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Judging Corriedales 4 kilometres up in the sky
In September 2008 I was asked to judge the Corriedales at Ayaviri , mid way between Cusco and Juliaca in the Andes, Peru. This is one of the biggest sheep shows in Peru with a line up of 400 Corriedales and 100 Hampshire Downs sheep, the other exhibits there are Brown Swiss cattle (about 500) and a few Alpacas.
Going up to 4000m is serious stuff and you have to be careful, it is best to do it in stages, which I didn’t!! Going from sea level to 4000m in 3 hours can be very hard on body and soul as it takes a lot of getting use to, so headaches and fatigue are very common, for me any way.
After being met at the Cusco airport by Billy Prime and his wife, going to a hotel and picking up Susie Archer, we began our Peruvian drive in the Andes (hair raising some times and just plain scary the rest). Road rules, there are none except bigger is better!
After a 2 hour drive we reached Billy Prime’s farm, and because of irrigation pipes we had to walk the last 50 meters , a very tiring exercise leaving me gasping for breath. The first day was a rest day where we visited lake Titicaca, Puno which is a wonderful sight and amazing to see the people that live on the reed islands in the lake, living there for 400 years, going there to escape the Incas.
Day 2 dawned and in true South American style I was told that judging would start at 9.30am so up and ready to go at 8.30am and every body is still asleep. We eventually arrived at the show grounds at about 10am and then stood around for a bit. Ayaviri is a small town surrounded by the Andes, standing at the show grounds (4000 meters high) looking up at some even higher mountains, it is quite stunning.
By 11 o’clock there seemed to be some organisation happening and sheep being mustered into the shed for judging and after meeting my interpreter, Rafael, for the next 3 days to help me explain why I did what to the spectators, we headed in. Rafael did a wonderful job. He runs the Lima Para gliding tours, so knew nothing about sheep, and now knows even less.
At the show grounds they have a very good indoor arena with a grassed area for judging and tiered seating on 2 sides for spectators, the building is old but very serviceable.
The first day was spent judging “non pedigree” Corriedales, this is quite common in South America for them to exhibit non stud sheep. The sheep are led in and walked around and then lined up in accordance with the way the judge wants them, and then judging proceeds much the same way as here in Australia, except for after bending down to inspect the front leg, belly etc and then straighten up, with the lack of oxygen, everything got a but dizzy at odd times. Lunch was called at 1 o’clock and to be back ready to start at 2, we headed off, 2 came and went and no body seemed worried, as 3 approached there was talk of starting again, which eventually did happen about 3.30. Most things move at a slow pace there and because of the altitude it is not surprising.
The first day was spent judging the non pedigrees then on the second it was on to the pedigrees. The standard of the sheep was very good, the top rams and ewes would be competitive in any line up anywhere, this is from flocks where the average size is about 50 sheep and subsistence farming. These people live with there sheep and know them very well.
The sheep are a bit smaller and finer in the wool than here in Australia, but that is due to the harsh environment and pastures. After awarding the champion ram and ewe and being photographed with over half the people from the Andes, we ran out of light to do the groups, as there is no electricity at the show grounds ,so finished up for the day went outside to see the cattle judging continuing with cars being bought on to the arena to provide light for them to continue with.
The next day, day 3, I finished off the groups and then the committee said could I judge the Hampshire Downs as well, as I was here and the other judge didn’t come. So half a day till the plane left and 100 sheep , I made both dead lines , just.
Judging there is an experience with many sights, sounds and smells that you don’t get elsewhere, like the women in traditional dress for the area with bowler hat and child on her back in a papoose staring at you as you go over their sheep, and the children leading and holding the sheep, they get involved at a very young age and know what to do.
I am very thankful to Billy Prime and the Ayaviai show for asking me to judge there, it was a wonderful experience and I would say to any body if offered the job do it, but be careful of the altitude it is dangerous!