruins Everything ;)

All, with the rise of Facebook and somewhat Instagram comes the decline of my blog. I am calling its 'time of death.' Boo. Waaa. Sorry!

If you want to check out more about what's happening at our farm and shows, catch Mary and Michael on Facebook and take a look around our Facebook farm page, called not-surprisingly Autumn Sun Alpacas. :) See you there!

Friday, February 28, 2014

'Tailored' Lead Training for Our Show Juvies....In a Hurry!

Wow, time has really flown by! What did we do in the time frame since we last posted??

We attended the Great Western Alpaca Show in May, sheared over 70 alpacas at end of May, fretted over our pregnant dams and welcomed many fantastic crias, made a round trip to Oregon to retrieve our dams out for 'dates', got hay, dyed alpacas rovings and made drop spindles for the upcoming show and orders, attended the ABR Fall Festival and accepted two more crystal boot awards, met a TON of people again at the National Western Stock Show that are interested in alpacas, still did not get the fiber sorting done over Christmas school break :(, put up a new shelter for 'the boys' so the girls can expand into a campus of connecting or adjacent shelters, made ads and banners and tried to take more current pictures of the crias (arghh!!) for the postings, ...and now getting ready for the halter show of the TxOLAN Spectacular.

And, somewhere in all that are three boys, school, work, a sundry of dogs and cats, trailers, and car care! Hmmm, I feel tired looking back at this brief overview of last year! Anyways... what's the point of this long list of details of our past endeavors?

We are busy. And, that can lead (pun intended) to time constraints for our farm tasks.

Which leads (haha, pun again) to my confession that we just started teaching our juvenile show alpacas that are going to TxOLAN to lead just last weekend. I know, I know, I would have liked to had started earlier so I could let them acclimatize to the halters and standing with the leads on them before we started walking. But, while choice influences tasks, life dictates the timelines and time bounds our endeavors.... In other words, we ran out of time.

So, in the interest of providing the most effective training in the shortest amount of time, we employed our two oldest boys to help with the leading. In order of experience and dare say capability, it would be Mike and I followed by Big C (13 yrs going on 24 with his 3 yrs of alpaca experience) and then Middle C (10 yrs but 1 year active with alpacas).

To start, we performed a 'triage' of the crias for a tailored ~half hour to 45 minute session of progressive lead handling.

a) Hesitant:
M-C got the most willing crias first, maybe the one that appreciated the kisses doled out, sweet talking compliments of their good behavior, and his gentle leading (who was leading who sometimes was a question).

b) Pouters:
Big-C got the one that was reticent, walking but with a stiff legged protest march of indignation. He played the 'ignore' game with these, walking with his hand behind his back leading them behind him. After they realized no one was witnessing their pouting, they eased into a mostly slack lead pace (unless he looked at them) as he strolled endless around the paddock.

c) Mules and Broncos:
Michael and I got the heavy hitters -- the broncos (ones rearing and bouncing around) and the mules (ones rooted to the center of the Earth by a previously undocumented force). Michael tended to do well with the broncos as he could passively resist until they stopped testing the endurance of the halter/lead (and probably the handler). Then, he would start the stiff legged walking.

Having raised three willful boys, I was practiced at the out-wait game and would stand with the mules until their heads came up. Then, I would rhythmically rock on my heels, so that the lead pressure pulsed until they took a step. Using their momentum I would then take a couple of even steps and a 'reward' them with moments of lead slack carefully engineered by my 'relaxed' arm movements during walking. This was done in the attempt to convince them that there was no harm in walking with me. If they became stubborn again, this repeated until I could at least get them to move if at a prance or stiff legged march.

It seemed that they progressed in attitude from Mules to Broncos to Pouters to Hesitant. By the time we got to the Hesitant state of mind, we had them walking at our side though usually a bit behind us when side-by-side is desired. They sometimes balked and/or 'muled' with their heads down but for the most part were walking okay. At any point, we could have 'walked into the ring' though it would not be the total ease of movement we desired.

All this in one session! I was impressed with our progress. So, I thought about why that worked. I think it was a couple of factors mainly. We tailored the kind of leading we were doing to their state of mind but always kept pushing the training to the next level. And, we were switching between the four us in walking so that they weren't learning to walk 'one way' and/or figuring us out!

