Snowmass Alpacas

Genetics by Design

Shearing was quite the event this year. 600 + alpacas to shear and a horrible weather forecast what do you do? We have a fixed shearing date with a professional shearer that is inflexible to change at the last minute due to the fact he is in high demand and booked for the rest of the shearing season.

We booked 7 days starting Monday May 4th. Every alpaca was quickly moved into as many shelters as we can find to keep them dry for shearing week. This makes for twice the work verses just moving them from the open pastures strait into the shearing arena. Working with damp fleeces is real pain as they need extra care and have to be placed into labeled WET or DAMP bags so they can be re-opened and set out to dry before they can be baled. None the less they all have to be shorn so the rule of thumb is to expect the worst and be prepared.

All fleeces even damp get skirted and sampled and then sorted.

This year we made a concerted effort to weigh all our alpacas, old and young, PRIME FLEECES.

PRIME meaning; Skirted, Clean, Prime Blanket fiber. (SCPB) The true weight of a fleece that is ready to be shown and or sold as prime and baled as prime.

Neck wool is skirted away from the prime. Leg and belly is also skirted away from prime all the matted vegetable ridden parts of the fleece area are also removed.

The prime weight of the blanket after all is the most important weight in measuring value production of fleece in our alpacas. We have established a mid side area for overall genetic value of micron for the prime blanket fleece, so in hand we should have the weight value of the prime fleece for genetic measurements.

The neck wool is usable especially off the first fleeces and can be calculated as seconds. But I still don’t think it should be put in with leg and other remains that typically are tossed and or considered contaminates to the prime. Total fleece weight just does not specify the differences in grade and value to be the weight for genetic measurement.

For our production the neck wool is skirted and placed in bulk by micron and color for baling purposes. Most of the adult neck 3 years and older is very short and sold as thirds for felting. The leg wool could be used for felting and or rug blends as well but because we are not set up for selling 3rd grade wool, it’s sucked up in our vacuum system as its being shorn so not to contaminate the prime blanket. The suction sends it to a holding vat which is dumped presently into our arroyos. All the creatures of woods have alpaca wool bedding for their dens and love us.

The motivation of our breeding program in fact is for us to get to the place were our alpacas prime runs into the neck and down the legs and under the belly, is equal in length and overall grade to the prime, then can theoretically be added to the prime without devaluing the overall quality and grade of the prime. With the help of better shearing techniques and diligent grading records, we have been able to make these breeding decisions which in fact are moving our herd in this direction.

For the sake of getting solely prime blanket weight we did not place any neck fiber with our fleeces, including the Royal Neck from the juveniles first shearing. We have been told by one mill they will indeed sort ROYAL grade neck fiber in with the Royal grade prime blanket if it is long enough. None the less we have baled our neck separately, and will wait and assess the finished products before we know for sure if it is sensible in terms of value to add it to the prime.

Therefore when we know for sure that the mills can process the neck fiber with the prime without devaluing the overall prime production then we can add the neck into the prime for a total prime weight.

Our concern about recording fleece weights is that we have seen many fleece weights grossly recorded and documented for added market value yet are not providing any specific information about the quality, kind and classing factors of the fleece weight.

snowmass shearing

So how do you get a total fleece weight?

There are a number of ways this is recoded. One is by weighing the alpaca before shearing then again after shearing and the weight loss during this process is the documented recorded and marketed total fleece weight of the alpaca. Does this sound logical and or like a scientific value for fleece weight? Not to us unless you want to know how much weight your alpaca lost for its health and well being. It has no scientific value in relation to the actual fiber being taken off as there is way too much contamination and variable elements of what is being weighed to assume this is an accurate value of fiber being removed. What fiber is valued and what fiber is ready for the dumpster. The measurements we have seen recorded from this method are typically in the 10 to 12 pound range.

The other weight of record comes by taking the entire fleece from the floor and putting it into bags and weighing it all together for total fleece weight. Again we question what value does the hair off the legs, the second cuts, the belly and chest wool, the fiber with vegetable contamination and dung stained fiber have to do with measurable valued fiber weight of the alpaca.

