I am sorry that I haven't blogged for a while, there are several reasons, job, business, stuff, etc. Anyway here I am, my fingers dancing across the keyboard in a blur of dexterity and accuracy. Actually I am in a serious mood at the moment. I have been gibbering around in a whirl of caffeine fuelled frivolity for most of the day but I have calmed down and I am being, or I am trying to be, serious.
So, on to today's drivel.
Fleece, fibre, hair, fluff, wool, hirsuitedness, that's what its all about. The reason we breed these beautiful beguiling creatures is because of the fleece. The fact that we love them and want to hug them and enjoy everything about them, bar one thing of course is another matter, it is secondary. The number one reason for breeding alpacas is all about the fleece, the fibre etc......
So it was with great trepidation that I received the fleece results for the Mighty Patou herd last week. Great trepidation because I want them to be good but they generally aren't and there are normally one or two surprises. This year is no different.
The main surprise this year is that the finest four alpacas in the paddocks here in Patouland are all the progeny of one male. Not Qjori,, his first progeny have only landed this year so we will see those results next year.
No, the four finest fleeced alpacas in the herd are all the progeny of our other herdsire.
Yes folks, the herdsire in question is none other than Herr Clumpmeister himself, Cambridge Columbus.
Now Columbus hasn't been used this year as we have used Qjori over everything, we have done that to maximise his potential. Qjori is our top man, our main herdsire, he is 'The Special One' here in Patouland.
Even though Columbus had produced some nice cria last year we wanted to see what Qjori could do over the same females. Qjori was a step up in quality we thought. Now though, the pressure is on.
Here is Columbus (with me at the controls) at The Bath and West Show a couple of years ago where he was first placed senior brown male.
The thing about breeding brown alpacas, (those of you who know me or who read this missive will have gathered that I am rather passionate about the brownies) is that it's not easy. I know, I know, calm down I know it's not easy breeding any colour to a high standard but with the colours and particularly the browns there are several other dimensions to consider.
Allow me to explain (bear in mind this is my opinion and my view only, it is not data gained from extensive research!)
Bear with me, for example, there are many high quality white males in the UK. These males have come from many generations of whites and when put over a white female I doubt there are many colour 'mistakes' with the progeny? If I'm wrong please do let me know. We all know that the white alpacas are ahead quality wise too. How many supreme champions are non-white at the bigger shows? Not many. In fact very few at any show let alone the big ones. The new beige class may change that but still, at the moment whites reign supreme, there is no doubt.
So to the other colours. The further you get away from the whites the harder it has been to breed in quality. With the possible exception of black. A lot of time, money, expertise and hard work has been put into breeding black alpacas to a high quality. Not just here but all over the world. Black fleece is desireable. Black is a cool colour after all! So blacks are ahead of browns I reckon, and that's mainly down to Old Inca chops in my opinion.
So the darkest colour after black is obviously brown. That is where we come in, where we have decided to throw our tuppence worth in, where we choose to put all our efforts in. I mean Qjori came from Tasmania, we couldn't have looked any further away for a high quality brown male!
But our efforts started long before that. Our first three alpacas were black, brown and fawn. We decided to concentrate on brown after a year or so of owning alpacas. We used black males initially for several reasons. Firstly there wasn't to my knowledge an outstanding brown male out there. Secondly, because of our close alliance with Inca chops we got to know the black males available and liked them. Thirdly, we wanted to breed dark brown alpacas or certainly the darker brown colour. We felt that we stood a reasonable chance of achieving that using black males.
We took the plunge after three years and bought Columbus, a brown male with a fine and dense fleece. Not only that but he had tremendous confirmation, great balance, great presence.
All his progeny have inherited his great confirmation and most have inherited his colour and now as a result of the fleece results we can see that they have inherited his fineness. The fact that the finest four alpacas here were all Clump progeny was the surprise. All of them are yearlings, naturally as you would expect but we have got ten yearlings here and the top four are Clump babies. In fact the finest alpaca here is the alpaca that Gus has been showing all year, little Sherwood (Woody to his friends)
Now I know there is more to life than fibre fineness, there is much more. Density, fibre length, brightness, handle (very important), conformation and of course colour, not to mention our old friend character but I feel the focus these days is fineness and low standard deviation so I think we are getting there!
Next year of course we will be hoping that the nine 'Q' cria we have will match and surpass those statistics but I will no doubt be waiting with trepidation for the fibre results to come through!
Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, the pressure is on but the signs, so far, are looking good!