Alpaca's ultimate value flows from its ability to create fine, dense fleece
From the beginning Flowerdale Alpacas has aligned its breeding objectives to the "Perfect Alpaca" as described by world renowned alpaca judge and author, Mike Safely of Northwest Alpacas, Oregon USA. Mike says everyone would like to buy, breed, and sell perfect alpacas.
To do that, we must first have a vivid picture of "perfect" in our mind's eye. First and foremost, an alpaca is a production animal. The product it produces is fleece. An alpaca's ultimate value flows from its ability to create fine, dense fleece that is coveted by the makers of luxury garments.
It also so happens that the fleece characteristics which make an alpaca valuable are heritable. When joined correctly, alpacas pass these fleece traits on to their offspring. At the end of the day, the ideal alpaca produces an elite fleece and quality cria with high breeding values.
The ideal Huacaya alpaca
The look of an ideal alpaca starts with the head - a dense top knot, well-covered cheeks converging with the wool cap to form a close V at the eyes, which are dark brown. The ears are shaped like an arrowhead and erect. The muzzle is soft and wedge shaped. The jaw should fit together correctly, with the lower incisors meeting the upper dental pad. The head and neck make up about one-third of an alpaca's height, the body makes up one-third, as do the legs. The neck connects to the shoulder at approximately a 45° angle to the back, which is straight, dropping off a bit at the tail. When the alpaca is alert, the neck and back form almost a 90° angle with the head slightly forward. The perfect alpaca has a squared off appearance, with four strong legs setting squarely under it, giving it a graceful stance which translates into a fluid gait. The ideal alpaca has a soft, dense fleece with abundant coverage down the legs.
The cheeks should be well covered, and the bridge of the nose clean. The crimp in the top knot should continue down the neck, across the blanket, and into the tail, finishing down the belly and legs.
The stars of any herd will catch your eye with an alert, erect appearance. Their fleece opens into well-organized locks of soft, bright, and lustrous fleece, which handles like silk or cashmere.
The ideal Huacaya alpaca fleece
The ideal Huacaya's fleece should be: fine, dense, uniform, and grow perpendicular to the skin. The fleece, which grows from individual follicles in the skin, should be made up of defined staples of crimpy "bundled" fleece. These bundles should organise themselves into staples which create a dense presentation across the animal. The huacaya alpaca should be well covered with a soft, uniform fleece, except on the ears and the bridge of the nose of mature animals. The muzzle and ears should be soft to the touch. The elite alpaca has a well-defined crimp in their top knot, which continues down the neck, into the blanket the belly, and on to the tail. There should be very little medullation (coarse guard hair). The fleece should be well-nourished, exhibit a brightness or sheen, and be void of dull, dry, chalky fiber. The ideal huacaya will produce fleece as soft and as fine as cashmere.
Positive Huacaya Traits in Order of Importance:
- Fineness 30%
- Density 30%
- Crimp 15%
- Uniformity 10%
- Luster or brightness 10%
- Staple length 5%
- A high proportion of medulated fibre through the saddle or blanket of the fleece
- Tender breaks
- Muffled face on adults
- Lack of density
- Lack of overall coverage
- Chalkiness or lack of luster/sheen/brightness
- Coarse handle
- Short staple length for age of fleece
- Lack of Crimp
Permission to use this description of the Ideal Alpaca given by Mike Safely of North West Alpacas, Oregon USA.
Please call us on (03) 9593 2185 to discuss any of these points. Or call to arrange a visit so we can demonstrate the features of quality alpacas and their fleeces.