Alpaca Breeders Association NZ

Home | About | News | Contact
FARMING FLEECE LIFESTYLE MEMBERS LOGIN
Home / Farming / Stud farming

Stud farming

Introduction

It is every breeder’s dream to select and breed beautiful, productive Alpacas.  If you close your eyes and pictured your paddocks filled with beautiful alpacas, what would they look like?

Each of you will have a different picture in your mind, some will see Suri’s and others Huacaya’s, some will be white while others will see coloured animals.  The fleece of your animals will however be similar as we are all trying to create an animal with beautiful, lustrous fibre.

These alpacas that you have just created in your own mind need not remain a fantasy. Anyone with the passion for breeding alpacas can learn to breed their ideal animal. It will take time due to alpacas only having one Cria per year, and it will also take patience, because the rules of inheritance depend a little on mathematical chance.

But if you are willing to learn and understand the basics of genetics and how to make selections when purchasing animals, then the alpacas of your dreams can end up in the paddocks in front of your house.

 

Measurement

Good record keeping is one of the most important factors in every breeding programme. If a breeder is not recording the weights of all fleeces on an annual basis, taking samples for histograms, as well as measuring the staple length then any improvements made is largely by chance.

Without measurement you will be choosing an animal as a show judge does which is what pleases the eye. Without measurement, trying to improve a herd is like trying to steer a rudderless ship. Success is often found in the details.

 

Reproduction

A Female Alpaca that produces a Cria every year is worth her weight in gold. The Female that is mated two to three weeks after giving birth and then conceives after this mating is the perfect Female Alpaca.

The Female that then goes on to raise her Cria every year with no complications or problems is even a better Female.

This Female who has conceived after only one mating, raises her Cria without loosing too much condition, does not reabsorb her foetus and then goes on to deliver her next cria on the due date is truly a great animal. (If only they were all like this).

The point is with Female Alpacas their ability to reproduce on a regular basis is a very important trait when you are looking at purchasing an animal.

 

Prepotency

The search for superior animals is a common goal for many alpaca breeders, every livestock industry has legendary sires. Every breeder is looking for that perfect stud male. Too often in the alpaca industry this means the best looking stud male with the lowest micron count on a histogram.

What breeders should be looking for is a prepotent or dominant male with the ability to transmit his excellence onto the next generation.  This means identifying a male who has homozygous genes for as many of the heritable traits under selection as possible and then using him as often as possible.

 

Breeding Value

Elite herds of alpacas are built through the selection and retention of superior producing parents who transmit their qualities onto their offspring.

Selecting and retaining for your breeding programme animals that transmit their qualities to their offspring are the essence of creating a productive herd of elite alpacas.
The breeding value is defined as the value of an individual as a genetic parent and the ability to transmit those genes onto their offspring.

An alpaca has a high breeding value when it breeds true or produces offspring which resemble or are better than themselves.

 

Repeatability

Repeatability is a measure of the consistency and the reliability in which a male will pass on his excellent genes onto all of his offspring that he produces. Record keeping of fleece weights and histograms is an excellent way to judge the repeatability factor.

 

The concept of Selection

Selection is the process that breeders use to control what animal is mated to what stud, how many offspring they will produce and how long that animal will remain in your own breeding programme.
There are three ways to select an animal.

  • How the animal looks
  • The pedigree of the animal
  • Progeny testing, where by you select on what that animal has produced so far.

The aim of selection is to make the next generation of alpacas better than their parents. This is not as simple as it sounds. Breeders must be careful to select for traits that can be measured and gains that are recognised.

For selection to be ultimately effective it must be based on an alpaca’s breeding value or the ability of an animal to pass on his genetic gains onto all of his offspring.

 

Rejecting animals for breeding

Selling on animals that will not fit into your breeding programme is the other side of the selection coin. If animals in your herd are not inheriting the traits you are seeking in your quest for your dream alpacas, you need to sell them and replace them with animals that will.

 

Selecting your Stud Males

There are two different methods by which you can make your selection when you are purchasing a new animal. You can use the animals Phenotype (what it looks like) or you can use its Genotype which is its Genetic Background or its Pedigree.

 

Phenotype:

Phenotype is where you grade the animal on their personal traits and characteristics.
In the show ring the judge only judges on the animals Phenotype.
Phenotype is basically what you see in front of you: fleece, conformation and temperament.

 

Genotype:

This is everything that has been inherited by the Alpaca from its parents, in the genes and chromosomes.
Importantly, the genotype is defined and fixed from the moment of conception and can not be changed through out the life of the animal.

Think of Genotype as thousands of coins, all different but with two sides. When a male and female mate all the coins are tossed into the air, the genotype of the Cria produced is determined by what combination of heads and tails fall onto the table.

But the same coins are tossed each time they are mated, and the outcome is limited to only two possibilities for each coin. Hence progeny will share many of the same genetic outcomes, and under equal or similar environmental conditions will grow to have similar appearance or phenotypes.

 

How does one assess Genotype?

Animals born in both Australia and New Zealand are at a huge advantage in that since 1991 through the International Alpaca Registry (IAR) any animal bred since this date are listed on the IAR Data Base.

It is now possible to look at any animals parentage, which go back 8 generations using the IAR Data base and to learn such information on each animals antecedents such as their colour, whether they were solid or multi coloured, and whether they were of Huacaya or Suri appearance.

Australian and New Zealand born alpacas, traceable through the IAR, are often available for inspection, from which conclusions regarding the Genotype can be drawn by comparison of a range of phenotypes. These are the only ways in which genotype can be assed.

Animals imported directly from South America have no Genotype to fall back on, despite whatever claims may have been made about selective breeding within specific herds.

Just one point here about the IAR, before you purchase any animal check the IAR Tag to make sure the tag number matches the number on the IAR pedigree certificate

 

To breed top quality Alpacas you need to use “Top Quality Stud Males”.

Below are some simple points about selecting Stud Males:

  • Only use Certified Stud Males - This means the animal has been registered and has been inspected by a Vet and has passed some screening points ……… Although fleece characteristics are not included in the certification process. If the male is not certified, you can not register his progeny.
  • Stud Males must have an exceptional Dam – This relates to Genotype, your Stud Male must have been out of a Top Female, this ensures a much greater rate of improvement in the Cria.
  • Find the Stud Male with as many traits -  He has in abundance that your female you are mating him to, dos not have. You need to select a Stud Male that will make the biggest improvement on each female.
  • Don’t pick or use any particular Stud Male - Just because he was won some ribbons at a show and especially don’t certify a male of your own, again just because he did well at a show or two.
  • Keep emotion out of your Breeding decisions – Breeding top Alpacas means making the right Stud male selection, just because you have an animal that “You Love” is not a reason to use him for breeding.
  • Never deviate from your goal – Always use the best Stud Male you can afford to use, it may seem expensive sometimes, but not using the best Male possible is more costly in the long run.
 
UPCOMING EVENTS
Upcoming Events

Keep a watch on this part of the website.

Plans to run Fielddays and Shows are being consolidated at present and you will be the first to know details if you check this page.

 

INTERNATIONAL
New Zealand now has all the genetics available to produce the best alpacas in the world...
Read more »
BECOME A MEMBER
NEWSLETTER SIGNUP