The American Alpaca Market in Retrospect
By Mike Safley
I was recently invited to speak about the American Alpaca Market
to a group of alpaca breeders in England. I had not been across the
pond for 36 years, it was Julie’s birthday and since we had not left our
kids to go on a vacation for the past 18 years, we decided to fly away to
London and spend some time touring the English countryside.
The organizers of the event, Arunvale Alpacas, Nick, Terry and
Alex Harrington Smith asked me to present an overview of the American
alpaca market. While researching and reflecting on the material for
my presentation I had the opportunity to consider how our marketplace made
the journey from obscurity to its current presence on national T.V.
The path alpacas have traveled, to become a part of so many people’s lives
in such a short time, is a fascinating case study.
I remember sitting with Phil Mizrahie and David Mohilef at
David’s kitchen table in Chatsworth, California when David said, “Alpacas
are the world’s finest livestock investment”. That phrase captured
my imagination. Dad and I bought 10 pair of alpacas that day in 1985
and I created my first marketing initiative in the form of a
bumper-sticker that said, (you guessed it): “Alpacas - the world’s finest
There is a lot of truth in the phrase that David coined.
American alpaca ownership has been increasing for almost twenty
years. The biggest marketing problem in the early days was
explaining what an alpaca was. The most frequent question that
people asked was, “What is the difference between an alpaca and a
llama?” Today, the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA),
the I Love Alpacas Co-op and the internet answer that question for new
breeders before you and I ever make their acquaintance.
How did we get to where we are? The total AOBA membership
was 2152 on December 1, 2000. In 2001, 685 people joined AOBA and
1,096 joined in 2002, an 83% increase in 2 years. More people have
discovered alpacas and joined AOBA in the last 3 years than in the
I told my English audience that the American alpaca market was
constructed like a sturdy chair with four strong legs. If you were
to remove one of these legs, the market, like a chair, might wobble a
bit. The first leg is formed by a strong breed association, the
Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, (AOBA), and an industry wide
marketing strategy. The next leg is the Alpaca Registry Inc., (ARI), which
has DNA verified parentage and closure as its foundation. The third
and fourth legs are the alpaca show system and breeder driven alpaca
improvement programs. Let’s take a look at each of these, one by
AOBA AND The Industry Wide Marketing
In the early days alpaca breeders were members of and held their
conventions in conjunction with the International Llama Association
(ILA). It did not take long to realize that Llama breeders were
competitors rather than prospects for alpaca breeders. Once we came
to that realization the alpaca industry, all 100 of us, moved quickly to
establish our own breed association marketing programs and national
convention. We have never looked back.
AOBA was formed and operating by 1990 and has always done an
outstanding job of marketing alpacas on behalf of their members.
Their initiatives have included: 1) Education, 2) Alpacas Magazine 3) Ad
Co-ops and more recently marketing via the Internet.
AOBA’s annual conventions became the industry’s primary
educational forum with multiple seminars and guest speakers. This
model was eventually adopted by affiliates of AOBA who currently promote
educational seminars all across the country in conjunction with their
monthly meetings and annual alpaca shows.
I was privileged to be president of AOBA when we decided to
create Alpacas Magazine. I took on the role of editor for the first
issue and eventually served in that capacity for the first two years of
the magazine. The creation of a four color glossy publication was a
big step for AOBA and several members argued strenuously against AOBA’s
ownership of the magazine. They believed the risk of the
magazine failing was too great for our fledging industry. But the
presence of a professional quality magazine gave the market place
confidence and further extended AOBA’s ability to offer an educational
resource to prospective alpaca owners. The magazine was a success
from day one.
The next big marketing step by the industry was the creation of
ad co-ops. This was stimulated by the availability of marketing
grants from the Alpaca Registry Inc. (ARI). The registry had excess
funds from the fees they charged importers for screening alpacas into the
registry. The fee was $500 per animal and we eventually raised over
1 million dollars that was used for marketing by various AOBA sponsored
While I was on the ARI Board of Directors we funded grants that
supported at least 4 different advertising co-ops. Each of these
co-ops bought full color ads in Airline magazines, Sunset, Country Living
and other regional lifestyle magazines. The success of their effort
was immediate. AOBA then picked up the ad co-op model from the
regional groups and created the Farm and Ranch Guide, which is still an
overwhelming success today.