We did a total fleece weight experiment with some of our out back boys. Two of them had 2 years of fleece, average micron of 24, and they were dirty and lots of dried mud on the leg wool. We took a total fleece weight on each of them. One weighed in at 11.2 lbs and the other 12.1 lbs. Then I skirted the fleece and the 11.2 lb had a blanket of 4.1 and the 12 .1 lb had a prime skirted blanket of 4.7. The rest was nasty and thrown away. This again was 2 years of growth. 7+ inch staples.

The other 2 boys that had only 1 year of growth, 4 inch staples but also in the 24 plus micron range. One had a total fleece weight of 9.2 lbs and the other 10.1 lbs. This was everything, blanket, neck, and nasty leg for these weights. After skirting the leg wool was tossed, the neck was short and much higher in medulation and tossed, and the blanket was reduced to a 3.2 lb prime and the 10.1 lb was reduced to a 3.5 lb. Much of their prime fleece was skirted down because of medulated fiber from lower section of the fleece and stronger fiber in the bib areas. That’s why they are out back boys!

If we place greater value on an alpaca for its total fleece weight and use total fleece weight as a genetic measurement for EPD’s than you can be sure these methods of putting as much on the scale as possible are being used to obtain added weight value at any cost for better marketing.

The average fleece weight for an alpaca bred to produce Royal or Baby fine fiber from a 12 month period of growth from a well skirted prime fleece is 2 to 3.5 lbs pounds. Below this average you should have below 18 micron fleece. Weights above this are superior as long as the fiber is within a Baby grade and anything below this such as Royal grade that is above 3.5 lbs is phenomenal. As you get into the superfine grade your price value decreases dramatically so the added weight value is lost in higher micron.

Once again the prime fleece is the highest valued product your alpaca can produce and what is presented to represent the alpaca, therefore genetically the value of weight we should be using in any science progeny testing. If we want to get valued production records of our alpacas then we have to record the values that are most important which is the honest weight of the skirted prime blanket.

In our breeding program, assessing the values we know are most important are the values which will lead to bettering our production decisions and overall herd advancements.

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The 2009 Alpaca FUTURITY is now over…WHEW!!! We pray everyone made it home safe and sound!!

This year was a great success and we thank everyone who helped put this event on, and all the dedicated volunteers!!, and to all those who pitched in to help us…THANK YOU THANKYOU!

So what is a Futurity many ask and why do you go to this show every year??? Why is a Futurity important to a livestock breeder?

Definition: Futurity programs differ between breed registries, but in general they are to encourage breeding for outstanding offspring.
fu·tu·ri·ties
1. The future.
2. The quality or condition of being in or of the future.
3. A future event or possibility.
4. Sports A futurity race.

Most Futurities are designed to represent the future generations of the genetic lines typically the stud lines of a breed. We happen to think that the Dams are equally important in genetic gain in any breeding program, but as in most things, the Studs get most of the attention. That’s ok with us as we all know the significance of a superior stud in our alpaca breeding programs and a Futurity is one the most important shows to prove their status in your breeding program.

This is the main reason this show is THE MOST IMPORTANT show for us to represent our breeding program, and not just to the judge, but more importantly to show our fellow alpaca breeders what we are trying to accomplish in our breeding programs. The strong players in a Futurity also know the importance of bringing as many of the best offspring from a stud to allow an accumulation of points so they have a better chance of winning the top place in the show which is HERD SIRE OF THE YEAR. This is always a hard decision for us as we use over 50 breeding studs in our program and want to represent them all. So we have elected to bring a broad base of our program verses bring more from any one specific stud as do not want breeders to think then that this one stud is the end all in our breeding program. We really want the breeding world to know that our breeding program is broad based genetically as well as excellent across the herd.
We have a large herd so 50 breeding studs is merited. We start as many as 25 young males a year. Many of them have similar lineages but individually unique.

This year we did very well and as we list the results (which we will soon as its official and on the Celebrity Futurity & Show website) you will see that many studs did well and there really was no clear winner in our eyes. Some are more versatile in color and white like Royal Challenger and Matrix which had more total entries being in both color categories… but all our Snowmass stud entries placed very well and we are pleased to have had the opportunity to show them off.

The one thing we would like to mention in any show ring judging situation, just because your alpaca did not place or place as well as you anticipated they should, does not discredit them.

