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John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Breeding Alpacas

Breeding Alpacas is a much marketed but little known subject. Perusing industry literature, the enthusiast will see beautiful glossy images of alpaca herdsires and show ribbons, each promoting that alpaca as the perfect match for your girl. It behooves the serious owner to study the subject of alpaca breeding carefully.

Breeding Overview

Alpaca breeding in the United States has until recently been a largely neglected subject.  With a relatively small national herd, almost any breeding strategy that put new animals on the ground was deemed a good one.  As the national herd approached 100,000 animals new, and much needed attention has been focused on this area.

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Breeding Physiology

The breeding physiology of alpacas (and other camelids) is unique. Unlike other livestock who breed standing up for only a few minutes, alpacas breed on the ground for 10 to 50 minutes. The female is in a "cushed" (sternal) position and the male is lying on top of her. alpacas are also different because they are induced ovulators. This means that the female will not ovulate until she is bred by the male. The act of breeding stimulates neural pathways in the female which then cause the release of hormones that cause the follicle to ovulate.

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Breeding Systems

Breeding systems are basically limited to only three approaches. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. "hand breed" is the most common system, and the least natural, while "pasture breeding" is relatively uncommon and also the most natural.

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The Black Box of Genetics

Genetics and heredity are the basis of sound breeding decisions.  It is important that the serious alpaca breeder have at least a basic understanding of how traits are passed from generation to generation.

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Like to Different

Like to Different breeding occurs when an owner attempts to improve an individual animal by mating it with an animal possessing strong traits that it lacks.  For instance, a light fleece dam might be mated to a sire with a very dense fleece.

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Like to Like

Like to Like breeding is another system based on phenotype. This system is not materially different than like to different breeding, since it is usually based on the pairing of individual animals.

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That hybridization can produce consistently superior animals has been well established in most breeds of livestock. But, what is also true is that hybrids do not breed true, and often produce substandard animals.

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Line Breeding

Line Breeding offers a system for concentrating the genetic contributions of superior animals.  It should be understood from the outset, however, that concentration of genetics includes both the good and the bad.

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Breed Standards

Alpaca Breeds Standards have been the source of much debate in the United States.  The Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association spent the better part of two years grappling with the issue, in the end being unable to develop a consensus view on their utility or adoption.
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Alpaca Sales

"Mrs. Hamilton, dressed in a plain, grey alpaca dress, rather hot and dusty after her long drive, sat on one of the low divans awaiting her. As Saidie entered, the glory of her youth and beauty struck upon the seated woman like a heavy blow, under which she started to her feet and stood for a second, involuntarily shrinking...."

- Victoria Cross
Six Women
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