Your Voice and the Alpaca Owners Association


As you know, the Suri Network is an affiliate of the Alpaca Owners Association (AOA). AOA currently provides registration for alpacas, huacaya and Suri alike, manages the alpaca show system, and holds a national halter show annually. Beginning last year, AOA is also holding an annual fleece show and conference during the summer.

According to the AOA registry, approximately 20% of the active alpacas in the registry are Suris.

As an affiliate of the AOA, and the breed association for Suri alpacas, the Suri Network Board of Trustees would like to see strong representation of the Suri breed on the AOA Board of Directors and through various initiatives implemented by the AOA.

The Suri Network Board of Trustees has proposed to the Alpaca Owners Association that two of the AOA Board positions be Suri owners, elected by the Suri Network.

Of the nine AOA Board members, two Suri Network members would be representative of the number of active Suris in the alpaca registry.

This will require a bylaws change for the AOA. While that cannot be accomplished this year, we would encourage it for 2017.

In the meantime, there are six people running for the AOA Board of Directors. Those individuals are: Julie Delaney,
Bert Altmanshofer, Joe Crocco, Scott Miller, Vern Butler, and Laurel Shouvlin.

 

We have invited the six candidates to respond to a questionnaire concerning their experience and approach towards Suris and the Suri Network.

Questions asked of the candidates were:

  1. Please describe your experience with alpacas, and Suri alpacas specifically.
  2. What do you think that AOA could do to better support the Suri breed and the Suri Network?
  3. What do you perceive are the biggest challenges facing Suri owners?
  4. How will you actively ensure that Suri breeders’ interests are considered and supported as the AOA considers new initiatives and programs?

The following are the statements from the AOA board member candidates. The Suri Network Board encourages you to read them carefully prior to casting your ballot in the AOA election. Thank you to the AOA candidates for your responses.

 

Scott Miller

Hello Suri Network!
Thanks for the opportunity to address you. I will answer each of your questions in the order which they were asked.
 
1.       I have 16 years breeding and raising alpacas. All of those years have been spent with the huacaya breed. My limited suri experience comes from my time at the International Alpaca Judging School in 2001, random suri observations over the years at shows, and similar random discussion with suri breeders.
2.       Because the Board works on behalf of all members, great caution has been realized historically with regards to the way it handles all segments of the membership. That said, I believe that the most important action for the board in the coming years will be recruitment of funds which can be used to promote alpaca fiber, alpaca products and of course the critters themselves. It is an inevitable truth that should such promotion be realize, suri fiber, suri products and suri alpacas should/will be featured with their huacaya counterparts. I should note that whenever I speak with a new potential alpaca owner, without hesitation I encourage them to look at the suri breed. And in that promotion I always mention that there are not many more beautiful sights on the planet than a full fleeced suri running through a green pasture in the evening light!
3.       I believe that the suri breeder faces the same challenges that the huacaya breeders do and that is growth. As suri breeders you have selected to own a rare creature. Interestingly the number of suri owners (as compared to huacaya) mimics the suri population itself. While there are less suris and less suri owners the challenges for each breed are still the same. The national herd size needs to grow and that will likely only really come if we get more people into the industry breeding and raising alpacas…..of both breeds. I do believe that as we grow some will chose to be huacaya breeders and some suri b
reeders. The historical precedent can’t be denied. We just need to grow!
4.       I have a bit of an advantage here because of my previous service. My voting record should alert you to the fact that I have always been very keen on the concerns of all components of our membership. At this time I will offer that whether I am re-elected or not, the board is always at your disposal. The resources of the organization are tight but we have been working to improve that and we are making headway. You know your needs better than anyone. If you have an idea or a concern, or a question or a plan please contact one of your board members. Each of them serves to make a positive difference for all of us. If I am re-elected, at this time I will encourage you to let that board member be me.


Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you in the past and to speak with you today. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful cria filled summer.

