As we get Peru Unplugged up and running, I am really looking forward to sharing regularly about alpacas. The 20/20 alpaca will be the primary premise of my alpaca blog posts. 20/20 is simply a metaphor for what we might achieve.
Hopefully this idea will open our minds to a new vision of what is possible when we apply science to the art of alpaca breeding. As we walk this path, I am going to lean heavily on what I have learned from Don Julio Barreda and my 30+ years of alpaca breeding. The topics will include:
- EPD selection techniques
- Breeding for specific commercial traits
- Genetic gain
- Ideal alpacas
- Alpacas as livestock
- Alpaca judging
The status quo or conventional wisdom of the current alpaca breeders needs to be challenged – or as Don Julio said, “We all need to walk a little faster.”
I first met this remarkable man in the early 1990s when I was president of the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA). I was interested in creating contacts with Peruvian alpaca breeders and textile manufacturers, I decided to correspond with the International Alpaca Association (IAA) headquartered in Arequipa.
Not many months later, before it was even legal to export alpacas from Peru, I accepted the IAA’s invitation to visit and made the first of many trips in 1991. One of the first questions I asked upon arrival in Peru was, “Who is the greatest alpaca breeder in Peru?” “Don Julio Barreda,” everyone replied without hesitation. I asked my hosts if they might introduce me to Don Julio. They agreed and invited him to a dinner party in Arequipa.
The day before the dinner, I got my first glimpse of Barreda’s alpacas at Grupo Inca’s farm Sallalli, which at that time was located near the Colca Valley. The farm had just purchased 24 machos from Barreda’s farm, Accoyo. They were larger than any alpacas I had ever seen. Their fleece quality was so striking that I remember thinking they must be a different breed than the ones I had at home, which I had imported from Chile.
At dinner, I finally had the opportunity to speak directly with Don Julio. We began the first of many conversation about Don Julio’s passion for alpaca breeding, and by the end of the evening, Don Julio agreed to visit my ranch in Oregon the following July.
As promised, he visited the following year and stayed in our home. We held a reception in his honor, where Don Julio addressed our guests:
I know that you, my fellow breeders from North America, can walk with longer, quicker steps and will, with the aid of the science that is available here, create a type of alpaca to your own liking. Allow me to say this – It would be ideal that my experiences, although maybe a bit old-fashioned, could facilitate the progress that you foresee and maybe, thanks to an honest collaboration, we could make the alpaca an animal known and respected in each household of your great nation.