As I sit here this early morning I contemplate my alpaca adventure. It all began about 4 years ago this time of the year. My darling husband gave me three alpaca for Christmas in 2013. I call it an adventure because there was absolutely no discussion, planning, or research on these magical creature before that cold evening in December 2013, when they arrived!
We had a make shift horse barn, with three stalls, attached to a garage. There was absolutely no fencing at ALL!!! Who does this kind of thing? Not to mention no hay or feed for these poor cold babies! My darling husband was so proud of himself, because he had listened to me. What???? When??? I don’t think I has happened since. Why was he not listening when I said I wanted to vacation in Hawaii? These are questions for another time (rant). Apparently we had gone to a home show in a neighboring town and there were tow alpaca there. I off handed said “I wished I had an alpaca.” GEEZZZZZ
Fast forward 4 years, we now owned or co-own 33 alpaca and one llama. It has been a wild ride to say the least. Which brings me to my morning “reflection”. In my alpaca ignorance I assumed all alpaca was soft, luxurious fiber, having once owned a yarn shop where we sold alpaca yarn! Well it is not! Quite the shock for sure! You see most of my initial alpacas were rescues and when I was gifted them I had no idea you registered them! What had my darling husband gotten me into? Through lots of detective work and patience (plus money) we now have all the alpacas registered! I digress….. Back to the point.
Two years into owning alpacas it became clear to us that we needed to have a plan or reason for owning alpaca. You might say for the fleece! Yes, that is a “good” reason to won fiber animals. But it did not apply to our circumstance, I had two years of fleece stored and absolutely no idea of how to “mainstream” utilize it. You might ask “how is that?” As most of our herd were rescues the fiber was not so good, high micron count. We did have a few animals with “ok” fiber. I tried “Spin A Pound/Get A Pound”, unfortunately I ended up with spinners who needed more experience! I forged on with the “art” yarn and knitted scarves, hats, and other items that eventually sold in our “farm store” (yet another rant topic). Thank goodness most of it is now gone! During this time we realized if we were going to make any return on the fleece we needed a good consistent supply. How to accomplish this? Breeding!!!
Yes we will breed better fleece animals! Having my Biology 101 skills dusted off I proceeded to select breeding pairs for these new wonderful fleece animals. Then math kicked! Ok if we do produce better fleece animals with our current herd, how long will it be before we see any noticeable change. Being analytical here is the formula:
Gestation for an alpaca is 11.5 months (1 year), Breeding age is about 2 years of age, and how many alpacas have acceptable fiber? Female alpaca with acceptable fiber was determined at this time by feel, as I was not about to pay for fiber analysis! Brilliant on my part! So we had 6 females that we determined had decent fiber. Each female was pared with a male that we determined (I did as my darling husband was undecided) would boost the deficiencies in the fiber! Oh so scientific! NOT!!!
1 year gesitation X 6 females X 2 years before breeding = in three years will have 6 better fleece animals breeding
So assuming the statistics that not all will have better fleece, drop that number to 4 better fleece animals. How much better? Hmmmm…. Now I need a quantitative way to measure this. Crap I will have to pay for fiber analysis! So I did and the results are promising! Now you can say, job well done! Not YET! I now have four alpaca with better fleece, 4/33, those are not good odds! In another three years I could have 7/33 alpaca with better fleece. Holey Moley! This is not stacking up to be the way to go, as I want to retire at some point and have the alpacas already self-sufficient!
So what to do, what to do! We made the leap to purchase alpaca known to have great fleece. Pricey yes, but well worth the investment! So excited to see what these lovely alpaca do with our herd!
Results of my “Garbage breeding”, 2017 EPDS:
Dam Sire Offspring
AFD 0.132 -0.636 -0.544 (f)
AFD 0.777 Not Reported 0.054 (f)
AFD 0.922 -0.566 0.064 (f)
AFD -0.659 -0.383 -0.575 (f)
AFD 0.834 -0.380 0.496 (m)
In most of my choices I did improve achieve a better fleece offspring than the dam but not so with the sire. But now I have better breeding females to put with the better males, short of line breeding.
Results of the animals we purchased, 2017 EPDs (offspring has not been tested):
Dam Sire (2016) Sire(2017)
AFD -1.332 -2.514 -1.845
AFD -1.180 -1.497 -1.845
AFD -1.286 -2.514 -1.845
AFD -1.293 -1.497
AFD -1.438 -2.514 -1.845
Based on where I am with my “breeding program”, average decrease in AFD of 0.543/year, it will be approximately 3-4 years before I have anywhere near the AFDs of the purchased alpacas. I feel confident we are going in the right direction!