AOBA also created a video about alpacas, which was widely
distributed by the membership. This video gave me the idea of
creating an alpaca infomercial. Camelids of Delaware and The Pet
Center underwrote the cost of the thirty-minute tape, which was then
played on cable stations and satellite T.V. to promote the early Peruvian
import sales in Charlevoix, Michigan. The value of putting alpacas
on television was apparent from the first moment we ran the
infomercial. The television audience fell in love with alpacas and
we began reaching a larger and larger market place.
AOBA soon produced a second alpaca infomercial, which was very
successful, but they took the concept one very important step further and
began running 1-minute commercials on satellite T.V. These ads have
been a tremendous success and have become the advertising medium of choice
for the Farm and Ranch Guide. Jerry Forstner of Magical Farms
recently created the I Love Alpacas co-op which uses television ads to
drive traffic to the co-op website. This co-op is a private
initiative that is funded by more than 100 breeders spending $5000
each. It has been a huge success benefiting its members,
non-members, and the AOBA website as well.
The Internet and alpaca websites have played an increasing role
in AOBA’s and its members marketing programs. The Internet is new
(1995) but its importance cannot be overstated. Anyone serious about
marketing alpacas needs to consider a website as a marketing
vehicle. Almost every prospective alpaca owner does his or her
research on the Internet. At Northwest Alpacas 100% of our marketing
strategy is founded on our website. We register seminar
participants, sell animals and market our farm exclusively on the
A DNA Verified Closed Registry
The Alpaca Registry Incorporated (ARI) is a major component to the success of
the American alpaca market. The purpose of any breed registry is to
create value for its members. Two fundamentals anchor the value of the
ARI: First, it is a closed registry, only the progeny of registered
parents are eligible for registration and second, all parentage is verified by
DNA. Verified parents are one of the essential platforms from which breed
improvement programs operate. The ARI certificate documents a credible
pedigree, with certain ancestry and presents over thirty pieces of information
about any given alpaca.
Registry closure has been a big part of the success of our
market. The value of closure to alpaca breeders, large and small,
cannot be overestimated. The debate that ensued when I put forth the
petition to close registry was “contentious,” to put a civil face on the
free for all that preceded the closure vote. The arguments that were
made against closure included the following:
The gene pool of alpacas was too small to sustain improvement
of the breed if the registry was closed.
That a second “open” registry would be established and that would be
detrimental to the entire industry.
- That closing the registry would be considered restraint of trade and
There were other side issues and personal agendas that entered
the debate but the three points above were the deciding factors for most
people. (One breeder actually maintained that closure would result in a
euphoric spike in alpaca prices and that this spike would somehow skewer
the entire market for alpacas)
WAS IT LEGAL TO CLOSE THE
We can dispose of the last issue first. It was and is legal to maintain a
closed registry. Most registries began their life open to the
registration of unpedigreed stock and then are closed at a point in time that
was in the best interest of a majority of their membership. I retained a
lawyer from Omaha, Nebraska who was general council for the National
Association of Breed Registries. He issued a legal opinion concerning the
legality of closure and the issue was essentially settled in advance of the
vote by the members to close the registry. Closure means alpacas with
unknown parents and progeny with parents that were not previously registered
could no longer be registered in the ARI. (As a practical matter this
measure essentially closed the registry to imports but closure does not
restrict anyone from importing unregistered alpacas.)
WAS THE GENE POOL TOO SMALL TO CLOSE THE
The thought that the alpaca gene pool was too small to sustain
genetic improvement had longer legs, as an argument against closing the
registry, than the legal issue. At the time that I petitioned to
close the registry there were 15,164 registered alpacas, 2,042 suri and
13,122 huacaya. Subsequent to the closure vote approximately 2,000
alpacas, in the process of being imported, were allowed to register under
the terms of the closure petition.
I contacted several nationally renowned population geneticists
and asked them whether the limited gene pool argument would hold
water. I was told that in a perfectly scientific sense that for a
species to survive it required 50 genetic sources and for improvement of a
species, 500 were required.
One of the geneticists, who was generally familiar with the
alpaca industry, inquired as to the geographic sources of the registries
foundation alpacas. Once he was clear that the American herd was
made up of animals from Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Australia, and Canada he
observed, “that there may be the odd gene in South America or elsewhere
that was not present in the United States”, but that “he doubted
it”. (If you would like to read more about the closure debate,
please see: The Case for Closure, 1998).
