John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-394-3790
503-551-7219 (cell)
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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.

If we are going to try to concentrate the genetics in our herd we need to understand fully the risks entailed.  Other livestock industries can tell many tales about how serious, sometimes fatal, genetic defects have taken hold.

Line breeding does not create genetic defects.  Line breeding exposes them, assuming the genetic defects are recessive.

In the words of one horse breeder:

"One must learn to determine the heritability of all the characteristics of his horses. Often an owner imagines that all of his horse's good qualities will pass to its progeny, while excusing serious faults as having been caused by environment. (i.e: a bad-natured horse "must have been mistreated" or one with crooked legs suffered from "improper trimming".) A breeder should reject this type of thinking. Unless there is positive proof that a defect has some other cause, it must be considered heritable to a large degree. This concept is crucial in any breeding program." (emphasis added)

There has been scant research as to heritable traits in alpacas.  Much of what we see, or hear, is based on anecdotal reports.  Given that, it is wise to take the above words to heart - "Unless there is positive proof that a defect has some other cause, it must be considered heritable."

It is important to distinguish between functional defects and aesthetic defects.  The failure to make this distinction has led to serious problems in the dog world, where aesthetics has largely supplanted functionality.  Traits such as length of muzzle, fiber covered ears and other things probably fall in the aesthetic group.  Length of back and breadth of chest may or may not, since there are good arguments to be made that these influence the ability to carry multiple pregnancies to term and such.

The point we are working towards here is that any breeder looking at practicing line breeding must be prepared to cull their herd mercilessly, and to assess the herd as objectively as possible.

The goal of line breeding is the creation of animals that will reliably reproduce their traits in their offspring.  This occurs quickly, because in line breeding to a particular ancestor the chance that the ancestor's genetic material will be present in the foal is greatly increased. Family breeding, when practiced properly, can be a powerful tool in "setting" desirable characteristics in a herd.

The risks include the exposure of heritable defects, and the onset of in breeding loss of vigor.

The breeder should consider the risks and advantages carefully, and if one is going to follow the path of line breeding, they should research their animals fully in order to utilize those least likely to  be carrying negative traits. 

 

 
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"A wrinkled face like an old woman's, came shuffling slowly along in list slippers, a shiny alpaca overcoat hanging on his stooping shoulders, no ribbon at his buttonhole, the sleeves of an under-vest..."

- Honoré de Balzac
Cousin Betty
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