Sources of variation in fibre diameter attributes of Australian alpacas and implications for fleece evaluation and animal selection were investigated using data collected in the years 1994–97, from 6 properties in southern Australia. Data were analysed using REML (multiple regression analysis) to determine the effect on mean fibre diameter (MFD) and coefficient of variation of MFD (CV(FD)) of age, origin (property), sex (entire male, female), breed (Huacaya, Suri), liveweight, fibre colour, individual, and interactions of these effects. The mean (n = 100) age (range) was 4.2 years (0.1–11.9), liveweight 72.0 kg (12.0–134 kg), MFD 29.1 μm (17.7–46.6 μm), CV(FD) 24.33% (15.0–36.7%).
A number of variables affected MFD and CV(FD). MFD increased to 7.5 years of age, and correlations between MFD at 1.5 and 2 years of age with the MFD at older ages were much higher than correlations at younger ages. Fibre diameter 'blowout' (increase with age) was positively correlated with the actual MFD at ages 2 years and older. There were important effects of farm, and these effects differed with year and shearing age. Suris were coarser than Huacayas with the effect reducing with increased liveweight; there was no effect of sex. Fleeces of light shade were 1 μm finer than dark fleeces. CV(FD) declined rapidly between birth and 2 years of age, reaching a minimum at about 4 years of age and then increasing; however, CV(FD) measurements on young animals were very poor predictors of CV(FD) at older ages, and the response of CV(FD) to age differed with farm and year. Suris had a higher CV(FD) than Huacayas on most properties, and MFD, liveweight, and sex did not affect CV(FD). Fleeces of dark shade had higher CV(FD) than fleeces of light shade in 2 of the years. It is concluded that there are large opportunities to improve the MFD and CV(FD) of alpaca fibre through selection and breeding. The potential benefit is greatest from reducing the MFD and CV(FD) of fibre from older alpacas, through reducing the between-animal variation in MFD and CV(FD). Sampling alpacas at ages more »