When I was invited to speak in England, one of the issues that I
was asked to address was the closure of the English registries (they have
two). The first question from the audience after I completed my
presentation was whether their gene pool was large enough to sustain
closure. They currently have about 10,000 alpaca in
My answer to the English audience was the same one I made during
the ARI closure debate in 1998. The fact is that there are too many
genes in our gene pool, not too few. (A herd at Accoyo was never
larger than 2000 with about 1\3 suri and 2\3 huacaya. That herd has
been closed since 1946.) The process of improvement requires that we cull
defective or less productive genes from our alpacas. Selection is
the process of concentrating the gene pool, driving out the bad and
leaving the good. So at some point the improvement process dictates
that we select for fewer high quality genes not more genes of unknown
origin which is what imported alpacas represent.
During the closure debate I researched the issue of duplicate registries serving
a single breed. There are very few examples. The Arabian horse
breed is one instance and the existence of multiple registries in that breed
has been detrimental to Arabian owners and the value of their horses.
Breed associations control most breed registries. Breed
associations most often control the showing or exhibiting of their
respective breeds and prohibit the showing of animals not registered with
their association. In the case of alpacas, AOBA certifies most
alpaca shows in the United States and they require that alpacas that are
being exhibited be registered with the ARI. They also prohibit the
display of animals at alpaca events that are not born of ARI parents or
otherwise registered with the ARI and you cannot advertise unregistered
alpacas in Alpacas Magazine. These types of
initiatives by the dominant breed associations generally act as deterrents
to a second registry in most livestock industries.
At the end of the day the issue of whether a second registry
would be started has been answered by history: There is, until this
day, only one alpaca registry in the United States.
THE BENEFITS OF A CLOSED REGISTRY
The truth is that it is in every American alpaca breeders self
interest to have a closed registry for the following reasons:
A closed registry protects the value of member’s alpacas.
Registry members who are committed breeders reap the benefit of sales in a
stable or appreciating market place.
- A closed registry leads to accelerated alpaca improvement.
The first point, that a closed registry protects values is self
evident to most people. The protection is two-fold: 1) imported
alpacas without verified parents are genetic black boxes which can
introduce genetic defects into the national herd and they can also be
vehicles for previously un-introduced diseases, and 2) a stable supply of
animals leads to a stable market place.
GENETIC BLACK BOXES
I might be an advocate of or a willing participant in the import of alpacas if I
believed it would lead to improving the breed. The facts are that once a
nation or group of breeder has a critical mass of genes, continuing to add
more, particularly genes of unknown origin, to this pool only dilutes the
effort to improve their breed. A registry’s stock and trade is
pedigree. The more ancestors on a pedigree the more value it
represents. A pedigree with unknown parents, which is what all pedigrees
for South American alpacas represent, is of far less value than a pedigree with
parents, grandparents and so on. Importing animals of unknown parentage
or genetic black boxes can also be a genetic nightmare.
The following excerpt is from Charles Massey’s epic animal
breeding book, Merino, which chronicles the history of the Australian
Merino and its development as one of the most profitable sheep breeds ever
known. Massey tells the story of the Vermont sheep which were
imported from the U. S. by Charles McCaughey. This incident of
importer excess almost brought the mighty Australian Merino to its ruin,
in only a few short years.
“Born near Ballymena in Northern Ireland in 1832, McCaughey
arrived in Melbourne in 1856. Deciding on a pastoral career during
the rosy years of the late 1850s McCaughey bought a share of Coonong in
Riverina in 1860...,
So when this enormously influential man turned his attention to
sheep-breeding, it was little wonder that a multitude followed in his
wake. However, even the best analytical or scientific mind is no
substitute for the personal attention, intuition and craftsmanship,
combined with decades of close practical experience, needed to rise to
excellence as a Studmaster. Like so many intelligent men before
and since, McCaughey thought there were short-cuts to breeding top
balanced and productive sheep.
So by late 1885, and after such a brief experiment, McCaughey
believed he had at last found the sheep he wanted. Never one for
half measures once his mind was made up, McCaughey left for America in
1886, with two accompanying American ‘experts’, E.N. Bissel and W.
Chapman, to ‘pick the eyes out of its Merino studs’. In two
shipments he brought back 132 rams and 330 ewes from the best Vermont
flocks, for which he paid the staggering amount of 25,000 pounds.
This bold move, in buying what for the Americans had now become
expensive culls, can be judged as the action that catapulted Vermont
sheep into the Australian limelight and so ushered in the fashion for
‘wrinkles and oil.’ McCaughey appointed Bissel his American agent
and secured the services of Messrs E. D. Morrison and R. D. Clark, both
of whom later came to Australia as active importers and stud-breeders
with depot farms. The floodgates were opening.
