Selecting Alpacas With Improved Fleece Yields

Posted by Stephen Mulholland January 3, 2013 0 Comment 3473 views

Click here to read this PDF article by site contributor Stephen Mulholland, Ph.D.: So, how dense are you? How to select alpacas with improved fleece yields. 

An extract of this article is below, click on the link above for a pdf of the entire article.

Alpaca are fleece animals, and as such breeders are trying to produce animals with improved fleeces.  However, there is still considerable debate over what constitutes an “ideal” alpaca fleece. In the decades to come, alpaca will no doubt be bred – just as sheep are – for a number of different specialized fleece types for the production of different textiles. Already, suri and huacaya fleeces are used to produce very different types of garments. But whatever the fleece type you are breeding for, it makes economic sense that each animal should produce as much “top-grade fleece” per year – and over its lifetime – as possible.

Improvements come about by the process of selective breeding, carefully pairing sire and dam so each generation is better than the one before. For selective breeding to be effective you must know what heritable trait you are trying to improve, and how to measure it to select appropriate animals. A trait is a distinct phenotypic character of an organism. A “good fleece” is not a trait; it is a collection of many different distinct traits. Staple length, color, average micron, etc. are all traits that can be successfully selected, measured, and bred for. The reality of genetics is that the more traits you select for simultaneously, the slower your progress will be. Alpacas have many traits that need improvement, so breeders need to choose what they will address first.

The challenge is to identify the heritable traits that produce the largest possible top-grade fleece yield, and breed for them.

Let’s split the discussion of increasing the usable fleece yield from an alpaca into two distinct categories; Maximized Fleece Yield (getting more of that top-grade fleece off an individual animal), and Density (getting more individual fibers per square millimeter of animal). I’ll deal with each in turn…..


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