Friday, May 15, 2009

My breeding experiences

I would like to say in my own experience, of selective breeding for a particular trait, although only a personal research but over a period that extends longer than 12 years, and on a herd size of 200+ alpacas in that time.The significant gains we made from average breeding females, has been immense, where i can honestly say we do earn a good income from our fleeces each year.We have also been approached from a number of fibre collection points for our fibre. almost a 1/4 of our clip going towards the ultra fine bale, and some also to the Super fine bale.Many year ago, in my own observation and studies i decided to breed very differently to the trend at the time.I identified in my breeding plan to aim for the lowest SD i could breed for,looking for the SD of the males (although a simplified personal research) compared to some other breeders at the time, we have improved our fleeces, from probably below average to above average in not only fleece weights but also fineness, and low SD, and reduced variation across bundle and across body of fleece.As we have three to four generations now of this study, i can use as an example.Stefano, (i only have fibre states of Stefano at an age greater than 12 yes of age), the following stats were taken when he was approx 15 yrs old, Mic 21.70 SD 4.3 CV 19.9 Comf Fact 96.3 spin fine 20.9 then his son, Olympic dream, 18.7 4.2 22.5 98.8to a granddaughter of Stefano, 19.23 4.24 22 98.5the result with a magnificent fleece14.6 2.8 18.9 100 14this is just one example of the lines i have kept records on.I would also like to add, that i was also breeding for a certain look and body type of an alpaca, so although fleece traits was main objective, i was not compromising any physical assets.But as we fined our herd up through observing SD, the fleece changes, and becomes so uniform over the whole body of the alpaca, that our 1sts every time, without fail, when weighed was 2/3rds of the total fleece, compared to unimproved dams, which would only be 1/2 of the total clip.Fleece weights are between 5-6 kgs per 12 m th growth, good fleece length, our heaviest to date is 7 kgs, with our progeny average out 14 micron, and our finest being 12.6 micron with SD always in low to mid 3's, with our lowest being 2.6 SD.As the fleeces fined up, increased fleece weights were experienced, including the highest lustre, and handle, resulting with all progeny coming in at 100% comfort factor. with low blow out with age.Through a conversation with Paul, and explaining what we have been looking for with our breeding, he then mentioned, that a similar method can be tested for, and that is when we discovered GIFT.I can see how GIFT can give my breeding program even more advancement, as it has highlighted to me, that although i have been breeding for low SD, i was not aware that i was also lowering my Along Fibre variation", and the importance of this.We have some animals that only vary .5 mic, along the length of the fleece, whilst i have seen reports of some varying up to 5 or microns along the fibre.I see this as an important factor to also take into mind for breeding, and to start breeding for.For an example, if we look at the Ultra Fine Bale which paid out $AUS60 a kilo last year.Because this bale has to be exact, to gain the high prices, some fleeces may only attract 500 grams towards this bale, and purely to simplify things for this example, so there were 20 breeders who contribute for the ultra fine bale.Once completed, 5 core samples are taken from the bale, and if any part of each core sample has a breaking point, then the whole bale is rejected, and so is 20 breeders income, that could have been earned from this bale.The other thing that GIFT has taught me, how important the Between Fibre SD is, and reducing the variance of nutritional intake on fibres standing beside each other has a huge bearing on low variance of micron between fibres in a bundle, which ultimately extends across the fleece.Although we were seeing these results, i was not totally aware of what i was experiencing.I have since introduced the GIFT breeding technology to a few friends, and they are quite impressed with the information the reports give them. As we take the environmental factors out, we can see what the real SD is displaying, and sometimes, this can be a finer SD, and sometimes it can be higher, than you see in a normal histogram.So not everyone are going to be happy.I think also, what GIFT does do, is highlight what we should be breeding for.When we all went into this industry, we were all told Alpacas produced the finest fibre, but when we all got our alpacas, they were not breeding fine.Many breeders over the years, are breeding and they do get advancements in their fleece, but really have no aim for what the end product will be.By identifying the end product, as supplying an Ultra Fine Bale, for example, gives breeders direction on what they should be breeding for, and how to achieve this in the shortest way.I would also like to say that in Australia, we are often referring to the Merino and sheep industries.I think the main reason for this, is as they say for many years Australia rode on the sheep's back.But also, we have seen over the years, the sheep f;fleece industry, go off breeding in many different directions, and in only a few generations on these trends the sheep breeders then would;d realise they went down the wrong path.It took them many more generations and often after culling to correct their breeding.Australian alpaca breeders, take note of the mistakes that the sheep breeders took, and try to avoid the same mistakes.When my husband and i started in the industry we were in our mid 30's, now in our mid 50's, although i have a daughter who is a full time alpaca breeder, and who we will hand our herd to, b but still in the same instance, looking at others at the same stage of life.making a wrong breeding decision, can take years to correct. Our working life do not have those years to waste with these wrong breeding decisions.Using a tool, that is affordable, and everyone has access to, i believe, is an asset to those who use it.I read in one of the posts, querying the amount of samples, etc.There has been a DVD published to show how the test is actually done, and the assets of the testing, which can be obtained through Paul, in this DVD you can see the fibre being tested, and instead of the normal measurements being taken every 5mm, there are over 10, 000 measurements taken every 1mm.If you want more sample spots Gift does not restrict you to just 3, the more samples per alpaca can give you more of an idea if that is what you want to test for, I know the cost of 3 samples spots and the report is $35.00, so i would guess that 3 others spots on an animal would be also approx the same price.You would have to confirm this with Paul.Paul says also that for those that use the Skin follicle testing, Gift could also be used to assist any breeding decisions.Above all, i believe GIFT will be a valuable tool for those new into the industry, as it gives them guidance on the traits each alpaca needs for improvement, and what to look for in a male to go over that alpaca.on the site i mentioned in an earlier post, there are some more samples of alpacas to show how in depth the individual report is.I hear Paul also has put some sample reports on his site as well.I was a t a show in the USA just recently, and i was speaking to a breeder who said to me, that her fleeces have a soft handle, but she cannot seem to fine up her herd.She has been breeding for low CV. But when i told her to look for lowering her SD she was really surprised.The above is only my experience, and i can see that GIFT is a breeding tool, to assist the breeder in making the right breeding dicisions.

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