And so the Vermont craze gathered pace. Following
McCaughey’s extravagant import of 1886, several shipments followed
quickly in the names of Bissel, Burwell, Morrison, Clark and others, all
American ‘wrinkle’ breeders. These shrewd agents, and E. D.
Morrison in particular, began to import ever-larger drafts of Vermont
sheep to meet the steadily increasing demand, particularly in the
1890s. By this stage the Vermont wrinkle craze had been completely
discarded in America, though this fact and the reasons behind it were
either hidden or unknown in Australia. One American breeder summed
up the situation by stating that, “The one redeeming feature that gave
the Vermont breeder hope for the future was the export trade. This
was practically the only trade since
As a result of the propaganda spread by McCaughey and his
supporters, a very dangerous situation developed, whereby a group of
self-styled experts, in whom a little knowledge was a powerful and
dangerous tool, came to exert an enormous influence but with out a
proven record in the art of stud sheep-breeding.
The trend towards more and more, and tighter and tighter,
wrinkle can be seen in sequential photographs of show sheep of the time,
until by the 1900s the pursuit of corrugated-iron sheep had stripped the
animals of any redeeming features. They had become smaller, were
narrow- chested; had shocking conformational faults such as bad
pasterns, devil’s grips, sloping rumps, and virtually every bad body
fault imaginable. Their fleeces exhibited serious unevenness,
declining quality and hair, not to mention excessive grease and low
yield. And they were losing fertility rapidly, a factor compounded
by their deep flank and skin folds which made it hard for lambs to find
teats. They were in every way a disaster.”
This story from the late 1800’s closely parallels the alpaca
imports in our recent history. The importers as promoters
enthusiastically proclaim the latest shipment as the world’s most elite
genetics. The buyers flock to their sales seeking a short cut to
success. The magic males from the sales are the subject of glowing
ads. In an effort to jump on the bandwagon breeders line their
females up for service by the new “stars.” All of this is worship of
unknown parents and untested males.
These imports of Vermont sheep represented only a very small
fraction of the total sheep population of Australia. It does not
take much defective germ plasma to wreak havoc across a large national
herd of livestock.
When people from other countries go to Peru or come to the United
States looking for alpacas, the locals do not immediately think, “Gee,
let’s sell them our best animals.” The truth is they do what they
can to ship their worst alpacas as far from home as possible. Just
as the Vermont breeders did more than a century before. Livestock
breeders generally attempt to retain their best, not sell them.
The truth is, there are no short cuts to breeding superior
stock. It has taken Don Julio Barreda more than 50 years to create
his own line and he has worked with a small “closed” herd all that
STABLE ALPACA PRICES
A look at the English alpaca market illustrates what can happen
to alpaca prices when a registry is left open. Several years ago
English alpaca prices were higher than they are today. The importers
were active in the market importing surplus Canadian animals, left over
from the importers rush to sell into a strong Canadian market.
During this period most of the sales in England were captured by the
importers at the expense of the domestic breeders.
Then a natural disaster hit the English market in the form of
foot and mouth disease. The market for animals of all types dried up
and prices fell. Now that the foot and mouth episode is in the past
there is a firming or rising market.
This creates a dilemma for the domestic breeder in England.
If the market improves and prices rise to the point that imports will once
again be profitable and saleable, the importers will move to capture the
market. They will promote their genetic black boxes as the greatest
thing since sliced bread. English breeders will reach for their
wallets in the hope of purchasing a full compliment of those “magic
bullet” foreign genes.
Then the market will fall back, as it has in other countries with
open registries, and a period of digestion will take place. Worse
yet, if the market stays strong, the imports will increase in a frenzy of
greed that will ultimately implode in an over supplied market.
This is not a commentary of good and evil, but an observation of
the way all markets work. If there is a low cost supplier (South
America) and a high value profitable market (England, etc.) someone will
move to exploit (importers) or sell into the high priced market with low
priced goods. They will continue until all possible profit
When importers work in a market, sales become concentrated in
very few hands. During the debate to close the U.S. market I
remember researching the ARI database to determine the distribution of
transfers by owner code. Transferred certificates are the best
indicators of sales because they are evidence of a change in ownership.
I was amazed by the results: More than 90% of the transfers by
the ARI were made by only five owner codes. These owner codes were
owned by importers.
Since the registry has closed, here in the United States, 100’s
of owner codes are making transfers. Another phenomenon occurs when
the registry closes and breeders rather than importers, make sales.
