THE first British Alpaca Society Championship Show to be held in the North West will be staged in Cumbria.

Livestock auctioneers, Harrison and Hetherington, will host the event on Saturday April 6, at the Borderway Exhibition Centre in Carlisle.

It is seen as a major milestone for the industry, which has developed enormously in recent years, in both the quality of the alpacas and what they go for in the ring – with prices of £8,000 per animal.

The event has been organised by three of the UK’s leading breeders, Beck Brow Alpacas in the Eden Valley, Cockerham Apacas and Greenside Alpacas at Kirkby Lonsdale.

The decision to hold the event in April has been taken to allow breeders to show their animals with spring fleeces at their most impressive.

Barbara Hetherington, of Beck Brow Alpacas in Ainstable, said: “Most alpaca shows take place in the summer as part of the agricultural show season but this means fleeces are too long because shearing is overdue or too short because they have already been shorn.

“We took the decision to hold a standalone show at the time of year when alpaca fleece is at its best and we are expecting entries from all over the UK.”

The event will include a halter show for both the main breeds of alpaca – the fluffy Huacaya and rarer Suri.

The event is designed not just as a show but also as an industry forum, with a fleece and fibre display and local alpaca products available for sale, trade stands and plenty of opportunities to meet and chat to breeders.

Since the first major imports of alpacas from their native South America in the early 1990s the industry has grown steadily, and Harrison and Hetherington has been at the forefront of promoting the trend.

Pedigree sales and marketing manager Heather Pritchard said: “The growth in the UK alpaca market and the development of life-style and hobby farming on small holdings means this market is developing quickly.”

Barbara and Paul Hetherington began the Brow Beck herd on their 50-acre farm in 2008.

After just four years they have produced a friendly, well handled prize winning herd, which includes multiple supreme champion male Beck Brow Explorer.