Four legs good eating as alpaca burgers hit the show
Alpacas are the flavour of the month, as Royal Canberra Show patrons will discover next week when the doe-eyed darlings of hobby farmers are served on meat platters.
Breeders want to commercialise their flocks as meat as well as fibre producers, and Canberra for the first time will be offered alpaca meat in mini burgers, sausages, smoked with avocado spread and on a stick with minted yoghurt.
Alpaca section chief Susan Nielson, who expects about 290 entries this year and as many fleece entries from all over Australia, says the taste depends on preparation.
''I have had it prepared by some people and it was absolutely awful. I wouldn't call it a strong taste,'' she said.
''In the industry there are people who don't like the fact we are going to eat them, but there are people who don't like the fact we eat sheep.'' Alpaca and sheep fleeces will form a feature for Canberra's centenary. This has forced out goats and disrupted agricultural students who exhibit them - and their breed associations are reassessing show activities.
Show chief executive Garry Ashby said the combining of wool and alpaca fibre for the centenary event needed more room, while obtaining special pens for boar goats was proving too difficult.
''Generally we have 200 goats, which requires a significant amount of penning and a day-and-half to construct pens, and we needed to meet safety requirements,'' he said.
An offer was made for breeders to demonstrate their goats, which also would be in the animal nursery.
Mohair Australia spokesman Nick Gorrie said goat numbers had dwindled and alpaca numbers had grown along with the activities of their owners.
He believes Canberra Show missed an opportunity when it did not take up an offer to move the National Angora and Trophy Show and Sale from Goulburn to the territory.
The offer would hold for next year and in the meantime his members would regain their commercial focus.
''We have put a lot of our energy into the nationals at Goulburn,'' he said. ''The beauty of Canberra [show] is it is much more accessible to country people than the Sydney show.''
Mr Gorrie conceded that alpaca numbers had surpassed goats in the region but some members were disappointed because the pavilion was originally for goats.
''I have nothing against alpacas but they'll fall and will fall hard,'' he said.
West Wyalong head agriculture teacher Mandy Statham said her students had been coming to Canberra with goats since 1990, and they went on to the national Angora show at Goulburn, then Sydney's Royal Easter Show. Being left off Canberra's schedule left a big hole.
Students from years 7 to 12 learn how to prepare and choose livestock. Showing their goats helps their self-esteem, confidence, public speaking and community participation. ''There's great camaraderie with the other people in the sheep and cattle areas which are in close proximity,'' she said.