Greenbriar Farm - MAM Consulting Associates Inc.

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June 15, 2015

By: Michael A .Morack

Improvement Without Accountability Is Failed Breeding

Breeding Results Are Critical To Successful Breeding

We have seen many articles, posts, and opinions on selection and making breeding decisions but few to follow up or record the success or failure of the breeding selection. Offspring that receive continuous banners in the show ring could be viewed as successful but does it tell you that the breeding was a success? Exciting, but probably not. Follow up histograms, skin biopsies, or fleece and conformation assessment might provide information about the quality of the cria but does not tell you if the breeding was successful.

Recently Dr. Wayne Jarvis at the 2015 National AOA Auction in Nebraska probably got as close to what we mean by breeding success as we have seen. Wayne put an alpaca in auction bred. He then took the parent EPD’s to predict the outcome EPD’s of the cria to come and did so with a guarantee that should it fail he would purchase the cria for the dam’s sales price.

So what do we mean by breeding success? Well to define that we need to define breeding selection. Breeding selection starts with assessment of the dam defining her characteristics both positive and negative fleece and conformation traits. Histograms, skin biopsies, pedigree analysis, progeny surveillance, relational alpacas, and EPD’s are just a few of the tools that can be utilized to get a reasonable picture of her qualities. These qualities are then parsed into contributing traits, detractions, and traits desired to be bred out or enhanced.

Once the dam has been assessed an equal effort must be applied to a list of sires but before starting that exhausting process goal definition is required. Goal definition identifies traits we want to hold while improving specific traits. This will tell us what traits to look for in the sire. At Greenbriar we work toward a herd with specific traits across the herd but many breeders seek one specific alpaca with specific traits. Breeding selection carried out in this manner will work for one or a group of dams. As EPD accuracies increase we see a simplification in the breeding selection process possible.

Goal definition is something we do almost everyday while looking at fleece or conformation. We may look at one of the fleeces we produce and appreciate the low micron and uniformity but recognize we need better crimp structure or just more of it as expressed in density or staple length. We may appreciate good leg set and body conformation but prefer a more typed head style.

When we talk about goal definition we mean record your goal in writing using specifics. There are two parts to goal definition. The first arises from your assessment of the dam and defining those traits you wish to hold and those you wish to improve. The second arise after the sire has been selected recording the exact expectations of the pairing. It is important to write both of these goals to properly assess the results.

Breeding success or failure may take three to four years as we wait for the birth, year one development and finally appreciation of the adult. We need to remain vigilant during this development to environmental issues that may effect or skew development to differentiate congenital from genetic problems that are expressed or injury that could demonstrate deficiencies unrelated to genetics or congenital.

Finally we are at the point to examine our goals with results. Comparative histograms, skin biopsies, EPD’s, and visual assessment and comparison to adult traits reveal breeding success. The more specific goal traits are defined will provide the highest evaluation of breeding success. By example, let’s take a single trait from the dam to improve such as micron. Her micron was 16, 18, 20, and 23 her first four years and your goal was 14, 16, 16, 20 so your selection of a male was micron 20 in his 11th year with 12 his first year. With goals this specific measurement of breeding success is imminent.

Single alpaca breeding is far easier than across herd breeding success but the process is the same. We have tracked herd breeding success through a series of spreadsheets tracking specific traits. Here our goal is to determine if our breeding selections are developing throughout the herd. To do this we look at contributions each alpaca provide and then how those individuals contribute to the collective. We do this by year class to determine how changes are carrying forward often referred to as “lingering”.

Following are the fleece traits we have tracked.
This spreadsheet tracks the number of age class, year class, and herd class contributors. By explanation in 2014 we had 24 males in the herd. Of those 6 were cria added, 4 were yearling, 2 were 2 year olds ect.