Laurel R. Shouvlin

  1. Please describe your experience with alpacas, and Suri alpacas specifically.
    I have been a Suri Breeder since 1997 and currently have approximately 40 Suris on my farm. I have been involved in all aspects of the alpaca industry- from attending Veterinary Conferences at Ohio State Veterinary School, to utilizing my Suris’ fleeces. I can spin, but choose to have my Suri fleeces mill spun or put into bats for felting. I also dye my Suri yarn for sale and to use as yarn. For a year or two I edited and published the Ohio Alpaca Magazine for the Ohio Alpaca Breeders Association. I am also an AOA Certified Fleece, Halter, and Performance Judge, and had the honor of volunteering, apprenticing, and judging at the Suri Network Symposium Fleece Show. I have attended several, but not all Suri Network Symposia as a Suri Network member. Having been active in the Show System as an exhibitor and judge, I know many Suri Breeders and am familiar with our part of the alpaca industry.   I currently serve on the AOA Board as secretary and liaison to the Show Rules Committee. I initiated and was part of the recent reorganization of the AOA Show Rules Handbook. I am currently heading up a work group focused on AOA memberships, evaluating the benefits, considering adding value to those, and also considering new levels of membership such as Fleece/Artisan, Youth, and Vendor. I am also heading up a new AOA committee to resurrect the “Leaders Handbook” an outdated AOBA publication to assist adults with the development of youth groups focused on alpacas. Hopefully this publication will help foster better involvement of our youth in the industry.

  2. What do you think that AOA could do to better support the Suri breed and the Suri Network? 
    I can’t think of anything specific to the Suri Breed for AOA to do. AOA continues to support training of judges focusing on Suri at the training clinics. I can say as a judge and a board member, the recent Judges Training Clinic at Pucara last summer was one of the best clinics I have attended in the last 10 years.  AOA is working on achieving the goals determined by the members who attended the Strategic Planning Conference. Accomplishing those will benefit Suri and Huacaya owners alike.

  3. What do you perceive are the biggest challenges facing Suri owners?
    I am not sure, but it seems as though the market is flatter for Suris than it is for Huacayas. I have always found it to be a challenge to sell Suris to folks new to the industry. Huacayas have cute all wrapped up, and that seems to attract more of the new buyers. So I see Suri sales as a challenge different from Huacaya. I also feel that because the Suri population is smaller, it will be more difficult to develop and supply a market for Suri fleece here in the US on a commercial level.

  4. How will you actively ensure that Suri breeders’ interests are considered and supported as the AOA considers new initiatives and programs?
    As a Suri breeder, I truly can’t identify any decisions made by the AOA Board that are breed specific. But it can be assumed by Suri Network Members that I would represent the interests of the Suri Breeders should something come up.

Joseph R. Crocco

Thank you for your questions.  

 

1. My wife Barbara and I started Copper Star Alpaca Farm in 2007. We started with 6 females, we now have over 110 in our  herd with 30 cria due this year. We don't own  Suris, but I do appreciate different  fiber qualities.


2. In general I believe that AOA could do a better job supporting all alpaca owners. With respect to the  Suri breed, they could start with explaining the value of the Suri Network to the industry; the value of Suri fiber and explain the differences and benefits of both alpaca breeds. 


3.  For Suri breeders who find the show system a benefit and useful tool for their herd assessment and marketing, AOA could be more instrumental in forging a supportive and equal  share of the market and supporting shows  that have a large enough Suri involvement to make the show competitive and worthy of attending.


4. As I have already stated, I would like to see AOA become a more member friendly association where all members are treated the same regardless of size.   If elected, I would be responsive to the needs of both Suri and Huacaya owners interests equally.

 

I would like to state that regardless of alpaca breed, our association should support the industry and our breeders with equally to build a strong fiber industry.