Breeders tend to use at least part of their sales dollars to buy more
domestic animals. Importers spend their profits in the form of
purchase dollars in some foreign land. Their profits do not
re-circulate into the domestic marketplace.
I ask each of you old-timers reading this article: Have you
ever sold an alpaca to an importer? A closed registry spreads the
sales and distributes the money amongst the breeders who build the
marketplace. And that’s the way it ought to be.
THE MODELS FOR REGISTRY CLOSURE
There are three primary models for registry closure: the United States,
Australia and Canada. A look at each of these models and their alpaca
marketplace is instructive for anyone interested in the impact of registry
policy on the alpaca market. You can decide which model you think is in
your personal best interest.
The U.S. has had a closed registry since 1998. The market
has become stronger each and every year since the registry was
Australia has maintained an open registry, with the exception of
a brief period when they closed it several years ago, from the beginning
of their industry in 1989. There have been multiple imports of alpacas
over many years. The price of alpacas, on average, has been in
decline for several years.
At one time Canada (early 1990’s) had the highest priced alpacas
in the world. At that time they had an open registry. The
Canadian agricultural authorities suddenly changed their import and
quarantine policies in the mid-1990’s to allow private offshore
quarantines. This made it very easy to import large numbers of
alpacas in a short period of time. Importers stormed their
marketplace and it was inundated with Peruvian imports. The prices
of alpacas dropped like a rock.
The Canadians reacted to the deluge of imported animals by
closing their registry. Slowly over the next few years the market
recovered. The importers exported many of their un-salable alpacas
to the next target of opportunity, England. The animals in Canada
that had been previously registered in the U.S. were sold into our
market. Supply and demand began achieving equilibrium and the
Canadian market recovered. Today it is getting stronger.
But it may be that the Canadians have not learned their
lesson. They have recently approved the following amendments to the
Canadian Llama Registry (CLR), their registry of
CLAA BYLAW AMENDMENTS:
Amendments 20.6; 20.7 and 20.9
These amendments are now in effect
Bylaw Amendment 20.6
20.6 (1) PUREBRED: - All Animals are eligible
to be registered as Purebred if: (Emphasis added.)
Both the sire and the dam are registered in the herd book of
the association as either Foundation Stock or Purebred; OR
The animal has no less than three generations of
individually registered Purebred or Foundation Stock ancestors in a
recognized foreign registry, and meets all other qualifications for
If an animal is the result of breeding up, it has no less
than 15/16 inheritance relating back to Foundation Stock or Purebred
ancestry in the herd book of the Association or the equivalent of
Foundation Stock and or Purebred ancestry in a recognized foreign
registry. At least one parent must be registered Foundation Stock and
or Purebred in the herd book of the Association.
20.6 (2) BREEDING UP: - Animals may be registered as
percentage purebred, which have less than 15/16 inheritance provided that: (See Breeding Up table below.)
All known ancestors are the same breed, and the subject
animal has one parent registered as Foundation Stock or Purebred.
Animals not eligible for registration may be recorded in
the Registry, as 0%, for purposes of breeding up provided that all
known ancestors are of the same breed and the subject animals meet
CLAA minimum breed standards for the species or
breed. The Board of Directors shall ensure that the
animal complies with breed standards before recording. This will require screening to the standards. No certificate will be issued
for a recorded animal. For the offspring of such an animal to be
registered as percentage purebred, the subject animal must have been
mated with a Foundation Stock or Purebred male or female of the same
Animals will not be eligible to enter the breed up program
if the Applicant or the Association is aware of any genetic disorders
in the animal, or any of its ancestors.
Percentage purebred certificates: Certificates for
percentage purebred animals shall be of a different color than those
issued for purebred animals. The percent of inheritance shall be
clearly displayed on the certificate.
20.7 - 0% Animals: For the purpose of
breeding up, an animal not eligible to be registered may be recorded,
provided it meets the requirements outlined in article
The first amendment deals with the issue of reciprocity. For a full
discussion of reciprocity see
The Canadian Registry &
ARI Reciprocity Issues: A History by Libby Forstner, the current president of the
ARI. Although the government amended the registry rules to provide for
reciprocity I have been told that the registry members have not yet approved
this change. In any case I think reciprocity can be a slippery slope and
the ARI should be very careful about creating similar rules if at all or ever.
