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Feature Article - May 11, 2006

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Feature Article - May 11, 2006

Ottawa Valley couple wins awards at Alpaca show

Ompah - Hanne and Robert Quigley of Silent Valley Alpaca and several of their prized alpacas were awarded recognition at the annual Alpaca Ontario Show at the Orangeville Fair grounds on April 8.

Of the 185 alpacas from about 75 alpaca farms across Ontario, the Quigley's young herd sire, Qolmesa Archemides, won Grand Champion Male the most coveted and sought after award presented by the provincial organization. Their junior white female, Silent

Valley Helya, won Junior Reserve Champion Female and a third alpaca, Silent Valley Clover, took the third ribbon in her class of Junior Fawn Females.

“We're thrilled with this recognition," says Robert Quigley, co-owner of Silent Valley Alpaca. "All of the research and breeding selection that we've implemented has taken a few years to pay off. It took us several years to pull it all together and we have certainly been rewarded for it."

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Amanda VandenBosch judged 2006 Alpaca Ontario Show. VandenBosch is a senior judge for the American Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA), the chair of the AOBA Judges Advisory Committee, an international alpaca judge, and an instructor for the British Alpaca Society. She is also an alpaca judge trainer and instructor in the USA . VandenBosch trained in Peru at the International Alpaca Judging School in 2000. She has judged alpaca shows in the USA , Canada , United Kingdom , New Zealand and Australia .

The alpaca industry enjoys a lively show circuit. Alpacas are judged on their luxurious fleece quality and also on their conformation.

"As owners, we're focused on quality and bloodlines; we are always striving to improve the next generation of alpacas and their fleece. It seems to have worked for us this year," Robert says.

Hanne and Robert Quigley are alpaca breeders who raise alpacas for their soft fibre and for the simple pleasures inherent to farm life. The business of raising these cute long-necked, funny looking, sweet natured, fuzzy animals is growing by leaps and bounds in Ontario . Today there are over 317 registered animals on Ontario farms. There are about 113 Ontario members that belong to the registering body of the Canadian Llama and Alpaca Association (CLAA).

The Quigley's were first drawn to alpacas when they were looking for an alternative to their hectic city life. For over 25 years the two were partners in a successful, Toronto-based building maintenance company while also raising two children.

"At one point we had over 20 employees and had to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Robert says.

Something had to give. After visiting their first alpaca ranch they were instantly enamoured with both the animals and the lifestyle.

"It wasn't a very hard decision to make," Hanne says as she strokes the neck of one of her cria (baby) alpacas. "Alpacas aren't part of the food chain, which is important to me. They are wonderful companions - and we don't need a lot of fenced acreage. As a matter of fact, our wire fencing is used to keep predators out, not alpacas in; they wouldn't challenge a 5 foot split rail fence but wild dogs, coyotes and wolves could get through to harm a cria."

"These guys are gentle by nature and are easy to train," says Hanne. "Even our largest male, Talano, is only 200 pounds, so his size and temperament make him easy to handle. And they’re great around children. There are 4H Alpaca clubs starting up across the province. We've been fortunate to have visitors in wheelchairs come into the barn and spend time with our animals. Everyone benefits. We recently sold an alpaca to a therapeutic riding camp; the gentle male we trained for them is being used for walking and for companionship."

The Quigleys have further plans for their alpacas as well.

"I want to do some more extensive training with a couple of my young boys," Hanne says. "I think they'd be ideal to take into a nursing home and visit and spread some joy and excitement to the residence."

Alpacas are members of the camelid family which includes camels and llamas. However, alpacas are much smaller than their distant cousins; the average weight is 160 pounds. They have no top teeth in front, but have a split upper lip that can gingerly assist them in plucking tasty grasses. They've got big bright eyes and they hum as a means of communicating.

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