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

Both like to different and like to like breeding systems are really nothing more than hybridization programs, except that they often lack the strong strains, line or breeds (choose your terminology) needed to make accurate predictions of the outcome of the mating.

This helps to illuminate the conundrum faced by livestock producers in general, and alpaca producers in particular. Predictable hybrid breedings require known genetics in order to work. Otherwise the outcome is really nothing more than a crapshoot.

Known genetics are established via line or in-breeding. Many argue that line or inbreeding programs are to risky, since they can lead to serious genetic defects. This same argument is used by those that emphasize the importance of maintaining genetic diveristy in the National herd.

It is our opinion that this is a case where one can have their cake and eat it too. Concentrated genetics in an individual herd does not lead to a loss of diversity in the National herd.

The North American alpaca industry is too new to have established strains, or breeds, of alpacas. (There are a few possible exceptions to this, and a good argument can be made that alpacas imported from the Accoyo herd reflect a distinct line.)

We will, no doubt, see savvy breeders working towards establishing their own lines. Time will prove the wisdom of this strategy, since predicable outcomes of mating choices offers huge economic advantages.

The failure of the individual breeder to work towards the establishment of a distinct line by practicing hybridation in their breeding program will be twofold:

  1. The offspring will, in general, not be as good as either parent
  2. Any given alpaca will have several "famous" herdsires in their pedigree and will lack the outstanding qualities of all of them.

Of course, the occasional outstanding animal will be produced. In many cases these animals will do very well in the show ring, and they may well be highly promoted as herdsires, often commanding high breeding fees. But, as hybrids, their breeding potential may well be limited, and it is almost certain that predictable outcomes will be impossible.

An illustration might help here.  This is the pedigree of Gateway's Aberdare.  We see a few "notable" herd sires sprinkled in her background, including PPeruvian Leon, Park Avenue and Peruvian Don Julio. 

CSA Mahogany (1/2 Leon) Gateway's Sierra (1/2 Park Avenue) AHR Alejandro (1/2 Don Julio) Peruvian Electra
Gateway's Olivia (1/4 Leon, 1/4 Park Avenue) ABA Poseidon (1/4 Don Julio)
Aberdare (1/8 Leon, 1/8 Park Avenue, 1/8 Don Julio)

But look what happens to their genetic contributions over time.  When Aberdare is bred, she will only pass on 1/16 of the genetic contribution of each of these herd sires that are in her pedigree!

This suggests that looking very far into the past on a pedigree tells very little about the current quality of the animal.  That is unless there has been some level of "setting" of the genetics taking place, which implies some level of inbreeding - a subject we will cover in another article. 

Understanding that producing a few high quality individuals is not the same as producing a consistently good quality herd is an important first step in understanding how to operate a successful breeding program.

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