That being said, this is not a replacement for the slower paced training, and we definitely need to squeeze in a couple of more sessions and have plenty of walks at the show to continue their familiarity with walking on a lead. But, with time of the essence, I know that we will use this training method again in the future!

The moral of the story is to tailor the training to the animal. ....Well, and to start earlier next time!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Make sure your dog is really a dog..."

That's the title (paraphrased) of a blurb about a blog that caught my eye in a recent marketing newsletter I receiving. Well, who could resist a tagline like that?? I clicked and found myself at an online 'popular news' site that talked about a man in South America who bought two ferrets that had been given steroids and groomed to be passed off as toy poodles. Yes, sadly this is real; you can search the web for "giant ferret toy poodle" and the story pops up.

Besides the novelty of this absurdity, why am I mentioning this? Well, like a lot of times, I started thinking about the 'moral of the story'. I quickly was able to find parallels in my own life as an alpaca breeder.

Before I illustrate this, I want to assure everyone of a few things: as a whole I have never worked with a group of people that is so willing to help and educate others, I think that the alpaca industry is inherently unique and innovative -- progressing in great strides, and I think there are always 'bad apples' in the bunch in any venture, community, and area. I do not feel deterred by any 'bad experiences' but have learned from them to be both a better buyer and seller!

So, in the spirit of this learning and the desire to help others grow with us, below are some examples of things that could go 'wrong' and what things that can be done to prevent them or to protect yourself.

a) You got stuck with a 'Bred female' that is neither bred nor breedable:
Make sure the female stays at the selling farm for 90 days after breeding no matter how much you (or they) want to transport her early. Ensure that an ultrasound is done before she transports (not just spit checks, progesterone checks, or ultrasound that occurred 60 days ago). Make sure your contract specifies the recourse if she is not able to become pregnant INCLUDING your right to decline the first proposed replacement (you and the seller must agree or a refund occurs), AND that there isn't an overall date in the contract by which all claims must be made. We had an instance where there was such a date that superceded the 'breed back' and breedability warranties. Ouch.

b) You made a long distance purchase that arrives not looking quite like what you expected from the listing:
Get CURRENT pictures of: both sides in profile, the back legs, the front legs, the bite from both the front and the side, the face to include both eyes and both ears, the fleece parted ON THE BODY and the 'under the tail' shot. Ask for pictures of the dam/sire if they are not on the listing (if they don't own them, the seller may not be able to provide this). Proven dam or sire? Ask for pictures of the cria. Get fleece samples of the alpaca from as many years as possible. Don't be shy to see if they would be willing to take a clip from the side if this animal is not showing and is not close to shearing (be nice though -- you should be really serious in the animal). Get fiber samples of its dam, sire and any offspring. I have receive boxes of many samples before; and I have sent them out too! This last one many people don't do because they are afraid to offend... ASK the seller point blank if the animal has or has ever had breeding /birthing/nursing issues, any fiber loss or skin afflictions, any foot issues, eye issues, gut/feeding issues, major trauma or illness, parasite issues that required more than routine treatment, and ask if they currently need to feed them differently than their other alpacas. Does it sound like you are interrogating them? Well you are ... or a form of it. You are interviewing them because you cannot interview the alpaca. They should expect and applaud you wanting to have the necessary information to make an informed purchase. If they get hostile, that's your sign to move on.

c) You find your 'won' alpaca or breeding at an auction comes with extra costs:
This solution is easy in concept, but hard to remember when caught up in the excitement and sometimes hard to do if you and the seller don't see 'eye to eye.' You should never agree to buy anything without READING A CONTRACT. In fact, verbal agreements are not binding for purchases that require details to be finalized and have warranties. In major auctions though, your registration to bid is you signing a contract with the auction that you will honor your winning bid. If you know that you will likely bid on a particular animal, then in the pre-auction review ask to see their contract. Talk then about any 'deal breaker' concerns you may have. If you find that you are bidding at a more informal event where there was no registration to bid, ASK your question beforehand or right then if this is surprise addition. Yes, I said it -- interrupt the bidding if it is an important issue. Chances are that if it is a concern to you, then it is a concern to others. Remind yourself that while you likely can find another 'so special' alpaca or breeding, if you charge in blindly you may rue your loss.