 

Vernon Butler

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in you candidate survey.  My replies to the provided topics are listed below.  Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

 

1. Please describe your experience with alpacas, and Suri alpacas specifically. 

 

I have been in the alpaca business for about 7 years.  Julie and I started Morning Beckons Farm in the same manner as most alpaca farms, we purchased a starter herd and quickly became addicted to the alpaca lifestyle.  We now own over 375 alpacas and are active in almost every facet of alpaca farming.  We do own a few suri alpacas and a couple suri llamas.  Although we are not active suri breeders we feel it is important to represent both huacaya and suri alpacas at our farm as we are a mentor for many area farms.  We also believe that understanding both alpaca breeds helps us to better understand all of the options for making the alpaca business something all can enjoy and profit from.

 

2. What do you think that AOA could do to better support the Suri breed and the Suri Network?

 

My answer to this question addresses a more general concern rather than one specifically related to the Suri breed and the Suri Network.  AOA should be making a significant effort to work with the leadership of all the alpaca affiliate organizations.  These organizations are closer to most alpaca farmers and can provide a very personal level of service.  AOA can't possibly be connected at the same level in a cost effective manner.  AOA should work to understand the needs of the affiliate organizations which in turn will help AOA to better service the needs of alpaca owners everywhere as opposed to the few who communicate directly with AOA.

 

3. What do you perceive are the biggest challenges facing Suri owners?

 

I believe that the biggest challenge for Suri owners is also one of the biggest advantages.   There are far fewer Suri breeders in the US than Huacaya breeders which means there is much less publicity and information available relating to Suri alpacas.  Many of the alpaca organizations focus on the Huacaya breed which makes it harder for Suri breeders to get the support and tools needed to make their business successful.  This is also an advantage in that there are fewer Suri breeders in the US which could support a better pricing structure if the alpaca and related products are positioned correctly.  Suri alpacas still have a little of the rarity factor which can  translate into better dollars for quality animals and their fiber/products can be more profitable than that of Huacaya.  Correcting the communication deficit without changing the value of Suri alpacas is a complex problem that will require working closely with Suri breeder organizations and affiliates.   

 

4. How will you actively ensure that Suri breeders’ interests are considered and supported as the AOA considers new initiatives and programs?

 

This might not be the most popular answer but please read the entire response before forming an opinion.  I believe it is the duty of any organization's board members to represent all of the membership based on demographics.  If we are working with the affiliate organizations it means that Huacaya breeders will have a greater representation in the organization.  It does not mean that Suri breeders will be left out of the process.  Any smart business person recognizes that the smallest part of your business has the greatest potential for growth.  By carefully developing smaller business segments we can create better diversification of our organization which in turn with make for a stronger overall business.  Given the current state of the alpaca business we need every advantage we can get and Suri breeders are definitely the part of the business that offers a huge growth potential if develop this market with a carefully planned strategy.  

 

Many people I have spoken with recently say It is time for major changes in how AOA operates.  Some of the board members have been there for many years and we are still having the same conversation about what AOA does for its membership.  If you want to change AOA then change the people who make the decisions.  If you keep the same people on the AOA board expect the same results.

 

Thank you for considering me for the AOA board.


Bert Altmanshofer

1). My wife, Mary, and I started Alpacas of the Alleghenies in 2003.  We have been huaycaya-oriented on the farm. My suri experience has come from my many years of working with MAPACA.  As you are aware, the Jubilee has always been a marked event for suri breeders.  Several of my fellow board members have shared a lot of their expertise in their suri programs.

2). I think that the AOA must support all breeders.  One opportunity to explore for the AOA is the success of the Suri Network.  The program has emerged as a leader in the entire alpaca industry and shows how much can be done with dedication to a cause and cooperation.  This program has been responsive to its membership without an excessive budget.

3). As with the entire alpaca industry, public awareness is major obstacle.  Camelid continuing education is another broad challenge.  Agricultural/livestock industry data acccumulation (and sharing it!) is another major challenge.  Awareness within the alpaca community, itself, appears to be a challenge.

4). AOA needs to reiterate that it exists for all owners.  The AOA needs to recognize (and perhaps adopt) some cultural elements from the suri network.  The suri network should be supported and celebrated by the AOA for its strong foundation.  It is a strong voice and resource for the suri owner.


