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Assessing Fiber

The alpaca industry has developed a predisposition for fiber measurement of individual animals, purportedly to aid in breeding decisions and breed improvement , and generally presented in the form of a "histogram". Understanding what a histogram is, and what the numbers it reports mean, is important, as is understanding what a histogram does not measure and what the numbers do not tell.

There are several factors beyond what is represented in a histogram that should be used in assessing fiber.



Hand Grading

Of surprise to many people is the fact that the grading/classing of virtually all natural animal fibers still begins by hand. While technology provides the means to provide objective measurements and confirmation of the sorter's skill, no machine has yet been developed that can replace the sight and touch required for accurate classing.

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Understanding Histograms

A histogram is little more than a bar chart of frequency distribution, organizing a group of data points into specified ranges. It condenses a data series into an easily interpreted visual, which while convenient can also lead to an oversimplified interpretation of the data.

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Utility of Histograms

The US alpaca industry's obsession with micron reporting and histograms began early, and is reflected in a number of articles that appeared in the ARI Journal between 1996 and 1999. Whether this reflects sound science or culture is arguable.

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