To keep this from becoming a novella, suffice it to say that you need to be actively aware in all transactions -- with friends and with 'friends', at live and online auctions, in remote purchases and at-farm purchases.

A few key points:

*Know the alpaca you are looking at, even if it is a 'gift' or steal of a deal.
*Know about the farm you buying from (some have a poor behavior known in the ' alpaca community').
*READ THE CONTRACT. And, make sure it says what you want it to, even if you have to have it revised.
*Don't feel pressured -- think it over, take a day, discuss it with an impartial third party.
*Always get a vet check at your farm after the animal arrives (this should be in the contract with a 'escape' clause). You are not a veterinary expert and could miss things.
*Don't forget about the 'extra costs' -- CVI/transport exam, transportation, agisting, ARI transfer, pre-purchase vet exam, ultrasounds,etc. And, remember that extra costs occur for both purchases and breedings.

My biggest advice is from the old Kenny Roger's song: You have to know when to walk away. If it feels wrong and your smiles seem to be more like baring teeth, then it is not the right deal. For at least the contract warranty period and maybe longer depending on breedings, breed-backs, and partial ownership, you will be working with them. Generally, bad starts lead to hard feelings and harder relationships. Walk away, my friend.

But, no worries -- there are LOTS of fantastic alpacas and people in the alpaca community. I hope that some of this helps you avoid some pitfalls, but if not then my last piece of advice is to climb out, brush yourself off, find a friend to commensurate, and then let it go. :) Good luck!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Building a Relationship vs. Making a Sell...

We just received the best compliments from a customer and a fellow farm breeder!

At a seminar held by fellow alpaca breeder, our recent customer told them and the other participants of their great experience with us during their visit to OUR farm and subsequent purchase. Our farm friends were kind enough to send us an email letting us know of these compliments, as well as adding their own kind words!

"...[our customer] was very impressed with you guys. She said your animals were so well behaved and you have a great herd. At our seminar on Saturday, we talked about how responsive and informative you are and we told our attendees that you set the bar on customer service. Keep up the great work!"

Now, that is the kind of thing you need to hear to remind you that EVERYTHING you do and say is a reflection on you as a person, on your farm, and your animals. It isn't just a childhood saying... Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Yes, we sold an alpaca, but more importantly -- we built a solid business relationship, we made new friends, and as the 'cherry on top' we received word of mouth advertising.

"QUALITY ALPACAS IN COLOR. EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE IN BLACK AND WHITE." This is our farm motto and we live by it!

We welcome informative chats, love to show our alpacas to you, and enjoy mentoring new farms for their success. Don't hesitate, email us any time at livingstons@autumnsunalpacas.com.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Secret to a Good 'Sell'....

The key to experiencing a good 'Sell' -- one where both you and your customer walk away satisfied and happy -- is the simplest concept but often the hardest thing to do. In fact, we even find it hard to do in our discussions with our families/friends and in everyday life experiences. What is it?? LISTEN.

I don't mean to just listen to what I am saying, I mean to LISTEN in general. When we listen, we gather new data, we evaluate this data against what we already know, and we figure out what we don't know. So, being able to actively listen to our customer let's us learn about them and ask genuine questions about them. How will we benefit them?

Think about this from the client's perspective.... Have you every been in a conversation where you felt like you were being ignored, talked at/over, or worst, lectured or patronized? Compare this to the first conversation with a new friend where the actively wanted to know more about you? Which did you enjoy and which did you walk away from as soon as possible?

This concept is 'stuff' we all know, that we are taught by our parents and teachers and experience in our daily lives. But how easily we forget this when we are in a position of knowledge or authority, where we are telling others what we know (and assume they don't), or where we feel like we are in control. ...like when a person new to alpacas approaches us with interest in one of our animals or fiber products.

How can Selling be a lack of Listening?

The "Orator":
Sometimes it is done with good intentions -- we want them to know all the wonderful things we know about the fiber or the animal! ...And, we completely overwhelm them information they cannot absorb and they feel tired and beaten after their 'force-feeding'. That person relishes going to the 'other' farm whose laid back attitude is like a moment of refreshing silence. More is not always better -- there is such a thing as too much of a good thing!

