Why not Grey
An article published in "Alpacas Australia", Issue 14, 1996,  Magazine of the Australian Alpaca Association Ltd. by Nick Veltjens

The Australian alpaca herd is growing rapidly. There are now close to 12,000 alpacas, which is about half of the total herd in the country of their origin, Chile. Peru has by far the largest alpaca herd in the world, estimated at around 2.9 million, with Bolivia a distant second with about 300,000 . Peru will clearly continue its dominance in the production of commercial alpaca fibre for quite a while yet.

When Robert Weatherall gave his paper at the International Alpaca Industry Seminar "From Cria to Criation" at Deakin University last year, he indicated that the relatively small Australian clip would not encourage international buyers to show much interest in our fibre until it had grown considerably. Some fleece colours, he said, could however attract buyers simply because they are and may remain short in supply. Peruvian breeders have in the past 40 years or so favoured white and very light fawn, and have as a result reduced the other colours considerably (see table) .

Peruvian Fleece Colours in Alpacas
Code Colour % black
grey
fawn brown white multi
B
 white 
38.0% 
 
 
 
 
38.0% 
 
BM/FX 
streaky white / cream 
27.0% 
 
 
 
 
 
27.0% 
GA 
 
mixed brown / grey 
9.2%
 
 
 
 
 
9.2%
PC 
light brown / white 
6.4% 
 
 
 
 
 
6.4%
FY 
 
camel fawn 
5.1% 
 
 
5.1%
 
 
 
GCC 
brown 
2.7%
 
 
 
2.7% 
 
 

 
mixed greys
2.1% 
 
2.1%
 
 
 
 
FZ 
dark brown 
   1.5%
 
 
 
1.5%
 
 
GO 
 
black brown (grey) 
1.4% 
 
 
 
 
 
1.4%
GI 
dark brown / grey
1.3% 
 
 
 
 
 
1.3%
PO 
 
dark grey
1.2% 
 
1.2% 
 
 
 
 
PCZ 
fawn / white
1.2% 
 
 
 
 
1.2% 
 
CON 

 

black brown 
1.1%
 
 
 
1.1%
 
 
CC 
brown 
0.5%
 
 
 
0.5%
 
 
COM 
dark brown
0.5% 
 
 
 
 0.5%
 
 
GP 
medium grey 
0.5%
 
0.5%
 
 
 
 
N
black
 0.3%
 0.3%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 totals
100.0%
0.3% 
3.8% 
5.1% 
6.3% 
39.2% 
45.3%


 
black
grey
fawn
brown
white
multi
  Source: "Alpaca, its Markets and its Uses"
by Robert A. Weatherall in Cria to Criation 1995 Proceedings
Analysing Robert Weatherall's figures, it indicates that only 0.3% of the Peruvian herd are black, 3.8% is the total of the various greys, 6.3% browns, 5.1% fawn, 39.2% white, while 45.3% could be discribed as mixed colours or "multi".

Judging by these figures, Australian breeders are right in breeding for solid fleece colours, and for black in particular.

Since most of the Peruvian alpacas to arrive in Australia in the near future will be white and fawn, the colours brown and dark brown have become much more popular among growers here, and who can resist these beautiful rich tones. Grey should however also be high on our priorities for breeding alpacas with a rare fleece colour. More than one grower supplying the craft market has said: "Grey sells itself". They can be bred with high density, excellent coverage and wonderful lustre.

In the judging of greys in recent shows (including fleece competitions), it would appear that a more solid grey will gather more points with some judges, and this, in my opinion, is a good trend. While I do not believe that the white apron can be totally elimnated in grey alpacas, we should nevertheless aim at breeding greys with solid grey saddles, leg coverage, lustre, and density.

The break-up of fleece into colour categories (Code) above is the way the international fibre industry sees the product, and even if we may go along the path of developing our own national market, we should always remain part of the world scene; in fact we should and can become leaders by establishing the bench mark for World's Best Practice.

Solid greys of their various shades should therefore be a breeding aim as much as a planned and rapid increase of this rare commodity.

If you want to contact us, our email address is:
alpaca@talca-alpacas.com.au

 
 
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