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

Like to like breeding attempts to "set" desireable traits. For example, the breeder might mate two alpacas possessing exceptional fineness and/or density with the goal of producing offspring similar to the parents, and in the hope that those offspring are genetically homozygous for desired traits.

If the strategy is successful, then the offspring will more likely be prepotent for the traits in question.

However, just as in like to different mating, there is a fair chance that the offspring will be of less quality than either parent. This is because neither parent may be homozygous for the desired traits, and the "luck of the draw" may well combine undesired genetic contributions from the parents.

Where like to different breeding systems may produce offspring superior to either parent, this is less likely with like to like breeding. Of course, improvement is usually not so much the goal as is the setting of traits and the development of some prepotency.

Many breeders using like to like breeding as a way to set traits believe that the system protects against inbreeding and its associated problems.  There is a great deal of discussion amongst breeders about the need to diversify bloodlines and genetics.

There can be little argument that a diverse genetic base across the National herd is important.  That said, one must ask if genetic diversity is a desirable goal within an individual herd?  The ability for an individual to produce animals possessing consistent production traits can only be an advantage as alpacas begin to move into mainstream agriculture.

Consistency within the herd will increase the value of the individuals in that herd.  Not only does it allow the customer to know what they are purchasing and what the likely outcome of matings will be, but it also allows for educated hybridization, a strategy that has proven its economic viability across agriculture.

This raises an interesting point that the alpaca industry has struggled with.  Specifically, what constitutes a "breed" as applied to alpacas.  The issue of "breed standards" has been the source of some significant angst over the past few years.  In our opinion this is because breeds, as the term is generally used, have not been developed within alpacas.  (There are a couple of potential exceptions to this statement.)  We will explore the issue of breeds and breed standards in a separate article. 

It is our opinion that systems such as Like to Different or Like to Like are, in the long run, only slightly better than random mating.   Neither takes advantage of the record of pedigree contained in the registry, and while they may hold the promise of improving the herd in the short term, in the long term both will work towards the genetic average of the herd.

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"There were other considerations, the first of which was that I already had two or three people in use, notably a young person with big feet, in alpaca, from Kilburn, who for a couple of years had come to me regularly for my illustrations and with whom I was still--perhaps ignobly--satisfied..."

- Henry James
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