The History of the Florida Alpaca Breeders Association - 2003-2007
In the spring of 2003, before an alpaca breed affiliate existed in Florida, a couple of
dedicated and experienced breeders were having an informational talk on a porch in
Homosassa. The conversation evolved into the idea of having some type of alpaca event in Florida, as it seemed to be a good way to get the public involved in learning more about alpacas. A group was formed and in the summer of 2003, they met in Jean Riley’s kitchen to discuss the possibility of getting the first show off the ground. The minutes of this meeting have faded into individual memory,
but it seems that this first group included Herb and Nan List, Bill and Sherri Leslie,
Rod and Belinda Chapnick, Steve German, and Beck Weaver. The outcome of this first meeting was two-fold. First, a nominal membership fee of $20 would be required per farm and secondly that there would be the first ever alpaca show in Florida, planned for 2004 in Brooksville.
For several months, Steve German and Jean Riley met weekly. They decided to hire Peg Stevens as a show superintendent, which proved to be an excellent decision. With Peg’s experience and the determination of those few members, the Florida Alpaca Breeders Association (FABA) became an official affiliate of the Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association (AOBA); the first board members were elected in the spring of 2004; and the first show was put together in less than eight months! It was very successful for their first attempt, registering 103 alpacas for the show with an associated auction that also proved profitable. Those first officers consisted of Pat Kraft as President, Dick Frankenhauser as Vice President and Jean Riley as Secretary/Treasurer. The by-laws of the organization were drafted and developed by donated resources from the Kraft and List families. The annual dues was increased from the original $20 to the current $125 to provide enough working capital needed to fund the annual alpaca show, and provide funds for public education; and the official FABA logo was designed and remains as it is today.
The second year brought much change as several members decided to move on and Dick Frankenhauser became the only remaining member that served on the board until the election of 2005. This year proved to be a very significant period in the early life of FABA. The newly elected board of directors consisted of Don Warming, President; Steve German, Vice President; Shirley Vining, Secretary; and Kris Zborblaski as Treasurer. This was a year of rapid growth, nearly doubling the amount of alpaca breeders that joined FABA. In this year the FABA show was in Ocala with over 200 alpacas in attendance and another successful auction.
The 2006 FABA Alpaca Expo was held in Ocala was well, with over 300 alpaca entries and another lucrative auction. A new board was elected consisting of Larry Strayhorn, President; Steve German, Vice President; Jamie Flores, Secretary; Kris Zborblaski, Treasurer. A highly successful outdoor seminar in December brought two well known speakers to Ocala to talk about “Advanced Reproduction in Alpacas” and also general information to the public. Despite it being the coldest weekend in the year, almost 200 people stuck it out to learn more about the breed.
2007’s Alpaca Expo was held in Jacksonville at the new Equestrian Center with almost 500 alpacas in attendance with our first international judge and another judge from the US running two rings at the same time. It was highly successful, as was the accompanying “female only” auction.
FABA continues to grow rapidly with over 60 farms as members in 2007 and more joining all the time.
Alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Incan civilization and played a central role in the Incan culture that was located on the high Andean Plateau and mountains of South America. Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984. Alpacas are now being successfully raised and enjoyed throughout North America and abroad. There are two types of alpacas - the Huacaya and the Suri. The lifespan of the alpaca is about 20 years and gestation is 11.5 months. Alpacas eat grasses and chew a cud. Adult alpacas are about 36" tall at the withers and generally weigh between 100 and 200 pounds. They are gentle and easy to handle. Alpacas don't have incisors, horns, hooves or claws. Clean-up is easy since alpacas deposit droppings in only a few places in the paddock. They require minimal fencing and can be pastured at 5 to 10 per acre.
Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious natural fibers. It is clipped from the animal without causing it injury. Soft as cashmere and warmer, lighter and stronger than wool, it comes in more colors than any other fiber producing animal (approximately 22 basic colors with many variations and blends).This cashmere-like fleece, once reserved for Incan royalty, is now enjoyed by spinners and weavers around the world.
The Alpaca Registry has been established to help ensure accurate records and has a state-of the-art system to document bloodlines. Alpacas must be blood typed in order to be registered. Virtually every alpaca in the U.S. is registered.
Alpacas have coexisted with humankind for thousands of years. The Incan civilization of the Andes Mountains in Peru elevated the alpaca to a central place in their society. The imperial Incas clothed themselves in garments made from alpaca and many of their religious ceremonies involved the animal. Museums throughout the Americas display textiles made from alpaca fiber.
The Spanish conquistadors failed to see the value of alpaca fiber, preferring the merino sheep of their native Spain. For a time, alpaca fiber was a well-kept secret. In the middle 1800's, Sir Titus Salt of Saltaire, England rediscovered alpaca. The newly industrialized English textile industry was at its zenith when Sir Titus began studying the unique properties of alpaca fleece. He discovered, for instance, that alpaca fiber was stronger than sheep's wool and that its strength did not diminish with fineness of staple. The alpaca textiles he fashioned from the raw fleece were soft, lustrous, and they soon began making their mark across Europe. Today, the center of the alpaca textile industry is in Arequipa, Peru; yarn and other products made from alpaca are sold primarily in Japan and Europe.
Outside of their native South America, the number of alpacas found in other countries is extremely limited. In fact, 99 percent of the world's approximately three million alpacas are found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.