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It all started at Kansas Airport, returning from being the the official colour checking assistant to senior US judge Jude Anderson during the US Futurity Show. We were joined at the departure lounge by Amanda VandenBosch, who had judged the show together with Peter Kennedy, and was now focused on her next mission.
For the Corani EPD project to succeed in the dual goal of 1) increasing the price of the co-op’s fleece and 2) simultaneously improving the genetics of the member’s alpacas, it needed a micron measurement device. I consulted with Angus McColl of Yocom-McColl Testing Laboratories in Denver, Colorado, who recommended an OFDA 2000, manufactured by BSC Electronics of Australia.
The young veterinarian was flanked by three Quechua alpaca breeders, each with their felted cowboy hats firmly in place and nary a smile on their stoic, weather creased faces. They were from an important alpaca-growing region in district of Corani, near Macusani.
Generation interval affects the rate of genetic change simply because the more rapidly one generation of improved alpacas replaces the previous one, the faster the gain. It is determined by the average age of 1) producing males and 2) females in a given herd. Alpacas have a generation interval of four to six years for females and approximately five years for males, although this interval will vary from herd to herd.
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. 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.
Selection intensity means being highly selective of the progeny produced by the high-quality parents you have chosen for foundation stock, and retaining in your herd only the offspring that exhibit a superior expression of the heritable qualities for which you are selecting. This ensures that breeding values will remain high and that each generation of offspring should improve.
Selection accuracy is important if any improvement or gain is to be made. This means the traits you select for must be heritable, and the animals you choose for parents must have high breeding value for the traits under selection.
Julio Barreda worked with ancient Peruvian alpaca stock, always striving to improve it. In North America, many breeders are fortunate to be working with animals that have already been improved. However, there is much more work to do. How shall we go about advancing to create the alpacas of our dreams?