We do not necessarily have the same eye and or opinion as the judges who are judging our alpacas. They can not see into the pedigree and or their statistical analysis to help them in their decisions. Your alpaca may not also show well be walking odd or standing funny been sweating too much and the fleece is not showing well...etc etc..

So there are many factors missing in the alpacas being judged and placed in a show that need to be considered in the analytical process of surveying prospective genetic qualities to add to your breeding program.

We had many of our considered BEST representatives not place well and go below others we had in the same class that we felt are not nearly as good. This happens at every show and it happens to all of us so REMEMBER…. Don’t judge an alpaca just on its show standings!!!! You must listen to the breeder’s opinions, look at the pedigrees, look at their health and statistical records. The judges also may be looking for something very different than your breeding for….like DENSITY over FINENESS… SIZE and frame type.

We often leave some of our considered BEST at home because they are too FINE to be appreciated. Fine fleeces don’t hold up as well in climatic changes, heat and humidity.

The REALITY is Fineness is not as important a factor in the show criteria as WE feel it should be. So our opinion in what makes an alpaca Elite and Superior is not the same to all judges. This does not make them poor judges it just makes their priorities different.

So when you go to shows look at all the alpacas you can and make sure you don’t just look at the winners, be sure to balance their standings with the rest of the information to be had about them.

These are listing of Snowmass Alpacas Stud names that actually had offspring entered in this years Futurity.

COLOR OFFSPRING of Snowmass Studs entered

Snowmass Royal Challenger – Co-owned with Ryen & Ursula Munro Tripping Gnome
Snowmass Quechua’s Rising Son – now residing in New Zealand
Snowmass Royal Bronze
Snowmass Conopa XXX
Snowmass Matrix
Snowmass Prince of Peace

SOLD COLOR Snowmass Studs entered

Snowmass XXXtreme- Thousand Oak Alpacas
Snowmass Porteus- Blue GateAlpacas Dusty Creek Alpacas & Reiling Ranch Alpacas
Snowmass Nova’s Private Reserve- Catalpa Creek Alpacas & Seldom Scene Farms
Snowmass Legacy Gold- Tripping Gnome & CCNF
Snowmass Casanova- Likada Alpacas
Snowmass Nova- Acorn Alpacas & Brookhollow farms
Snowmass Quechua’s Shatoosh- Aztec Alpacas
Snowmass Noble Legend-Forsythe Family Farms Alpacsa
Snowmass Drambuies Braveheart
Snowmass Andean Bronze- CCNF
Snowmass Royal Rose- CCNF
Snowmass Royal Flush- Reiling Ranch Alpacas

LIGHT & WHITE OFFSPRINNG of Snowmass Studs entered

Snowmass Best Man
Snowmass Sub-Zero- Co-owned with Tripping Gnome Farms
Snowmass Royal Accoyol- Co-owned with Tripping Gnome Farms
Snowmass Overture
Snowmass Satin King
Snowmass Prince of Peace
Snowmass Matrix
Snowmass Trilogy
Snowmass Supreme Impact

SOLD LIGHT & WHITE OFFSPRINNG of Snowmass Studs entered

Snowmass Star Quest -Pucara Alpaca stud
4Peruvian Legacy- Crescent Moon Ranch Virginia Alpaca Breeding co
6Peruvian Elite- Crescent Moon Alpacas
Snowmass Inca Accoyo Star- Tripping Gnome Farm
Snowmass Messiah-CCNF
Snowmass Invincible- Double O Good Alpacas

2009 Futurity Official Rules

The Futurity will operate as an AOBA certified futurity show. The show will be governed by 2009 AOBA Show rules, however because not all 2009 rule changes have been announced, preliminary approval of Futurity forms and rules have been made according to 2007 show rules.

Only alpacas from 6 months to 24 months of age may enter the Futurity. All alpacas entered in the Futurity must be the offspring of a Futurity pledged/nominated herd sire, or must pay an additional $250 per entry through the *“self nomination” process.

A class will be offered for each of the AOBA color designations. AOBA rules will be followed in regard to the combining or splitting of classes. We will run four separate rings simultaneously. Alpacas will be evaluated by the judges on a 60/40 weighting of fleece and conformation. Judges will present their oral reasons at the conclusion of each class. AOBA Show division rules will be observed. Judging shall be based on current AOBA Show Rules used in all AOBA shows. (See the AOBA Show Division web site for more information.)

