River Hill Ranch

The Future Commercial Suri Herd

Alvina Maynard
680 River Hill DriveRichmond, KY 40475
859-408-5132
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Suri Alpaca Breeding Program

Creating Luxury Fiber in White to Fawn

A Light-Colored, Uniform, Grade 1-4, Suri Herd Improved With Science

We have studied hard and engaged leading experts in discussion on using objective scientific data to drive our breeding program. It is important for us to consider as much information as possible to make informed decisions. This means conducting a skin biopsy on our herdsire, taking histograms (including grid samples), and participating in the Suri Herd Improvement Program (SHIP) which calculates Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs). We also watch how certain bloodlines carry characteristics over time, comparing this information to the animal's pedigree.

If any of that is Greek to you, please ask. We believe part of having a program of integrity is instructing others on how to make a program successful. We keep tested samples of fiber on hand so you can compare and see for yourself the quality of fiber on our animals.

Be very cautious if you are considering purchasing an animal and the seller is not familiar or cannot explain the animal's attributes discussed below.

In Dr. Norm Evans' presentation, "Objective Data to Breed for Improved Suri Fiber," the following are strong male genetic traits: density, gland presence (which relates to luster), and Primary & Secondary Micron Variation. He suggests to use a male who has primary fibers at 28 micron or less, with less than .5% greater than 30. When selecting a herdsire, we pay particular attention to these fiber characteristics.

One main difference in how we conduct breeding decisions is by selecting ONE very high quality herdsire that suits our entire herd and use him for two years. Backstage will soon begin his second season with us, after which we will be searching for our next herdsire.


In his same presentation, Dr. Evans attributes the following characteristics to the female: Secondary to Primary Ratio (the number of secondary fibers for every one primary fiber), Staple Length, and Uniformity of Fiber (Size, Shape, & Placement of Fiber Clusters).

Conformation

In the SHIP program, a trained classifier from the Suri Network evaluates the herd on following conformation characteristics: Profile & Balance, Legs, Feet & Substance, Movement, Suri Phenotype Body, Head, Ear, & Bite, and Vulva/Testicles. If any of these score below 3.5, we pay close attention and decide if we want to continue breeding that animal. Any animal that scores below 3 is removed from the breeding program.

The majority of our female herd is wide framed, and long-bodied (from the Accoyo genetics), with several of them at the larger end of typical size alpacas. Our current herdsire, Backstage Pass, is tall with long legs, a slightly more narrow frame, balanced proportions, and a more elegant head/jaw line. The combination has worked beautifully as he gave a more elegant look while maintaining the substance from the dams.

Fiber

We breed for fine, uniform fiber with a low S/D and low percentage of fibers greater than 30. This should look like a tall, narrow pyramid on a histogram. Although there are many wonderful uses for fiber in Grades 5 and 6, we breed for fineness. Our herdsire must be Grade 3 or lower; breeding females must be Grade 5 or lower. If a female has a micron increase of greater than 1.5 from one year to the next, she is also removed from the program. We prize our breeding females that maintain less than 29 microns at 10 years or older.

The SHIP classifier evaluates the following fleece characteristics: Suri Phenotype, Luster, Fineness, Handle, Uniform Lock Style, Density, Uniform Micron, and Uniform Color.

Color

Let us start out by saying we think ALL the natural colors that alpacas can grow are absolutely beautiful. No other fiber species has such a variety of colors to choose from without ever needing dye. We applaud other ranches breeding for high quality, uniform, dark color animals and actively refer customers interested in those colors to those ranches.

We choose to keep our herd in the light side of the color spectrum because it more economical to process fiber in larger lots that can be processed together. We are still a small ranch, so we try to keep our costs down where possible. When our herd size reaches 50+, we may consider adding the darker colors to our programs.

Behavior

Temple Grandin in her talk to the Suri Network in 2013, pointed to a concern she had with solely using EPDs to guide a breeding program: behavior is not typically a measured category. She pointed to the swine industry where certain farms ended up breeding very aggressive, anxious pigs. While demeanor is also derived from our interaction with the animals, we also make sure to keep in mind behavior when evaluating continuing an animal in our breeding program. It is important to us to have animals that we can readily handle.

Please know that we do not typically participate in halter shows, so we do not fully halter train our animals. We also do not socialize our animals to human touch apart from normal, required care and fiber assessment. Our animals do not come when called by name and are not used to being cuddled by people. Still, our animals are easily caught in a catch pen and restrained without significant effort. There are only two of our 28 that spit at people and that is on very rare occasions when significantly stressed.

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