Alpacas: How to Choose

Health and Fitness
Training and Temperament
Fibre Colour
Fibre Quality
Fibre Test Statistics
Conformation

If you are investing in alpacas, you need to know that you are selecting the best breeding stock. You'll be looking for the alpacas that will bring the most desirable qualities to your herd, whether as studs or as breeding females. Here are some of the areas we feel you should be considering.

Health and Fitness

 If the alpaca looks healthy and well-cared-for that's a good start. But you will also want to check the vaccination and worming records, and ask if the animal is registered with an established industry body. This ensures you can check up on its parents and pedigree.

All Hayne Alpacas are fully registered with either the British Alpaca Society or British Camelids. Most of our animals are registered with both breed societies. All the alpacas that we have imported from Canada are also registered with the Canadian Llama and Alpaca Association.


Training and Temperament

Pedro wearing halterAlpacas are usually good-natured. Personal contact with the animal before you buy makes sure you don't end up with the exception to the rule. If it is halter-trained, you may want to try putting a halter on and leading it yourself.

At Hayne, we are breeding for good temperament in all our animals.


Fibre Colour

white fleeces are more flexibleMulticoloured animals make charming and attractive pets. But if you are developing a breeding herd for eventual fibre production, you will probably want to choose white or at least solid-coloured animals. These produce consistently coloured fleeces which can easily be dyed. White fleeces can be dyed any colour, so are more in demand by fibre processors and tend to attract a premium price.

At Hayne Alpacas we are concentrating on breeding top-quality solid-coloured animals.

Fibre Quality

Though fibre tests can be a valuable indicator of the quality of an animal's fleece, there is no substitute for the hands-on test.

What does the fleece look like? Is it soft and silky to the touch, or too harsh to wear next to the skin? Is the fleece consistently dense and thick all over? Is the skin in good condition too? What is the crimp and lustre like?

As animals age their fleece will become coarser. The first 'baby' fleece will be the best but the longer the animal retains a good fleece the better.

Diet and nutrition are a major contributory factor to the fineness and density of an alpaca's fleece. Nutrition levels affect results, and overfed animals will produce a higher, (coarser), micron count than those on a properly balanced diet. Drastic changes of diet or high levels of stress will directly affect the quality of the fibre the animal produces at that time.

Older animals have coarser fleeces, but it is the rate of this change that is important. The slower the decrease in quality the better, particularly in the stud male. It is this longevity of consistent quality fibre production that we are trying to introduce into the breeding programme by using a male with a known history of passing on this desirable trait. (See our Alpaca Dictionary for more information.)

Fibre Test Statistics

Fibre from Hayne Alpacas may be tested by Yocom-McColl Testing Laboratories Inc. Denver -Colorado - USA, or by E-lab in New Zealand. Both services offer high quality results and consistency.

The test reports give figures for the Average Fibre Diameter (AFD),  Coefficient of Variation (CV), Standard Deviation (SD), and the percentage of fibres above 30 micron (%>30), each assessed over a number of test dates.

It is important when assessing test results to take other factors beside just the test results into consideration. The date the sample was taken and the date of birth of the animal should be integrated with the test results so that a comparison can be made against the age of the animal. You should not judge an animal on its fibre test results alone. If you also handle the animal and understand its history, you will find it easier to properly interpret the test results, and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the animal overall.

Conformation

legs and neck should be in proportionSize, shape and proportion are important to alpacas. Poor bone or skeletal conformation can make the alpaca subject to mobility problems. Poor bite conformation (placement of teeth) can make it difficult for the animal to eat. Bad genital conformation can affect breeding ability.

Viewed from the front or back, Alpacas should have straight legs, not too close together, with toes that point forward. The animal should be in correct proportion with a straight backline and good bone structure

Ideally, the bottom teeth should meet the upper palate evenly (alpacas have no top set of teeth). Position of the front teeth can alter as alpacas change their teeth between three and four years old. Minor problems with the bite over time can sometimes be addressed through careful trimming of the teeth.

Spotting good Alpaca conformation takes practice. At Hayne Alpacas we can explain the differences to you. We deliberately select for good conformation on all points. As our stock is all registered with at least one national or international Alpaca Society, you can be confident that breeding stock bought from us is sound.

   Hayne Alpacas