The following are words of wisdom by Dr. Bruce McGregor, Senior Research Fellow – Animal Fibres, Deakin University, Australia:
“There is a higher risk attached with alpaca selection using samples taken earlier than 2 years of age. Fleece sampling and genetic selection of alpacas greater than 3 years of age will produce an opportunity cost of delaying the potential benefits from earlier selection of alpacas.
In order to identify animals that exhibit micron blowout, successive annual measurements of mean fibre diameter are required. To reduce the cost of this operation, the testing of sires would appear more cost effective than testing the entire herd.
To reduce the average mean fibre diameter of an alpaca herd and to reduce the incidence of medullated fibres, the alpaca industry needs to:
- Focus on the production of fine alpaca fibre by increasing the proportion of animals in herds to ages of less than 4 years. This means having a greater focus on improving reproductive performance and upon the survival of cria to adulthood.
- Evaluate sires and dams for incidence of medullation before use: cull those that grow coarse, medullated fibre.
- Use animals that do not show fibre diameter increase with age.
- Develop codes of practice which focus on improving fibre handling to minimise contamination during and after harvest.
- Combine this with a comprehensive program of training and education with the objective of reducing the contamination of the saddle fleece with medullated fibres and other contaminants.”
His final RIRDC report on improving alpaca fibre may be downloaded as a PDF for free, here.