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

Many systems have been used in livestock breeding, and each offers both advantages and disadvantages. Breeders, no matter how large or small their herds might be, generally strive towards certain goals. 
The wise breeder has some specific goals in mind - something other than the current fad in the show ring!
Any breeding program should aim to inculcate the positive in the herd, but the knowledgeable breeder maintains awareness of problems the breed may have as well. In alpacas one might want to familiarize themselves with issues such as Choanal Atresia, Angular Limb Deformities and other skeletal issues. To begin with we need to cover some basic terminology that will be used in the rest of this discussion.

Outcrossing - the mating of unrelated animals. There are few true "lines" of alpacas in the United States (the Acccoyo line being one notabel exception) so a quick look at the pedigree of any registered alpaca will determine if two animals are related.

Hybridization - also the mating of unrelated animals, but usually means crossing two inrelated lines of animals. Again, the Accoyo line stands out as perhaps the only clear strain of alpacas in the US, although there are individual farms that are making progress in developing their own lines. There are a couple of established breeding programs that appear to specialize in hybridized animals, a strategy that has paid well in the show ring as we will discuss later.

Like to Like - a strategy of mating animals that are similar to one another.

Like to Different - a strategy that seeks to improve on an animal by pairing weakness to strength, for instance a fine but thin fleece to a fine and dense fleece.

Inbreeding/Linebreeding - a strategy of breeding related animals together. The distinction between line breeding and inbreeding is largely semantic and only a matter of degree.

Phenotype - what one sees when looking at an animal.

Genotype - the genetic makeup of the animal, which may or may not be reflected in the phenotype given variables such as environmental influences

Heterozygous - dissimilar genes at any given locus.

Homozygous - identical genes at any given locus, thus we might say that an alpaca is homozygous for black fleece.
Prepotency - the tendency of an animal to pass on a particular trait.  Remember, prepotency applies to both desirable and non-desirable traits!

It is important that new or potential alpaca owners are clear in their breeding strategy and the reason for choosing it. Given the relatively long gestation of the alpaca, early mistakes in breeding strategy can set the program back several years. Alpaca breeding is a subject worthy of many hours of research and reading.


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