GREENTOWN — Alpacas aren't good with change, they get stressed out, skittish and stubborn. Being herd animals, they make friends, and some of the alpacas shown at 4-H were separated from their buddies.
Tango, one of the biggest alpacas, was making a pitiful, whiny, humming noise waiting for his buddies to finish showing during the 4-H Llamas and Alpacas show Tuesday afternoon.
"I think he's upset because his friends are being shown in the junior class this year," Emily Keeney said.
Despite the people, pigs and poultry at the Howard County 4-H Fair, the 10 competing alpacas fared remarkably well in the showmanship show. The 4-Hers walked their alpacas around the arena with ease, which isn't something to scoff at, especially considering most of the animals were quite young.
The Howard County 4-H Llama and Alpaca show is in its second official year, with its pilot year being in 2017, with two competitors. Last year, there were five competitors and this year there were 10, Howard County Purdue Extension 4-H Youth Development educator said.
"This is really a neat program," he said. "Both the animal and the handler are judged on how they perform, which is different from traditional livestock judging. They're also judged on [personal relations] because alpacas can also be service animals."
Jolie Good and her family helped start the Llama and Alpaca show in the fair, bringing their five alpacas to the fair, one of which was an antsy cria, the term of a baby alpaca, who jumped the fence during the show.
In 2019, the antsy cria is now a full-blown adult named Blitz. The black-and-white beauty is aptly named after his favorite activity, Good said.
"Once he gets out in the field, he takes off," she said. "His favorite thing to do is to sprint and to jump."
While Good owns her alpacas, most of the animals are leased to the 4-Hers from Heritage Farm in Flora, which raises Suri alpacas.
Those leasing an animal go out to Heritage Farm usually once a week to work with them. Ashlin Thomas, a first-year 4-Her, showed Luna, a cria, who hasn't turned a year old yet. Melissa Thomas said her daughter fell in love with Luna.
"I think she'd have us take her home if she could. Ashlin's worked so hard with Luna, when she first started with the lead, Luna would just play dead," she said. Ashlin Thomas and Luna placed fourth in senior showmanship.
Most of the 4-Hers who leased animals started working with them this spring, which didn't give them a lot of time to prepare.
"It's a fun experience to have during summer," Emily Keeney, who leased an alpaca, said. "It gives us something to do and gets us away from sitting inside and looking at our electronics."
Alex Rosales said building trust is a cornerstone to working with the alpacas.
"It took a long time to build trust," she said, her alpaca hiding behind her, with its head peering around her hip. She laughed, "I guess we're still building trust."
Sometimes it's not about trust, and it's just about what the alpaca wants to do.
"If the alpaca is ever separated for the group, they're like, 'No, I'm not going to do this,'" she said. "Some days it's like he won't do anything for me, but he'll do it if the herd is doing it. They're tough, but they're awesome."
Good said if anyone is interested in showing an alpaca in 4-H, they shouldn't be deterred by the animal's testy temperament.
"It takes a lot of work to show them," 4-Her Jolie Good said. "They can be skittish and difficult. But every person who shows them, or owns them, will tell you it's awesome."