Herd Sires

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As your herd increases in size there will doubtless come a time when the purchase (or retention) of a young male to act as your “herd sire” becomes more practicable than continually paying stud fees. (“Herd sire” is the term commonly used to describe an entire macho that is predominantly used to breed your own cria. This is does not preclude the sale of stud services, but that is not his primary function).

One thing to bear in mind before you take this important step, is that working males need a minimum number of females to mate, or they will become frustrated, and possibly difficult to handle, or be overly rough with their females. You should have a minimum of 4-5 females available before considering purchasing your own stud. Also males cannot be kept in with your females – you will need room enough to give him his own paddock, and quite possibly need higher fences around your stud paddock than is normally the case. Working males are a little more enthusiastic about fence jumping than your average alpaca! Camelid fencing wire is a good choice.

When choosing a herd sire the first step is to decide on what improvements you are hoping to make in your herd. This will cover such qualities as fleece density, fibre fineness, colour, and aspects of conformation, personality and temperament.

Choosing a herd sire may require a different approach than selecting specific outside stud services for a specific female.

A stud may be purchased for use over specified females in the herd rather than for general use: a good policy may be to use your herd sire over the majority of your herd, whilst still sending out your best female to the most suitable public stud you can find. Once you have decided which females you wish to use with your own herd sire, you will need to seek an animal whose strong points will largely counter the females’ weaker points. For example, for progeny improvement from a female who has good fleece but poor conformation, the ideal male to use would be a male who has good fleece and excellent conformation. Don’t expect the impossible: if you have a wide range of quality in your female herd, you are unlikely to find a stud to suit them all. You may need to make a decision based on the average strengths and weaknesses of your herd, or even divide them into groups which exhibit different merits, and develop a business plan which allows for the introduction of more than one herd sire.

You will also need to decide what factors are more important to you: is fleece quality the overriding consideration, or conformation, or colour? There are many factors such as desired colours and temperament that need to be taken into consideration and the prospective purchaser needs to make a decision on which of these are the most important to their breeding vision. Everyone has different goals, and when you acquire a herd sire he should fit your own goals, not someone else’s.

Pedigree Matters:  Any registered alpaca will have his family tree printed on his registration certificate. A study of the pedigree means you understand the genetic makeup of the alpaca you are considering for purchase. Although a pedigree is not a guarantee of quality, and having a single top-quality alpaca in the pedigree 2 or 3 generations ago, the greater the number of well-known or famous names appearing in a pedigree will give you an indication of the likely quality of any cria produced by this alpaca.  Pedigree can be difficult for newcomers to assess, as they have no prior knowledge of “bloodlines”. This means, if you want pedigrees to be meaningful, you must spend time researching the industry icons. DNA Parent Verification became available in NZ following the separation of the NZ Registry from Australia. We strongly recommend the purchase of DNA Parent Verified stud males.

Once the decision is made on the features and strengths you require in your herd sire, and taking into account the amount you are prepared to pay, the search is on.

In many instances owners prefer to purchase a working stud. The advantage of this is that the stud does not need to learn mating technique, and  (with a bit of homework) you can often have the benefit of seeing the quality of offspring he is producing (bearing in mind that the quality of the dam also has an influence on this). An older macho can produce the same quality of offspring in his maturity as he did in his youth, a fact that is often overlooked by buyers. It is often, though not necessarily, more expensive, to buy an experienced, working stud. Conversely, the purchase of an older macho who is no longer “in fashion” can be surprisingly economic!

At other times owners look for younger, inexperienced males. This too has both advantages and disadvantages. An untried male is often cheaper and more readily available, however he may be unreliable if too young and has not proven himself to be fertile (infertility in alpaca males is rare). While there are no indicator progeny it may be possible to view other relatives such as parents or siblings. An animal with a good family background is likely to produce good quality cria also.

If the animal is not a certified stud, this process will need to be completed before he can start work. The fees for certification are relatively high, so you will need to factor in this cost when calculating your purchase price. Negotiate if possible for the seller to arrange (and pay for) this, or at least obtain a written guarantee that you will get your money back if the animal fails certification.

There are specific physical standards required by the Australian Alpaca Association for a stud male to be certified. If you are a member of the NZ Alpaca Association (which is mandatory if you wish to breed registered stock) you will find the certification standards and requirements (and fees) listed in the Alpaca Association manual, which you should have received on joining. The Alpaca Place is owned by registered breeders Liz Barnes and Cheryl Hughson, and this website does not cater for, nor do we recommend, the breeding of unregistered stock.

However the the certification standards are minimum health and physical requirements and when looking to improve your own herd there are additional qualities you should be mindful of, such as fleece density and fineness, or colour preferences, and temperament should not be overlooked!

Pedigree matters!

Consider having  a veterinary inspection before purchase , especially if you are paying a large sum for your male.  Obtain a purchase agreement in writing that specifies the macho is being purchased for breeding, and giving guarantees that if he fails to sire cria (work out a reasonable time limit with the seller) that you will be refunded the purchase price, or be given the option of a replacement animal of a similar standard.

After the choice is finally made, and a deal is struck, only time will confirm whether your decision was a good one. There is no simple formula, and no guaranteed results; careful planning and research should stand you in good stead, but be prepared to do a later re-think if you aren’t happy with the results.

Terms used :

  • Certified male: A male who has been accepted on the IAR Register as suitable for siring offspring. These males have been passed by an independent professional as attaining specified minimum physical standards, and have their DNA on record with IAR so paternity can be proven if required. Only animals sired by a Certified Male are eligible for registration on the IAR.
  • Herd sire: a working stud male whose primary purpose is to sire the majority of cria in his owners herd.
  • Hembra: adult female alpaca
  • IAR: International Alpaca Register. All registered NZ stock are recorded on this register which includes both NZ and Australian alpacas.
  • Macho: adult male alpaca
  • Open: a hembra who is not pregnant and therefore receptive to mating.
  • Proven stud: A stud that has sired cria, or “settled” his first females, thus ‘proving’ he is fertile. Often also termed a “working stud”.
  • Settled: a term used for a female to indicate that conception has occurred.
  • Stud: A male animal that is used, or intended to be used, for breeding. This term is commonly also used when discussing machos that are available for “public stud”, but is not limited to that use: it often simply refers to an entire male animal whether at “public stud” or a “herd sire”.
  • Working Stud: see proven stud