Male Stats Greenbriar Farm
Count Age In
Months 12 24 36 48 60 72 84 96 108 120
0 2003 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 2004 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 2005 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 2006 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 2007 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
4 2008 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
10 2009 3 4 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
9 2010 3 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
13 2011 4 3 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0
14 2012 2 4 3 2 1 1 1 0 0 0
18 2013 4 2 4 3 2 1 1 1 0 0
24 2014 6 4 2 4 3 2 1 1 1 0
25 2015 4 3 4 2 4 3 2 1 1 1


AFD is then tracked by year class and age class. This tells us that our selections are driving micron lower as evidenced by cria contributions that consistently are dropping. This also tells us that over time our selections are holding lower micron.
AFD 2003
2004
2005
2006
2007 23.52 18.00
2008 25.33 25.15
2009 22.50 31.69 26.34 31.53
2010 20.92 22.84 31.44 30.06 31.07
2011 20.03 23.13 23.62 31.06 26.73 31.46
2012 18.24 23.69 26.00 24.54 36.98 28.39 31.20
2013 19.43 23.50 29.38 29.87 30.25 40.10 29.70 34.60
2014 19.95 18.93 23.10 27.20 28.37 27.55 36.30 28.80 33.30
2015 18.83 20.82 21.57 23.91 29.20 28.44 27.25 36.90 28.30 30.00


While we drive micron lower we are also improving fleece consistency and carrying that improvement forward.
SD 2003
2004
2005
2006
2007 6.34 4.00
2008 6.57 5.53
2009 5.49 8.02 5.71 6.09
2010 4.81 4.91 7.38 6.74 5.73
2011 4.59 4.74 5.01 6.53 6.05 5.92
2012 4.07 5.05 5.37 4.97 8.00 6.30 5.89
2013 4.68 5.45 7.18 6.03 6.25 9.70 7.30 6.00
2014 5.17 4.50 5.35 6.53 5.83 5.80 8.10 7.20 5.80
2015 4.49 4.56 4.81 5.48 6.25 5.71 5.90 8.60 6.70 5.80


Fleece weight is a little trickier. As micron drops so will fleece weight. What we are seeing in this area proves this out but as we also place pressure on fleece weight in our selections we can see fleece weight begins to move higher an indication that we are holding fineness while improving density. The jury is still out on this part of the theory.
Fleece 2003
Weight 2004
2005
2006
2007 3.60 6.00
2008 2.60 3.55
2009 4.60 3.20 7.60 7.50
2010 3.97 4.85 3.05 4.90 5.90
2011 2.23 4.57 4.95 2.75 5.90 5.90
2012 2.95 3.83 6.27 5.20 5.70 4.90 6.70
2013 4.43 6.00 6.28 7.27 6.10 6.40 5.90 7.30
2014 1.87 4.78 6.00 6.03 6.63 5.05 5.30 5.20 6.40
2015 4.13 6.33 6.10 7.25 6.50 7.20 5.40 6.00 5.10 6.20


Another example of density or fleece weight can be demonstrated in staple length. By placing greater pressure on staple length we can have a positive affect on fleece weight.
Staple 2003
2004
2005
2006
2007 115.00 70.00
2008 92.50 87.50
2009 86.67 92.50 105.00 77.50
2010 105.00 82.50 85.00 90.00 85.00
2011 97.50 88.33 77.50 77.50 100.00 85.00
2012 120.00 93.75 86.67 77.50 70.00 90.00 75.00
2013 117.00 115.30 94.40 94.27 94.80 82.80 95.00 99.80
2014 98.73 91.35 91.50 88.75 90.53 85.40 86.20 98.20 84.20
2015 100.00 106.67 100.00 100.00 88.75 92.67 83.50 86.00 100.00 85.00


Last we look at blanket weight as a percent of the overall fleece. The greater the area of blanket the more usable fiber expressed by the alpaca increasing the value produced.
Blanket 2003
% Total 2004
2005
2006
2007 41.67% 58.33%
2008 48.08% 52.11%
2009 49.28% 53.13% 52.63% 53.33%
2010 64.71% 44.33% 50.82% 61.22% 50.85%
2011 59.55% 59.85% 45.45% 36.36% 49.15% 59.32%
2012 67.80% 51.63% 52.13% 44.23% 29.82% 59.18% 52.24%
2013 76.27% 65.83% 51.39% 48.17% 38.52% 21.88% 42.37% 52.05%
2014 78.57% 74.35% 52.50% 53.53% 50.25% 39.60% 26.42% 48.08% 46.88%
2015 53.33% 51.05% 52.05% 50.34% 50.00% 50.00% 48.15% 51.67% 52.94% 46.77%

To summarize, specifics in selection and goals, written, and then compared with the resulting cria provide a clear picture to breeding success. Why is this important? Because without accountability breeding selections are simply pairing and this generally will not result in improvement because you will not know what you did in the breeding you selected. It may look like a lot of work but results are in the details.