The "Hard Sell aka The Car Salesman':
Sometimes it is done with the intent to direct the conversation to what we want to talk about.... 'You don't want that sensible little used car over there, but you do want this supercharged sports car here, dontcha now?' This heavy-handed method may work on some sells but does not lead to a feeling of satisfaction and happiness with an ongoing relationship and repeat purchase. There is no confidence in this relationship.

The "Ego":
Sometimes, well frankly, the person is full of themselves. They know more about this topic than you ever can in your life -- just ask them, because they will tell you so. Remember you are not selling yourself.

So, listen, ask questions, and learn about what your customer wants.... and maybe you will make a friend or at least a satisfied customer rather than just a sell.

--------

Want learn more about the importance of listening more than talking? You can find out more in the business self help section of your local library as well as in numerous free business newsletters such as Smartblogs, Inc, Ellie Winslow, Openforum, etc.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spinning Group

It's good to have support...

Friends, Family, Colleagues, etc.

This is the part of the 'alpaca community' that is so appealing. You can find farms that will always give you a helping hand, a piece of advice, and collaboration.

But don't stop there! Are you just learning about fiber? Been a crafter or artisan for a while but still learning? Familiar with wool but not alpaca fiber or vice versus? Then, join a support group!

Check in your city's craft shops, online classified ads, and with fellow farms/friends for a support group -- for spinning, and/or a weaving group, and/or a felting group, and/or a dyeing group! If there isn't one, start one!

There are also online chat/support groups that are great fun, easy companionship, lots of free information. Check out Ravelry, Craftsy, CrochetSpot and the blogs/community groups in associated sites on Etsy, Artfire, Interweave, Knitty, etc.

Take a spin, live to dye, throw and hook with abandon!

Enjoy, learn well, live long and prosper.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dogs on Duty

What??  I AM on duty!

What?? I AM on duty!

Yep, a lot of our working dogs' time is spent lounging around (if not eating!), but that's okay since they are still 'on duty'. They sleep lightly and wake at the unusual sound or alarm call, day or night, ready to fly to the fence in all their barking fierceness. And, when you have seen your guardian dog respond with emphasis to a neighbor's dog at the fenceline, then you know what I mean about their impressive ferocity and full throttle 'go away' snarls and barks.

It was long road for us to finally have guardian dogs that 'did their job' right. While agisting at another farm several years ago, we experienced an unfortunate incident where their newest Maremma guardian dog thought that the tail of one our alpacas made a great chew toy. Long story short is that the alpaca was predicted by the veterinarian to lose 3-4 inches of his tail but thanks to our diligent care and some luck, our alpaca only lost an inch from the tip. But, when you have seen raw flesh with missing skin and the bone sticking out, the image tends to be retained in the memory. Afterwards, on our own farm, we attempted to add two young Great Pyrenees dogs but again found misfortune as the first cria of the year met an early demise to at least one of them (the pieces were small and few). Early warning signs should have been the captured and eaten birds and 'playful raking' at the alpacas but we foolishly thought that buying dogs that were "raised with alpacas and other livestock" of a certain breed would ensure better behavior.

We decided in the interim that no dog was good to have and the best defense was a good fence, which is generally true and can be enough, depending. But for us, blizzards created large drifts in the span of a couple of hours and dogs (who will prowl in the middle of snowstorm whereas a coyote will not) will then walk over them with ease. Lucky for the alpacas who had bedded down in the shelters, but bad for the loud fowl, these dogs went back over these fences to other pens to massacre a bunch of geese and ducks instead. We realized that only dogs would be able to make another dog think twice about entering our alpaca paddocks.

So, though our current dogs were seniors from a farm that was closing up shop, we gave it another try. Perhaps, we thought, we needed to start win an experienced pair of dogs that could help us 'train' a new dog to the team. We realistically knew that these older dogs would not be around for several more years*. We hit the jackpot there, though we initially had some issues keeping our Anatolian Shepherd male in the alpaca area. He either dug a hole and both he and the Great Pyrenees female were on a 'walk-about', or he went right over the fence by himself and only roamed the nearby 80-240 acres (ah, ahem -- good dog??). So, with some judicious use of buried wire panels and electric fence, we no longer even think about 'keeping the dogs in'. And, I don't think that the dogs even think about heading out now..... No, not now with their siestas, the continuous dog feeder in place, and their special dog treats (read: huge bones from the store). And, yes, they are training their new team member just fine.... Good dogs.

