Selecting your own Alpacas.

Alpacas represent a significant investment and you will want to choose wisely. Top quality animals command high prices. Poor quality animals can often be bought cheaply but may not turn out to be the bargain you expect. Many people buy, and quite successfully, simply because they like the look of a particular animal and such a choice can provide years of pleasure. It seems, by and large, we have an innate sense of quality. However we have known some farmers or enthusiasts to make some major mistakes, largely because they are using different criteria and not sure what to look for.
if you want to know more the following check lists may be helpful. Remember that this is a bloodstock or breeding industry. So the long term aim is to breed top quality animals with top quality fleeces, not just to increase the numbers. This is particularly true if you want, in the future, to be able to sell your animals, their off-spring or their fleeces. With time (years) we expect that the top animals will continue to command top prices but the average or poorer quality animals may well lose some of their value. Of course you will not find that all animals are correct in all details, that is why the prices can vary so much, but this list will help you when making your selection and could mean you can avoid some possible pitfalls. You can expect animals with top conformation to be considerably more expensive than ones with poor conformation.

Conformation:

Points to look for:
Head: short, thick, triangular and symmetrical Ears: erect, spear-shaped (not 'banana-shaped like lamas). Teeth: the lower teeth should meet the end of the upper palette (alpacas do not have upper incisor teeth).  Body: overall proportions: neck should be 2/3 length of the back and the same length as the legs. Back: straight and flat with slight downward slope to the tail at the rear (in this they differ from lamas) and a broad rump Forequarters and Front legs: relatively straight, correctly angled posterns and forward facing toes Hindquarters and Hind legs: correct angulation to hock and pasterns, no evidence of rubbing, square standing. Forward pointing ankles, pasterns and toes. Movement: free and smooth, balanced Body and skin condition: should be good

Traits to avoid: Head: Elongated muzzle, imbalances or deformities Ears: Too long or too short, banana/gopher shaped, split Teeth: Overshot or undershot jaw Body: poor proportions, ungainly appearance, excessively thin or overweight Back: humped or hollowed back, sideways curvature of spine or tail Forequarters and Front legs: angular deformities, knock-knees, splayed feet or feet too close together. Hindquarters and Hind Legs: Cow-hocked, sickle-hocked, post legs with incorrect angulations, dropped fetlock or pastern. Feet to close or too far apart. Movement: Unbalance, short stride, tripping. Skin: Poor, patches without fleece. If you are not sure of any of these terms or descriptions ask, when selecting. We are happy to show you what is meant and to point out good and less good examples. both by diagrams and in animals on the ground Fleece: The quality of the fleece will also affect the price. If you want an inexpensive animal as a pet you may be willing to accept an average quality fleece. If you want to breed on and develop a good herd then consideration of the fleece quality is important.

Aspects to consider:

Colour: Should be uniform for commercial fleece usage. Grey animals commonly show gradual variations throughout the fleece and this is often considered part of their appeal.  Brown fleeces may be paler on the belly.  Multi coloured animals or ones with large patches of different colours are generally less desirable unless you want the fleece for own use when two or more colours can be an advantage. Multi coloured animals can still give birth to mono-coloured cria, but there is the risk that the trait may be inherited.  However some of the top and prize-winning animals do have coloured patches, so this is a matter of general judgement. 
Density: The denser the fleece the greater the quantity at shearing and for spinning. Handle: This is the feel and softness. The softer the handle the better.
Fineness: Fibres are measured in microns. The finer the fibre the better the quality of the fleece.
Strength: Pull the hairs along their length, they should not be brittle or break easily.
Guard hairs: Most animals have guard hairs, also known as medulated fibres, along the neck line. These are straighter than the rest of the fleece and so usually stand proud of it. They add some prickle factor to a finished garment. A good fleece will have very little medulation throughout the saddle or main body of the fleece.
Transition line: The best fleece is from the saddle, the main body of the alpaca. The legs, front and neck fleece is of lesser quality and is separated. The transition line marks the position where the main saddle quality fleece tapers off. The larger the saddle area the more good quality fleece you will get.
Length: Quantity of fleece is important and therefore so is the growth rate. Determine when the animal was last shorn.
Dirt line: Alpacas love to roll in any bare earth they can find and inevitably the fleeces are stained, though this is usually removed by washing, prior to spinning. The depth of penetration of dirt is an indication of the compactness and density of the fleece.

Huacayas: Cracking: This is a guide to fleece density and can be seen as the animal moves. Crimp: Look for good and tight crimp. This affects the way the fleece spins up. Brightness: A good fleece will glow, a poor one looks dull.

Suris: Lock structure: This relates to the way these silk-like hairs hang and flow. Look for fine and uniform structure. Lustre: A measure of the, desirable, shine on the silky strands.

Further Check list: A vet's certificate should come with each animal. You may want to get a health history of the herd to make sure there has been no significant problem in the past. Ask for a breeding history. Most females breed easily, a few are reluctant to conceive or fail to hold a pregnancy. If they are available look at some of her progeny on the ground.  Ask the age of the animal and request a list of previous treatments, worming, vaccination, matings, births etc:  Now you know why some animals can cost only a few hundred (euors or pounds) and others can cost many thousands. Do not let this information overwhelm you. The aim is simply to help you to buy animals that suits your needs, at the best possible price, and to make sure you can remain happy with your choices even after you have learnt a lot more than you know at the time of purchase.

Animal Assessment Workshops From time to time and when the interest is expressed we run one-day animal assessment workshops. These may be attended by both new buyers and existing clients. Check "What's New at Killinagh" for details of the next one.


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