Is this the
Age for AGE?
By Nic Cooper, Southern Alpacas Stud
ago AAA (Australia) introduced the AGE (Across-herd Genetic Evaluation)
project. NZ was quick to get involved and join the introduction. The founders
of this initiative need huge plaudits.
AGE is a
simple recording mechanism for "traits" (alpaca attributes) that the breeder
thinks important and wants to record accurately across a large population to
point the way to improvement in the breeder's herd.
focused on individual breeder improvement, it is a short further step to see
that the national herd benefits from the success of such a project.
It is not
new technology. The Coopworth sheep breed has been "doing" AGE (breeding
values) for 64 years. And have had phenomenal financial benefit through breed
the AGE concept is spreading around the alpaca world.
Saffley at our Rotorua conference in 2004 meant that Mike (being a shrewd
breeder and businessman) took the concept back to USA. At the 2005 Parade of
Champions in Portland a full day of lectures were given over to AGE and like
concepts. But chatting to participants I believe the AGE concept is very
foreign to the investment based US industry, and the few enlightened breeders
pushing the concept will have a hard job getting buy-in.
The UK is
now considering launching the project. But are about 2 years behind.
My guess is
South America is still tying to understand what we are all talking about.
AGE has its
detractors in NZ also.
of alpacas" who would rather not have their marketing hype confused by fact.
"pet" breeder who does not have solid breeding improvement goals.
Even some of
NZ's best researchers, who believe it is too early for the industry to be
embarking on this road.
I would like
to put a different point of view.
The Age for AGE
Now is the
time. Accepted that results and benefits may be many years away - but now is
the time to start, and now is the time for NZ to be committed to the project.
have reached the point where improvement becomes less obvious generation to
generation. We have (at the quality end) outgrown "buying for improvement" and
are now going to have to "breed for improvement". From here the going gets
hard, and any informational assistance we can get will help.
There are a small
number of bigger breeders in NZ that will benefit from AGE is an internal herd
improvement way. Not many. But enough to get started.
will benefit from the data (as published) in their stud and purchase selection.
first. And the 2 years or so advantage we have will be worth many millions of $
to the industry in the longer term.
This does mean we must not lose momentum (and we
have been recently). Renewed emphasis needed please.
NZ has the small size that means it is easier to get a large proportion of the
industry behind (and involved in) the project. And numbers - particularly
genetically related numbers - are key to the accuracy of the data used.
So handled well,
and comprehensively supported, NZ has the chance to gain a huge leap on the rest
of the alpaca world by comprehensively embracing the AGE concept (Mike Saffley's
words, not mine).
produce the best alpacas in the world - and be world recognised for doing so?
clearest answer to this for many years (as far as I am concerned) is the AGE
project. And NZ is best positioned of anywhere in the world to take up the