Alpaca selecting and buying guidelines

 

New purchasers are strongly recommended to purchase alpacas from owners who are members of the BAS and have their stock
registered with the BAS Pedigree Registry.
All members adhere to the Society’s Code of Conduct for the Sale of Alpacas.

“Look before you buy”

The prospect of buying an unsound alpaca without even realising it, until too late, is scary. There is a large financial commitment involved and an animal with serious faults may affect your breeding programme and the saleability of offspring.

  • It is important when buying alpacas that you buy one that is sound in conformation.
  • It is easier to breed in better fibre characteristics and increase productivity than it is to breed out conformation problems that may be genetic.
  • To live a long and productive life as a fibre producer and to provide offspring, alpacas need a sound frame that is ‘fit for function’.
  • There are many genetic defects that are undesirable in alpacas, most of which would meet with immediate disqualification if the animal was taken to a British Alpaca Society run show.

A very good description of what to look for in alpacas is outlined below:

The Ideal Huacaya Alpaca

From the creation of Inca Alpaca the vision of one day being able to breed and sell alpacas that are as close to perfect or ideal has been at the forefront of our mind when it comes to breeding. This image of the ideal or “Perfect Alpaca” is best described by world renowned alpaca judge and author, Mike Safely of Northwest Alpacas, Oregon USA.

To breed towards the perfect alpaca, we must have a vivid picture of “perfect” in our mind. First and foremost, an alpaca is a production animal. The product it creates is fleece. An alpaca’s ultimate value is directly related to its ability to create fine, dense fleece that is in strong demand by the makers of luxury garments.

It is important to remember that the fleece and bone characteristics, which make an alpaca valuable, are heritable. When the genetic markers for these characteristics become fixed and the alpacas are mated properly these fleece and conformational traits are passed 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

Selecting_huacAn ideal alpaca’s look begins 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 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 organize 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 medulation (coarse guard hair). The fleece should be well-nourished, exhibit a brightness or sheen, and be void of dull, dry, chalky fibre. The ideal huacaya will produce fleece as soft and as fine as cashmere.

Selecting_huac_fleecePositive Huacaya Traits in Order of Importance:

Fineness 30%
Density 30%
Crimp 15%
Uniformity 10%
Brightness 10%
Staple length 5%

  • Faults:
  • 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

The Ideal Suri Alpaca
Selecting_suriAn ideal alpaca’s look begins 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 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 Suri Alpaca Fleece

The primary characteristic which distinguishes a suri from a huacaya is the phenotype of its fleece. The suri’s fleece falls close to the body, moves freely, and gives the animal a lustrous, flat-sided appearance. The lustre found in the suri’s fleece is the primary indication of the animal’s quality. In addition, the fibre should be fine, and have good handle (a more slippery handle than huacaya) with a well-nourished, almost greasy feel. The locks or ringlets that make up the fleece should be round, form close to the skin, and have uniform twist to the end. Ideally, the style of lock should be uniform from the top knot to the hock; particular attention should be paid to uniformity and independence of lock across the mid side. The legs and underbelly should be well covered.

A more rounded or fluffy appearance can indicate volume rather than density in a suri’s fleece which is undesirable. There should be no crimp in the staple, but a low wave is desirable along the length of an individual fiber. Due to the compactness of the fleece, suris often give the appearance of being smaller than the huacaya, but this is an optical illusion. The suri should be every bit as big and robust as a huacaya. Think of the ideal suri as producing a curtain of silk to grace its sturdy frame. Suri alpaca fibre is woven into cloth and made into coats or jackets that exhibit a warm, luxurious luster.

The suri’s locks should have a well-defined architecture, which relates to the degree of twist or curl and the solidity in the lock. Locks should be compact, independent (swinging out freely from the skin when the animal is in motion or the fleece disturbed), uniform, and start close to the skin. Locks may be twisted, curled, or penciled and should start from the forelock and continue through to the hocks. Spirals in the locks may twist from either left or right. Locks can be with or without a wave which should not be confused with crimp, which is a fault. A suri, when compared to a huacaya of similar age and fiber micron size will have a longer lock (staple in huacaya) in the fleece. The locks should hang straight and hug the body, giving a curtain like appearance. When the fleece is opened, the inside locks should be as well-formed as the outside layer and exhibit lustre at their base.


Selecting_suri_fleecePositive Suri Traits in Order of Importance:

Fineness 30%
Density 30%
Lock formation 15%
Uniformity 10%
Lustre 10%
Lock length 5%

Faults:

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 lustre
Coarse handle
Short lock length for age of fleece
Lack of lock formation

 

Permission to use this description of the Ideal Alpaca given by Mike Safely of Northwest Alpacas, Oregon USA.