The Color Championship classes will be held immediately after the preliminary classes for each color group. AOBA Show division rules will be observed. Please see the AOBA Show Division web site for more information.

Prize Money will be paid out in the preliminaries through six places. We hope that this will enable more exhibitors to win both ribbons and cash prizes. We will have two “Small Breeder of the Year” awards, one for Suris and one for Huacayas, and two Runner-Ups also in Suris and Huacayas. There will also be a Sire of the Year Award for both Huacaya and Suri.

Other than those rules “Specific to Futurities” all other AOBA Show Division rules shall be enforced.

Rules specific to Futurities

· Class sizes may be smaller than halter shows at the option of show management.
· Color championships may be awarded without minimum entry requirements at the option of show management.
· Futurities may recognize “premium” awards. (For example, including but not limited to Herd Sire of the Year, or Small Breeder of the Year.)
· Judges judging at the futurity must provide to show management their AOBA disclosure form including the names and ARI numbers of all herd sires in which they have full or partial ownership.
· Herd sires fully or partially owned by Judges judging at the futurity may not be nominated for the futurity.
· Offspring sired by a herd sire owned fully or in part by a judge who is judging at the futurity may participate in the futurity only if show management allows *self nomination of entries, and if the entry is self nominated.
· Any *self-nominated offspring of herd sires owned fully or in part by a judge who is judging at the futurity are prohibited from being shown in front of that judge.
· The names and ARI numbers of the sires of *self-nominated entries may not be published in the show program or reported in futurity show results.
· Herd sires owned or co-owned by judges are not eligible for herd sire of the year awards.
· Futurity exhibitors are subject to the AOBA exhibitor disclosure requirements as set forth by AOBA show rules. Failure to comply may result in the expulsion and/or suspension from future futurities as seen fit by show management.
*Self-Nomination: The process of self nomination is available to the owners of offspring of herd sires which have not, or cannot be nominated by their owners for the Futurity. In order to self-nominate, the offspring owner must pay an additional fee of $250 per self-nominated entry, and indicate the entry is being self-nominated by checking the “self-nominated” box on the show entry form. The names and ARI numbers of the sires of *self-nominated entries may not be published in the show program or reported in futurity show results, and no herd sire winnings are paid on self-nominated entries.

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March 2009

WELL it has been another long hard winter for us here in the Northern Territory of Idaho. It’s the first day of spring and we still have a great deal of snow on the ground and the areas that we have cleared paths in the fields are flooded with mud and water. Our alpacas have never looked messier. We put up around 200 tons of hay each year however with the number of livestock we own, which includes our cattle and horses we need another 200 to get us through the winter especially when you have a resident group of Elk (60 head this year) that invade your barn nightly eating a ton of hay a night.

Hay is harder to find as many growers have moved to producing corn for ethanol which has made good grass hay scarce and expensive. The hay we used for bedding in previous years had tripled in price so we used regular hay and chaff this year, and sadly I think we have as much hay on the alpacas as we do on the ground. The health of the alpacas is our number one priority, so we suffer a bit more contamination in this years fleece production but we have healthy happy alpacas.

Many breeders ask us can we show our alpacas if they dirty, and how and should you try and clean them up?

Yes, show them, in fact the shows and judges are encouraging breeder to show in paddock condition (little grooming and preparation as possible). It’s best to show them in their natural condition. We will try to remove as much outer loose hay as possible and all dung and urine stained fiber. However if the balance of debris is embedded on the outside of the fleece do not try and pull this out as it will change the structure of the fleece. The judges will open the fleece and judge what’s on the inside which usually is clean.

Well ready or not we are coming to the shows in North Idaho long winter paddock condition. There is not much we can do about the embedded hay which blankets our alpaca’s fleeces this year it pains us but that’s how they are. The good news is that many processing plants now have roller crushers that remove vegetable matter without damaging the fiber. The bad news is that we may not be showing many of our 2009 fleeces as this will be counted against the fleece in a fleece show. We just have to hope the judges understand the environmental elements we all have to endure and look into the fleece past the outside weathering.

We are very much looking forward to spring and dryer warmer weather with green grass and pastures.

Stay tuned for next entry!!!

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