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see West Melton

Alpaca Articles

Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.

They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and workshops, writing articles for industry magazines in New Zealand, Australia, UK, and USA and also through articles on this website and other websites.

Click here for more articles  

IMPORTS - their place in genetic improvement

IMPORTS - Their Effect on the NZ Herd

By Nic Cooper, Southern Alpacas Stud

Recently I wrote about the importance of the “4 P’s” – Progeny, Pedigree, Phenotype and Price – in selection of your alpacas, be they female breeding stock, or stud males.

I briefly mentioned there are some alpacas that are gaining reputation as “venerable ancestors” of the more established herds in Australia and USA.

To help newcomers to recognize these names, and the role they play in the genetics of the NZ herd,  I am going to “name names” here.  I have to state at the outset that these are my opinions. Other breeders will hopefully generally agree, but may have a number of different males in their list of preferences.

Early imports into NZ
The first shipments of alpacas into NZ were a motley crew. From Chile, they were bought from local villages by (then) new breeders inexperienced in alpaca livestock.

They were called “foundation stock”. Their greatest asset was the range of colour they provided, and the large frame they displayed (some said somewhat llama like!). Some lines carried inbred genetic fault (ears and tails particularly).

Most animals in NZ will have some generational link to these foundation alpacas, one way or another.

Importer financial strife led to most of these animals going to Australia to become their foundation stock too. So many imports now from Australia will have a NZ lineage, way back.

Australia
Whereas NZ basically stopped importing then until 1997, Australia continued.

In the early 1990’s, when Peruvian imports were banned to Australia, an enterprising Australian walked 6 very well selected accoyo males (and some equally good females, IAR # 2407 – 2428) across the border and imported them to Australia as Chileans. They were referred to for many years as being from "North Chile".

Now known as Cheruvians, and herd named “Purrembete” they changed the face of the Australian industry.  These alpacas still continue to provide offspring and later generations that win shows and remain highly sought after.

To put it beyond doubt, and in order of (my) preference, these males were:

Highlander – just the best, but now deceased
Inti – huge shearweight in fawn
Ledgers Dream – exquisite conformation
El Dorado
Sir Titus Salt
Snowman – now retired

You will see these males in the pedigree of many of the quality alpacas you buy in NZ.

Later imports from Peru simply failed to produce (with the odd exception) alpacas of the genetic quality as these Cheruvians. They have become the undisputed “venerable ancestors” of the Australasian herd.


USA
About the same time as the Cheruvians were walking south to Chile and Australia (1994 and 1995), US importers were raiding the accoyo herd (and others) of their best stock, offering prices previously unheard of in Peru.

Again done by good stock analysts, and supported by vet (phenotypic) screening these animals laid the foundation for improvement of the US herd. Only a few actually prospered to become the venerable ancestors of the US herd. Many more fell by the wayside, or (worse) got tainted by carrying genetic fault.

Some have an influence: some being bought by Australians; some having done stud tours to Australia; some have produced offspring that have come this way. So joining the famous 6 Cheruvians (above) we need to add the following names:

Hemingway (the king in USA, regarded like Highlander is in Australia)
ILR Peruvian Legend (NB there are several “Legends”)
Drambuie
Ruffo
Royal Fawn (very very limited in Australasia)
Pluro (now deceased)
Cordero (very limited Australasian exposure)
Sonoma (now deceased)

Plus a number of others (such as Allin Capac and Auzengate) that may well rate.

The odd exception
Whilst the above (and their progeny) have just about dominated the Australasian scene, there are a limited number of alpacas from other shipments that have had a major influence on the Australasian herd.

Sculptor (now deceased)
Jolimont Conquistador (NB Jolimont, there are several males named Conquitador!)

Interesting that most of the other real icons are part of the above venerable ancestor families.


Later Imports to NZ
NZ did receive a number of Peruvian animals from later Australian shipments, in the late 1990's. These came via Australia, and tended to be what was “left over”. Whilst improving the basic Chilean fibre characteristics, they failed to lift the NZ herd anywhere near the Cheruvian stock.

A more recent accoyo import may produce some alpacas that equate. US and Australian accoyo shipments in the past have shown a small percentage come through. Time and progeny analysis will tell which of the latest batch will stamp their mark.

In 1997 Southern Alpacas started importing Cheruvian genetic stock into NZ. We began with studs to lift the quality of our own herd, and then imported females. Offspring of the US imports, and a US stud male followed. Other notables were imported in later years. Subsequently other breeders have followed our lead.


Homegrown
Much of the quality stock in NZ is linked genetically to these venerable ancestors. There are no great NZ homegrowns that do not stem genetically from the above.

That we have most of the above genetics on our farm and behind our most successful stud males is a passing comment. They need (in NZ) to live by their own successes and the success of their own progeny, and young males from the Cheruvian and US lines are proving their worth with their progeny in the show ring (MoonShine, Inca Herald, High South and Brutus).


In Conclusion
Despite all of the above there are pitfalls for the buyer to beware.

An alpaca with a venerable ancestor as grandsire only has 25% of the ancestor genes in it. The other 75% has a far greater influence. What is that like?

A great way of increasing the price of a foundation female is to mate her to a venerable ancestor. But 50% great + 50% atrocious = 100% mediocre.

I have talked about males in this article. The last message I would like you to take from it is that the female is equally important ! 
 

Updated July 2005

Nic Cooper and Linda Blake
Main West Coast Road, West Melton, RD1, Christchurch, New Zealand
Phone 0064 3 318-1917 | fax 0064 3 318-1927 | email alpacasnz@xtra.co.nz