Julie Delaney

1.    Please describe your experience with alpacas, and Suri alpacas specifically. 

I have raised alpacas for 11.5 years.  Our herd has grown steadily during that time period, even in the down economy.  We now have 90 registered alpacas of our own, and we board and care for another 40 that belong to others.  The animals on our farm are all huacaya.  My only direct experience with Suris is viewing them at shows and auctions, and we attend many of those events each year.  I have 2 years of experience being on the Show Rules Committee and the Judges Training Certification Committee and the Judges Advisory Committee, serving on all as a AOBA and AOA board liaison.  The Show Rules Committee was composed of 50% Suri Breeders, so I feel I am well versed in Suri show issues.  Likewise the Judges Advisory Committee discussed all show and judge issues from both a Suri and Huacaya perspective, so that experience helped in my knowledge as well.  Lastly I observe Suris showing and also converse with Suri owners at show events and auction events.  I also have studied the Suri processing of fiber and the clothing initiatives that are underway, as that greatly interests me.

In regards to Huacaya alpacas, we have been showing for 11 years, and we strive to attend 9 to 12 shows per year, as well as several auction events per year as well.  We are active breeders.  We sell show quality breeding stock as well as service breedings.  I produce many products with my alpaca fiber, so I am well versed in the fiber end of the business as well as the breeding end.  I have a large alpaca farm store in a converted granary, stocked with my own products of yarn, roving, comforters, pillows, hats, mittens, scarves, and socks and with imported alpaca products as well.  I have been on the AOBA and now AOA board for over 5 years, and have gained many years of valuable experience regarding both organizations, and those years of experience including issues that relate to both Suri and Huacaya alpacas.  In addition, I have many years of experience working in business.  I became a CPA in 1989, and I then worked in various finance Director positions for 23 years.  My business background is extensive.


2.    What do you think that AOA could do to better support the Suri breed and the Suri Network? 

One thing that AOA is doing to support the Suri Breed and the Suri Network is the probable future adoption of the Suri Breed standard as the official AOA Suri Breed Standard.  The AOA board is in the process of reviewing that breed standard right now, and hopefully in the near future the board will be communicating with the Suri network about that process.  That collaboration is an example of what can be accomplished when AOA and the Suri Network work together.


Perhaps another thing the AOA could do to better support the Suri Network would be to offer creative ways to offer communication about the Suri Network, maybe by offering lower priced eblasts done through AOA, or the posting of information about the Suri Network on AOA’s site, more than currently is being done.  Perhaps we could have a board liaison for the Suri Network, similar to what we do for the standing AOA committees.  It serves to improve the communication process.  Any of these ideas would have to go through the normal board approval process, of course.


3.    What do you perceive are the biggest challenges facing Suri owners?

 I feel one of the biggest challenges facing Suri breeders is the diminished numbers of Suris participating in the show circuit.  From my perspective, it seems that numbers of participating Suris are down in the past several years.  Everyone loves competition, and the challenge lies in ensuring that Suri breeders have enough animals attending shows to make it worthwhile going.  As an AOA Board Member, I value the show system and what it brings to the alpaca industry and to AOA, and I realize that the show system needs to have a viable number of alpacas showing in both breeds.  I think showing itself fosters enthusiasm, and if we can get numbers of Suris at shows to increase, the number of people interested in raising Suris will increase as well.

In general, I believe that Suri owners and Huacaya owners alike face the challenge of producing enough fiber each year for a viable commercial clip.  Both breeds need to increase numbers of alpacas being raised to service this demand.


4.    How will you actively ensure that Suri breeders’ interests are considered and supported as the AOA considers new initiatives and programs?

As long as I am on the board, I will make sure we look at new initiatives from all angles, meaning we will look at them from a viewpoint of both breeds of alpaca, Huacaya and Suri.  I will make sure we actively think about future implications to both breeds.  I will also make sure that we, as a board, review existing endeavors to make sure they do not negatively impact one breed over the other.

 


  


  Suri Network
P.O. Box 1984
Estes Park, Colorado   80517
Phone: (970) 586-5876
Fax: (970) 591-0007

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