*Did you know that large breed dogs do not have long lifespans? Generally 6-8 years is a good life, though some can pass away as early as 2 years old if they experience any complications. Cancer and joint issues are not uncommon and can present at very early years. This is something to consider in keeping your 'dog protection' in place at your farm.... How will you replace your missing team member -- by buying an experienced dog, 'training' a new pup using your existing team, or by trying to raise your pup the 'right way' yourself? A tip to consider: breeding and bloodlines alone do not make a guardian dog....
...taking a break in the mid-day sun.

...taking a break in the mid-day sun.

Time for a treat!  Alpacas and dogs getting along fine.

Time for a treat! Alpacas and dogs getting along fine.

Our dogs, the first winter here.

Our dogs, the first winter here.


Monday, January 28, 2013

The Livingstons having fun at 2013 National Western Stock Show!

As a family, we were able to go to the NWSS in Denver, Colorado this last weekend. It was great fun to see the various different breeds of 'other livestock' during the course of our wanderings through the buildings.

CATTLE

We managed to view some of the cattle showing in the arena, observing how fast the judging went in comparison to alpaca showing. After the exhibitors entered the ring en masse, the judge walked down the front and the back of the row. Then, the exhibitors began walking in a circle around the judge who stood in the center of the ring. There was no individual review-by-touch from the judge for conformation; instead, the judge parsed them as they walked by, ranking them from lowest to the highest (1st) place. The fact that the cattle were not touched in the ring showed why judicious clipping and spraying of their coat, as we observed in the animals being laborious prepared for show in the barn, could be a benefit to the exhibitor. All exhibitors were ranked and the top 10 received their ribbon. It was very interesting to see the differences between showing cattle and alpacas.

Back in the cattle barn, we also saw some miniature Herefords. But, perhaps because they seem more of a novelty than livestock, or for the general disarray of the area and reserved attitude of the owners we greeted, we didn't stay long in those aisles. We quickly encountered other notable bovine just an aisle over. We were enthusiastic in talking to some breeders of the Highland cattle originating from Scottland. With its shaggy hair this cattle almost looked cute, certainly eye-catching, especially when these nicely trained show cattle were carefully tethered to their posts :). But the the long horns that all true Highland cattle sport, regardless of gender, remind you that these are indeed cattle. Mary immediately asked whether their fiber was ever spun into yarn (no) and Michael asked about their production and market weights. Despite their long tresses, these were meat cattle by purpose. The boys enjoyed touching the long hair and horns, under supervision and with the owner's approval. It was very interesting to be the 'newbee' asking rudimentary questions!

SHEEP

The sheep showing was more 'hands on' for the two handlers, who did not use a lead and sometimes found themselves suspended from the necks of leaping sheep. Not surprisingly without a lead, the sheep were not walked around the judge. Interesting, the 2nd handler placed their legs in the accepted stance. Since the sheep on this day were not market (meat) sheep, I am not certain how the judge could accurately assess the fiber qualities without touching the animals. Without this individual animal review, the judging in the show ring went very fast again, in comparison to alpaca showing. We lingered in the sheep barn area, looking at the impressive Rambouillet and festive Jacob sheep that were present ("Mom, this one has FIVE horns!"). We also spoke for a while with a lady who recently moved back to Colorado with her herd of St. Croix hair sheep. Wow, this interesting sheep looked more like a smaller, thinner Great Pyrenees dog than the fluffy or shaggy sheep that is more common. Not unexpectedly, these sheep do not have much staple length and their hair/fiber is not really processed for 'wool'; instead they are raised for their easy care meat production. Again, we found ourselves on the 'other end' of the discussion -- asking lots of questions and learning about an animal new to us.

