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Get a Load of This!

By Ingrid Wood

Compared to other livestock industries on our continent, the North-American alpaca community is young.  However, it is not brand spanking new, so folks, it’s high time to dispense with the color genetics fairy tales.  The most recent auction catalog to arrive at our farm once again had breeders boasting about their alpaca being “loaded with black genetics”. 

Most black alpacas are recessive blacks.  They inherit their fiber’s black pigment from both parents.  The sire contributes a single Agouti allele (gene) to the cria.  The dam does likewise.  There is no such thing as an alpaca “loaded” with genes coding for black.  The black animal out of two red/fawn parents is (color wise) genetically identical to a recessive black alpaca out of two black parents, four black grand parents, eight black great-grandparents… go back one hundred generations if you wish. 

Sorry to burst the bubble of the creators of these fairy-tales, but dominant black alpacas are not “loaded” either.  At the Extension locus, parents also only pass on one allele each to their offspring.  There is absolutely no steady, continuous, generational accumulation of alleles coding for black.  Of course, a dominant black stud or female may be homozygous for that trait, but homozygosity can be achieved in one generation. 

Since all colors/patterns are acceptable in the alpaca industry, it is not crucial for alpaca breeders to grasp the concepts of color genetics.  That should not give breeders license to fabricate genetic profiles.  The inheritance of color genes is a science, not an area where breeders should “invent” facts as they please. 

There are financial ethics as well.  In one case that I am personally aware of, buyers were duped into paying more for an alpaca supposedly “loaded” with desirable “black genes”. 

If you wish to use professional breeder nomenclature to gain credibility in the industry,  please educate yourself.  No time to read and study?  Then simply describe the alpaca’s color as it is!  In my opinion, that’s perfectly acceptable.  As the circle of knowledgeable breeders widens, such a straight forward but honest statement will be more credible than the one “loaded” with bull. 

Ingrid Wood may be reached at 609-261-0696.  For more information on color genetics, see other articles on this website.
1862 Jacksonville-Jobstown Rd.,  Columbus, NJ 08022  Phone:  609.694.3410
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