87 ½ % Sire
93 ¾ % Sire or Foundation or Purebred
50% Cria (1/2)
75% Cria (3/4)
87 ½ % Cria (7/8)
87 ½ % Dam
This scheme of having listed or un-pedigreed animals that can
be bred up to 15/16 and then registered as purebloods is quite simply – a
terrible idea. This change is now the law in Canada. (This
same idea was put forward by alpaca breeders as a solution to alpaca
imports in the U. S. It was rejected by the ARI Board of Directors
in the mid 1990’s.) This amendment will create a second tier of
inexpensive animals that have the apparent legitimacy of “a different
colored certificate.” The line between pureblood pedigreed animals
will be blurred.
I spoke with a member of the International Llama Registry (ILR)
board who was telling me that they felt one of the biggest mistakes that
the Llama Registry made was maintaining a listing and screening process
for unregistered llamas that allowed for grading up to pure bred.
The ILR scheme is similar to the one adopted by the Canadians for
alpacas. It was bad for llamas and it will be bad for
I am curious to see whether the Canadian industry will compound
their error by allowing grade animals to be shown or sold at
auction. As a matter of curiosity, I recently asked several Canadian
alpaca breeders why they let this unfortunate set of events take
place. No one I questioned even knew it had happened. I can
only hope we never make a similar mistake in the United States.
With Canada, who sits on the northern border of the American
market, cracking the door open to imports it will be interesting to see
whether importers view this as a vehicle to create an alternate registry
to the ARI in the United States market. (Paranoia on my part?
ALPACA SHOWS: THE THIRD
LEG OF THE CHAIR
The first alpaca show in the U.S. was held in Grass Valley, California in
1990. There were about 60 entries. From that humble beginning AOBA
and its members have built one of the strongest legs of the alpaca
The first AOBA national show was held in 1992, at the Wool Market
in Estes Park, Colorado. There were approximately 100
entries. As AOBA affiliates began to form across the country they
soon began sponsoring shows. Today there are shows in most states of
the union and every year they grow larger. The 2003 national show in
Kentucky was the largest alpaca show in the world with 1,899
Americans love to show things, cars, dogs, coins, gems and even
pet rats. The horse business is almost entirely show and race
driven. We don’t race alpacas, but we love to show them and that
won’t change anytime soon. The value of alpaca shows both fleece and
halter, is immense. AOBA recognizes this and does an excellent job
training judges, making rules and facilitating the show effort. The
alpaca show system will help sustain our industry for years and
ALPACA IMPROVEMENT: THE FINAL LEG OF THE
Since the beginning of time, animal breeders, kings and peasants
alike, have been fascinated with improving and multiplying animals.
Every stage of the improvement process is under the control of the
breeder. They decide who will become parents and who will not.
They decide who is mated to whom and how many times. This power is
There is a race going on in the alpaca world. Most breeders
do not even realize that it is being run. But this race has people
in our industry at work everyday constantly thinking how they might move
up in the standings. The desire for alpaca improvement is a dominant
thought in many alpaca breeders minds. The fascination with
improving our breed is the predicate for the strongest leg in our
chair. People love to improve their lot in life.
The alpaca improvement race is being run at many levels in the
world today. Australia competes with England, the United States, New
Zealand and Canada and vice versa. Everyone competes with
Peru. In the United States its East against West and small against
large, and finally, breeder against breeder.
I have been judging alpaca shows in several countries for many
years. I recently returned from the 2003 Alpaca Fiesta in Peru where
I had the opportunity to inspect many of the ribbon winners and
champions. I happen to believe that the United States is winning the
quality race, but my fellow competitors, judges and friends from far off
lands would surely disagree.
The race to improve the breed involves high stakes. The
best animals of a breed sell for more money, more easily than average or
low quality animals. A studious breeder that understands the
fundamentals of animal breeding, genetics, and selection can literally win
the sweepstakes by creating an elite male or a bloodline that is
recognized for excellence. The country that wins the race to create
the most productive alpacas will certainly enjoy an opportunity to export
their alpacas to emerging markets which develop in countries that are
establishing the breed on their farms.
At another level breed improvement is an altruistic
pursuit. The more valuable a breed is to their shepherds, the better
the care it will receive. So by improving a breed and making it more
productive, breeders can assure the long term well being of the animals in
The chair that seats the alpaca market in the United States is
solid, made stable by four strong legs: the industry marketing
initiatives, the closed registry, the alpaca show system and breeders’
fascination with improving the breed. The future, simply put, is
bright, built on a strong foundation. We will get it right and we