DOGS, HORSES, & BISON - OH, MY

On our way out of the building to the outdoor pens, we were able to catch some of the herding dog trials. What amazing patience and intelligence these dogs have; the time taken by owner and dog to achieve this ability must have been intensive. We also stopped for quite a while to admire the beautiful draft horses preparing for their event. That amount of shining, chromed, massive gear that was strapped to these horses was daunting. knowing the hundreds of dollars spent on just a 'regular' horse's show halter, it must have been a small fortune in tack alone! It made you wonder what these horses looked like with armored knights on their back, for which they were originally bred. We sorely wished we could see these impressive teams at work, but shied away from the ticket gate for the event. The path to the yaks in the outdoor pens led over the Bison in a catwalk, meant to keep people safe I think. Watching two Bison bulls tussle in a large pen reminded us why we chose alpacas over Bison or Elk as our livestock of choice. It was interesting to watch them slam their massive bodies into each other and the massive fences -- a bit like how it would feel to be around the raw power of wild animals on a safari.

YAK

After the catwalk, we arrived at the yak area and descended the long stairway to their dedicated enclosures. We actually had to make two stops at the yak pens outside, since at the first time no one was there. We quickly realized that there were not many yaks here as well and deduced that they were showing. We able to see some of the showing, which operated much like the cattle and sheep showing. Again, no animals were touched though the fiber was assessed by what the judge believed it would be like based on the outward appearance of the animal. More emphasis was placed on the movement, size/frame, and 'look' (shaggy, 'full fleeced' in alpaca terms) -- which makes me think that much of the yak industry is concentrated on the meat rather than the fiber. This was substantiated in our discussion with one of the farms, who said that the down is available on the neck to just behind the front leg, generally yielding 1-2 lbs before the expected 50% loss from dehairing in the mill processing. He admitted that they don't process or sell their fiber at all and just started showing last year after many years in the business. This was enlightening, since we were considering acquiring a couple of yaks for the 'novelty' and to add fiber to Mary's fiber fun blending with our alpaca fiber. But we are still mulling over whether this will be cost effective for us.

WHAT DID WE LEARN TODAY?

Over all, it was a very informative time! We learned about hardy animals in the cattle, sheep and yak 'groups' and were able to compare them to what we know about alpacas. We were able to experience what it was like to be a 'newbee' and what worked or not in how we were answered.

Though not the intention of our outing, this day served to remind us of the attributes of alpacas and what does make them one of the best livestock options available. We have found that alpacas are still such a versatile species -- producing pounds of fiber that can be as fine as cashmere as well as meat if you choose to process your culls, hardy in their nature and foraging abilities -- along with with a robust showing system that is cornerstone of the marked and quick improvement cycles in the industry, and support system of farms, affiliations, and organizations that help promote the breed and its fiber. All this with an animal that that is a manageable size and mellow in temperament -- often becoming the first thing on the list when you have to be around your animals on a daily basis!

Again, we are fortunate for our choice -- alpacas all the way!

ALPACAS -- FIND OUT THE BENEFITS! MAKE YOUR OWN COMPARISONS, AND BE IMPRESSED!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is Agriculture Viable? [NWSS, Baxter Black, Colorado Country Life]

My thoughts are revolving around some things I saw this last weekend, relating to the National Western Stock Show and Baxter Black, the cowboy poet.

We attended the National Western Stock Show as alpaca exhibitors for the first time this year. Having just come away from the experience last weekend, the images are fresh in my mind. We have been in the alpaca industry for several years now, have been to many shows, and as Coloradans are not unfamiliar with the 'Western culture'. With all these factors, I was surprised by a few things.

The "Western Culture" is Alive and Well!
The buildings and lots were near bursting with animals and people! Though it could be a bit frustrating waiting your turn at the gate to enter the lots, or navigating through the throngs of people in the aisle ways in the buildings, the active scene really showed that there are LOTS of ranches and farms out there and people who are interested in country / agriculture and livestock! So if you wonder if you are a "hick" and not part of the maintstream, this shows that 'country' is going strong! From the money flowing in the NWSS vendor area and by livestock exhibitors, I would say that the there is money to be spent by those who love the ranching way of life!

People WANT TO Know About Agriculture
Droves of people, ranging from 'newbees' to other livestock ranchers, came through the alpaca pen area and wanted to see, touch, and know more about them! I had several very enjoyable conversations with visitors, teaching them more about alpacas, the fiber they produce, and alpaca ranching -- even finding a few kindred spirits that I knew could place themselves in the 'alpaca lifestyle' and ENJOY it as much as we do! There is a reason for this desire that goes beyond rarity. People find alpacas not just approachable and 'cute' but also attainable -- especially with their personalities, versatility, size, and support by the alpaca community of fellow breeders. The comments by the visitors were positive and enthusiastic!

