It was an emotional return to Glen Innes for a championship winner at last weekend’s first New England Alpaca Show.
“I was really ecstatic,” Richard Wirth said. “To win the prize in your old hometown is something special.”
Richard was schooled in Glen Innes, and worked at the railway here before taking an out-of-district promotion.
For more than a decade, he has bred alpacas and llamas at his property, Incamon Alpaca Stud, in Laggan, on the Southern Tablelands of NSW.
Richard won the Supreme Champion Huacaya Alpaca at the show with Mallakai in the Groove.
He also took out Champion Suri adult male with Incamon Matador, and Reserve Champion Senior Huacaya male with Incamon Laidley.
To add to the purse, he won the Sires Progeny with Incamon Laidley and Incamon Nikko for stud sire Hilldale Park Spartan.
Richard dedicated his win to his parents, the late Nancy and Cecil Wirth of Lang Street, Glen Innes, and to his Wirth, Stanley, and Winstanley forefathers, who were pioneers in the district.
“It’s a rich history in the Glen Innes area for us,” he said. “Half the people in the cemetery, I reckon, are my relatives.”
Richard has been breeding alpacas since 2005. At the time, he was farming cattle and sheep on his farm at Taree. He saw alpacas at a field day at Kempsey, and, thinking they would be good for the grandkids, bought a few.
Those few led to a stud farm.
“Alpacas are just wonderful animals,” Richard said.
“They’re really friendly – more people-oriented than sheep and cattle. They have a better temperament; they’re very tame, and easy to handle. And everybody that comes around your house likes them!”
Husbanding alpacas is much easier than sheep and cattle, he believes.
"You trim their toenails and give them their 5-in-1 injection once a year at shearing-time,” Richard said. “You're not really doing much with them other than enjoying them through the year."
While the hardy animals will thrive wherever sheep do well, they can also live in the outback beef areas of Queensland.
The industry, too, is really growing. New fleece markets have been opened up across the world, including China, and Richard expects it will only be a couple of years before alpaca meat is available on supermarket shelves.
And New England’s cold climate and elevation make it a prime area for breeding alpacas, used to the mountains of Chile and Peru.
The number of quality entries at the show was a testament to the success of the local New England breeders, Richard believes.
Richard plans to compete at the alpaca show next year.
"I'll be back every year, while ever it's there,” he said.
“It'll just get stronger every year. The standard of alpacas in New England is very good; the country is extremely good for alpacas; and more and more people are getting into them. I think it's a good future for alpacas.”