When it comes to fiber, selecting the right alpaca is both an art and a science. It takes care and dedication. If you’re looking to breed an alpaca to produce high-quality fiber, there is even more to consider. Here’s a basic guide to get you started in your journey to perfect alpaca fiber!
Beautiful Alpaca? Trust Your Gut.
Long before we had DNA testing and spreadsheets, alpaca herders and wool weavers were able to recognize a “beautiful” alpaca (meaning one that produced pleasing and pliable fiber) when they saw one. There’s a gut feeling that comes from recognizing a healthy animal, beyond the official status of their purity.
If you see an alpaca with healthy or interesting-looking fiber, investigate it. Look into genetics and use a good breeding systems, but trust your instincts above anything a seller may tell you. Beautiful fiber qualities can always be passed on to next generations. It’s worth looking into whenever it appears!
Look Beyond The Alpaca’s Breed…
A healthy alpaca is universally recognizable. Regardless of breed, there are a few tenants of what makes a healthy alpaca:
Soft and dense fleece (regardless of color or markings)
Head and neck, each taking up about a third of its body height.
Strength, especially in the legs
Bright and alert demeanor
Look for these characteristics in the alpaca and select them for breeding.
With proper feeding and herd structuring, high-quality fiber will be easier to achieve.
… But Don’t Forget What Makes That Alpaca Unique.
There are differences between the breeds of alpaca, each of which indicate the health and fitness of that animal.
It’s best to study the breed type of the alpaca at hand.
Take notes on what aspects develop in the fleece, where hair is most likely to grow and even the shape of its head.
All of these are windows into the purity of the breed.
Keep in mind that external appearance doesn’t always hint at the quality of the fiber produced by that alpaca.
Pay attention to each of the individual factors, and be ready to settle for a low-yield alpaca if it means achieving a purer quality of fiber. This can often be the case for certain breeds.
But it’s sometimes worth it for the right alpaca!
What do you look for in an fiber-producing alpaca?
Do you any tips or advice for someone looking to breed an alpaca for the first time?
Share your stories below in the comments.
About the Author:
The Alpaca Group has over fifteen years of experience with raising and breeding alpacas. They operate on a 47 acre farm in Ridgefield, Washington.
They have over 200 alpacas with diversified bloodlines and colors that are sure to make you fall in love with alpacas.
The Alpaca Group focuses their breeding program on the fiber of their alpacas.
Fineness, shearing weight, and uniformity are a few of the most important values to them and their breeding program which is backed by scientific testing results.