Education is NECESSARY to help people fully realize the benefits of agriculture (farming, ranching, "country living") and how alpacas can give this to them.
There are still some 'city slickers' that were enthralled with the looks and personalities of the alpacas but did not understand how fiber (the alpaca 'wool') was converted to yarn, and even how yarn or any other clothing thread was used to make garments and clothes. This makes me think to years ago when a friend said her daughter once asked her what fried chicken was made from and was shocked to find out it was from chickens! I was raised in a semi-country / semi-suburban environment by a father that also regularly hunted, so I saw early on where food 'came from' and witnessed the circle of life. Our children are raised the same way. But, we do not currently raise our meat, so I found myself bemused when our son protested that the cattle left outside the pens with straw but with a dusting of snow on their backs and in sub-freezing weather would be too cold. Also, as I spun the alpaca fiber into yarn, you could see people's faces light up with a joy at seeing something be created in front of their eyes! Understanding how the alpacas' fiber was spun into yarn and then used to create the very garment I was wearing was a thrill to many.

Baxter Black?
How does this all include Baxter Black you wonder? Well, I had just read a brief article about him in the Colorado Country Life called "Cows, Corn and Poetry". Baxter Black is a well known poet cowboy -- talking about real life things among country folk. But I was most impressed in this article by his staunch support of agriculture AND appreciation of how it benefited all of the U.S. The article let Black develop his support for agriculture with direct quotes as he thanked the small percentage of people of farms/ranches that produced the food for the rest of the nation and even provided for one of the last few exports America had. It was my clear impression that he steadfastly portrayed 'country folk' as good, honest people that are the cornerstone of our country.

Bring It Together...
At the Stock Show, I realized in the midst of the swirling eddies of people -- from fiber enthusiasts in their hand made garments, to the city slickers with their neat clothing (clean shoes) and lots of gear, and the cowboys and girls in their boots, spurs and hats -- that this is a great environment for bringing it all together!

I Challenge YOU!
So, that is my challenge to myself, and I present that to both fellow alpaca breeders and any 'newbees' thinking of getting in the business:

How are you going to make your (maybe potential) alpaca farm the best ambassador to others?

How are you going to make your business the most well rounded to reach out to the cowboys/cowgirls, the farmer, fiber enthusiast, and the city slicker?

Why is it not just good for you -- your 'country heart', your zen, your well-being, or whatever you want to call it -- but for your business, for the alpaca industry as whole, and even really for the country that we work towards this?



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Do You Know Your Alpaca?

Among the few business e-newsletters that we subscribe to is SmartBrief, with its quick digest information and links to longer articles in the author blog sites.

I often find something interesting, useful, and insightful. But rarely does a headline hit like shock of water on the face. It was in fact, a biting statement - cool and detached and maybe a bit aggressive.

The subject line read: "Why You Shouldn't Keep Working With A Nightmare Client"

Ouch! We know they exist and there is a point where it is not worth the headache and sometimes heartache to try to please this client. You may need to create some distance with those folks.

But it got me thinking -- when is this really a nightmare client and when is that you are just 'off on the wrong foot'? I thought to myself, is there anything I can do to prevent this? So, now, on the flip side, in this very same newsletter was a tidbit whose caption fed right into my second line of thinking:

"Your Salespeople Must Know Your Products Inside and Out" with the quote by Vanessa Merit Nornberg of Metal Mafia: "You can have the nicest sales people in the world, but if they don't know your product, they are simply useless." Inc

Doesn't that say it all?

Now ask yourself how many times you have questioned what another breeder or article has said. How many times did YOU not know the answer to a question?

Do you know how to 'handle' alpacas?
How to prepare fiber for mini-mill processing? Commercial processing? Handspinning?
Do you use your own fiber so you REALLY know what makes it special?
Beyond fiber, do you know about HOW to run your farm, do breedings, give medical care?

We all have areas we can be improving on to make us better breeders, better experts to our clients, and better SALESMEN.

Know your product and you will sell with confidence -- knowing the right price, the right use, the right buyer....

"Do I know my product (alpaca, fiber) or what should I learn about today" ...this is the question you should ask yourself each day.