- Alpaca breeders have long noticed that as they breed for incremental fleece fineness in their animals, the standard deviation of diameter among those fibers also tends to decrease, the result of an apparent and generally favorable genetic link (or links) behind these economically important phenotypic traits. However, because the uniformity measurements they rely upon do not segregate it, they have generally paid less attention to directly managing the genetic sources of micron uniformity that are not linked to those that contribute to incremental fineness. This has been true even though those unrelated genetic sources of uniformity appear to be nearly as important to micron uniformity as those that also contribute to fineness.
- Some alpacas maintain fine fibre throughout life, while others suffer from significant coarsening of fibre as they age, a trait known as micron blowout. Micron blowout results in reduced productivity, through reduced yield of high quality fibre over the life of an animal. Data from a well-established alpaca herd in Peru was used in a complex quantitative genetics analysis to determine if genetics plus environment, or environment alone was responsible for micron blowout in alpacas. This project has shown that micron blowout has a moderate heritability in alpacas, and that selection against micron blowout would be successful in reducing the extent of the problem. This report is targeted at Australian alpaca breeders.
- For alpacas, as is the case with many fibre-producing species, the finest fibre is of the greatest value. It has been well established in many fibre-producing species that fibre diameter increases with increasing animal age; a phenomenon known as micron blowout. In addition, micron blowout can also be caused by over-nutrition, or by a combination of both factors. The results of this research confirm that micron blowout has a moderate genetic component in alpacas. Therefore, it may be possible for breeders to select animals that do not exhibit the trait (or do not exhibit it as strongly), thereby improving the yield of high quality fibre over the lifetime of an animal.