A Unique Breeding System
The SRS® breeding system, developed by Dr. Jim Watts in the 1980s, has been used successfully to improve fleece quantity and quality in Merino sheep and Angora goats by selecting for increased fibre density and fibre length (see www.srswool.com). If an animal grows more fibres (density) and if those fibres are longer, then it will produce more weight of fleece. The higher density also reduces the mean fibre diameter and the variation in fibre diameter of the fleece.
More recently, these selection techniques have been used successfully by alpaca breeders to improve fleece quantity and quality whilst moving rapidly towards eliminating "guard hair".
Guard hairs are coarse and hollow centred primary fibres that form the outer coat on the fleeces of alpacas which lack fibre density. Guard hairs do not absorb fabric dyes and spoil the appearance of finished products.
There are two types of alpacas. The Huacaya alpaca grows a fleece with crimp (right). The Suri alpaca grows a fleece which coils (right).
Both of these alpacas have measurably high levels of fibre density and fibre length with fine primary fibres. The fleeces consist of many long, thin and clearly defined staples which are soft and lustrous. The crimp of the Huacaya alpaca has high amplitude and low frequency. The Suri alpaca has gently coiling staples.
Using visual selection for these fleece traits together with measurements of primary fibre diameter, fibre density and fibre length, the following changes have occurred over the last four years in the herdsires selected for use in alpaca herds implementing the SRS® breeding system.
(per square mm2)
(mm per day)
|No. of alpacas|
|Selection pool available at outset:|
|Initial selection of herdsires:|
|After 4 years of selection:|
The herdsires now being used have primary fibres and secondary fibres that are, on average, 9 microns and 5.9 microns finer respectively than were available at the commencement of the breeding programs. The fibre density has increased by 14% and fibre length by 16%.
The list of the 50 highest ranked alpacas for breeding values with equal emphasis on fleece weight and fibre fineness in the AGE (Across-herd Genetic Evaluation) program was published in Alpacas Australia, Issue 59, Summer 2009, pages 58-59. There are 747 sires in this analysis.
Illawarra Alpaca Stud, Cambewarra, New South Wales, has been applying the SRS® breeding system for 6 years. The stud has 4 sires in the top fifty with Illawarra Yucatan (IAR 62620) ranked first and Illawarra Yohimbine (IAR 62650) ranked second.
Illawarra Yucatan is a white Huacaya male, now 6 years old. His progeny produced , on average, 2.9 kgs of 18.7 micron wool (30 animals) on the second shearing and 3.1 kgs of 20.9 micron wool (12 animals) on their third shearing. When tested at 25 months of age, Yucatan had a density of 48.8 follicles per square millimetre of skin and a fibre length of 0.39 millimetres per day. Three of his male progeny were tested at 20 months of age and averaged 56.1 for density, 0.37 for fibre length, 29.5 microns for primary fibre diameter and 22.2 microns for secondary fibre diameter.
Illawarra Yohimbine is a solid white Huacaya male, also now 6 years old. He has an impressive frame and exceptional fleece length. When tested at 24 months of age, Yohimbine had a density of 46.0 follicles per square millimetre of skin and a fibre length of 0.44 millimetres per day.
Illawarra Alpaca Stud excelled in the same trait list for females with 13 of its hembra in the top list of 50.
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13/06/13 - New England Alpaca Show
Four subscribers were represented at the New England Alpaca show consisting of fleeces and lead animals over the long weekend of the 8th & 9th of June. They were Glen Waverly Alpacas (Betty & Adrian Whitten), Sunline Alpacas (Jeff & Jill Willis), Towarri Alpacas (Stuart & Fiona Marshall) and Glenhope Alpacas (Bronwyn & David Mitchell). Everyone took home some ribbons from the event which attracted 44 fleeces and 136 animals. In the fleece section Glenhope entered 7 fleeces and received 3 Championships, 2 Reserve Championships and the Supreme Champion. Glen Waverly received a Reserve Championship. The judge commented on the weight of the fleeces and the quality of the presentation which is encouraging. In the animal classes Sunline received 2 Championships and a Reserve Champion and Glenhope received a Championship and 2 Reserve Champions.
24/04/13 - Castle Hill Alpaca Show
Castle Hill Show, near Sydney, Australia, on the 9 March was another great show for SRS(R) studs. Walkley Fields (Richard Brennan) and Gunnamatta Alpacas (Sue Maynard and John Hay) had a very succesful day collecting 7 out of 10 Champions, with Walkley Fields taking out Supreme Huacaya Alpaca and Sire's progeny.
Judge Joanne Ham commented on the "super softness" of the animals.