A Judge ' s perspective


A show is quite different when viewed from a judge ' s perspective. Exhibitors have only one thing to worry about; parading their alpacas with the hope of winning a ribbon. The judge must concentrate for the duration of the show, which at times is for hours on end, under very difficult conditions (heat and bad lighting); and show consistency in all decisions made during the day.

I am sure some exhibitors think that judging is glamorous. However as a judge you can feel quite lonely and isolated. Judges start preparing themselves for a show from the moment they are appointed. They are put up in a motel and not permitted to talk to exhibitors until after the judging is completed. Arriving at the show just before it is to begin and avoiding contact with anyone except the chief steward.

Judges are not paid for their duties as happens in other countries, but do receive most of their travel and accommodation costs. However it is impossible to recoup all expenses incurred. Most royal shows for instance only pay the fare from the capital city of the state the judge lives in. In my case I have to get there, which means a 4-hour drive. Thus I am up for the cost of the flight from Albury to Melbourne . Other judges who live away from the capital cities would have the same cost. So you can see that a judge not only gives up their time but also incurs expense for the privilege of judging. Often the time given up can be 3 to 4 days. Someone may have to be paid to look after your alpacas or in my case the farm when you are away. I consider it a privilege to be asked to judge and provided I am not otherwise engaged, accept appointments wherever possible.

Much criticism is heaped on judges particularly in reference to what may have happened at previous shows. A judge can only put up the alpacas that are paraded before him or her. If an alpaca has won at a previous show it may not necessarily win at the next one, as there could be different alpacas entered or the animal may have gone past its best.(An alpaca that is champion at a small country show of 30 exhibits, may not be placed the following week at a Royal Show with 150 alpacas.) The judge may also be looking for something different. All judges cannot be expected to judge exactly the same. They should have a similar approach but may not necessarily select the alpacas in the same order. A judge ' s decision is based on the official Australian Breed Standard and their interpretation of that standard.

If all judges judged exactly the same way exhibitors would quickly lose interest. The industry would stagnate. We need differences of opinion provided they are consistent. This is how an industry progresses and how the merino industry evolved and is still evolving today. All exhibitors, can expect of a judge, is consistency and the ability to satisfactorily explain decisions in an honest and concise way. The AAA has a programme for training and assessing judges to ensure that they continue to learn, improve and adjust as the industry moves forward ensuring that they bring knowledge and experience to the ring with a commitment to the industry and its breeding ideals.

Unfortunately a lot of breeding decisions made in the alpaca industry are based on what happens in the show ring with little regard or thought given to how the animal may perform when crossed with the existing alpacas in the herd (e.g. fineness, density, crimp and staple definition). All breeders must remember that it is the decision of one breeder (the judge) on one particular day only. Alpacas are also purchased on show results. It is the responsibility of all members of the association to educate themselves as much as possible about alpacas (their fleece and conformation) and not rely on what a judge may have done at a show.

There are many quality alpacas that are never shown as not all members see the show ring as the ultimate goal. They see performance testing as more important (fleece testing and weights and establishing their own breeding values). Ultimately this is a fleece industry and decisions must be made based on the fleece on an alpaca ' s back. We cannot sustain an industry long term by just trading animals. Please do not make purchases or breeding decisions based on show results alone.

Judges must act honestly and with integrity at all times, and are responsible for their decisions and what they say. Exhibitors however, also have a responsibility to be courteous and show some respect for the judge by discussing any differences of opinion on the day rather than letting it fester into the future and in some way impact on this exciting new industry we are all part of. Thus the next time you go to a show, particularly a large one, remember the judge is human just like you and if you have a difference of opinion over a decision they have made I am sure they will only be too happy to discuss it with you. The other thing to remember is the alpaca that wins at any show is only the best exhibit paraded on the day.

Bill Robbins

AAA Judge

Judging Sub-Committee

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