Old Trails Alpacas


CROSS BREEDING ALPACAS
MY VIEW POINT BY BILL GRAHAM



The issue of cross breeding a huacaya female to a suri male alpaca seems to an ongoing debate by many suri breeders. I myself had concerns over the practice but decided to educate myself on the issue and started trying to understand as much about this breeding practice as possible before I spoke my words on this subject. The practice is not new in fact in South America where alpacas are raised it is quite common for both breeds to roam freely amongst each other. The reason that we have had huacayas cria come from a suri male and suri dam breeding is simple THE MALE IS NOT PURE SURI. Many of the suri males imported to the U.S. from various imports came from alpaca farms in South America that new the U.S. market would pay big dollars for colored males. Those farms had not perfected the suri breed, and shipped us suri males that were either F-1 (FIRST GENERATION) or BC-1 (FIRST BACKCROSS GENERATION). We had no way of knowing their pedigree and only by multiple breedings of these males are we able to tell if they are pure suri . A pure suri is called homozygous (SS). There are several in depth articles written on cross breeding and should be read. It will give you an incredible insight on the practice and help clear up questions you may have on the practice. I will try to give you a overview of how it works in a not so depth detailed manner.


HOW IT WORKS

If you have a pure suri male SS you could breed that male to 1000 huacaya females and you will have 1000 suri crias. Why you may ask, because there is scientific evidence that the suri gene is dominant over the huacaya gene, as well as anecdotal evidence from suri breeders through out the world that this theory is true. This only works if the suri male is pure suri homozygous (SS). How do you tell if the suri male is pure that your breeding to is not a cut and dry answer. Some of the imported males that came to the U.S. came from breeders that have taken their breeding practices to as close as it gets to perfection. They have spent many years perfecting the suri breed and imported us high quality pure suri males. The males from this small handful of farms has produced pure suri offspring . The simplest way to find out what a suri herdsire has produced is to go to the A.R.I. website and check out the males offspring. The one thing you can be sure of if that male has produced say over 25 offspring and they have all been suris chances are he is pure suri SS. However you may not have the whole picture because if a breeder has a male huacaya cria it may not get registered to save his reputation.

Now if a male is not pure suri SS but is a heterozygous male (Ss) which means it has huacaya in it bloodline somewhere. That is what the small s indicates. By breeding with this male you are taking the risk off producing huacaya offspring. The ratio off offspring that will be huacayas will range depending on the females purity. Chances are you will have at least 25% huacayas with a Ss male and even as high as 50%. Chances diminish with each depth in the generation. A second generation suri produced from a pure suri SS male and an Ss female has a 75% chance of being a pure suri SS and a 25% chance of being a heterozygous suri Ss. Suris produced from this combination are called BC-1 or first back crosses. A male BC-1 should not be considered to be used as a breeder unless you are willing to take the chances of having huacaya offspring. A female BC-1 bred to a pure suri SS male will produce a BC-2 offspring. I still would not consider using a BC-2 male. It’s not until you reach BC-3 that you would want to use a male suri for breeding. At this stage you have a 93% chance of that male being pure SS.

Now let’s talk females crosses. This is a whole different story. The female suri from a huacaya mother is called a F-1 or first cross. I have visited lot’s of suri farms and looked at lots of suris over the years and to be quite honest many of the F-1 suris are as nice if not nicer than so call pured suri from some of the imports. I really have my doubts about many imported suris especially the colored ones as to their true purity. We have NO WAY of really knowing their true purity, there for we have no way of saying there not really an F-1 or BC-1-2 or 3. What we do know is that if they are bred to a pure suri SS male that they will produce a suri. I have also looked at lots of show results in suri classes here in the U.S. and guess what, there has been lots of champions that are crosses or back crosses. This makes me wonder if the judges feel that these suris are worthy of winning at shows then why are some breeders condemning cross breeds. I wish I could answer that question with the right answer but I don’t think I can. I believe it’s an issue that will have to let time solve.

From what I have seen in the cross breed suris is a substantial hybrid vigor. Most of the ones have denser fleece and seem to be slightly more robust. Cross breeding has been going on for years in other livestock animals and has produced incredible commercial head way in a lot of market places. This should be considered a plus if we are looking into the future fiber market of suri fleece here in the U.S.. Australia has an extensive cross breeding program going on and has extensive data available about the practice.

In conclusion I would like to say a suri alpaca is determined by it’s fleece. If it has suri fleece then it will be registered as a suri no matter what it has as a dam or sire. The goal of every breeder is to improve the quality of their alpacas. I have concluded in my research that some suris no matter what degree of purity have better fleeces than others and that’s what should really matter. If you are using a male suri that has produced huacayas and it’s ok with you then so be it. I think the real goal is to breed quality alpacas plain and simple. The breeders in the U.S. and everywhere else for that matter should realize that a world made up of short sided purist’s will only end up in debate and animosity, but a world that excepts and promotes each other becomes a family and friends. I want to have friends.

                                Happy Trails,
                                    Bill Graham


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