By Mike Safley | November 27, 2016

Genetic Change, Part Three: Genetic Variation

Part three of Genetic Change: Rules and Tools focuses on genetic variation. Stay tuned for the final part of this series.

Genetic variation is extremely important to the rate of genetic gain. The more variation for a particular trait in a population, the more potential there is for change.

If breeders have a wide variety of animals to choose from — such as those with high or low fleece weights — they can select alpacas with very different values and breed for those traits.

If those animals have high breeding value for the trait, improvement in the herd will be rapid. However, if there is little genetic variation in a population of alpacas — for example, little difference between high and low fleece weights — it is very difficult to effect change.

Genetic Variation and EPDs

EPD’s allow breeders to maximize the use of genetic variation. They become a scientific way to use corrective mating together with variability between alpacas to your advantage.

Let’s say you have an alpaca with very good EPD’s for fineness but low rankings for fleece weight. The genetic variation between the two animals is great but you can marry the two strengths together with certainty, with the EPD’s telling you that one animal will pass on its superiority for fleece weight and the other micron fineness.

In Part four, we will discuss how generational interval can help maximize gain.

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