Many domesticated alpacas often have wonderfully fine, soft fleeces from their first two shearings, yet their fleeces often grow coarser as they age. While American alpaca breeding has improved greatly in recent years and some elite alpacas now maintain 18 to 22-micron fleeces throughout their productive years, these quality animals do not represent a majority of the United States alpaca herd.
Alpaca (left photo) vs. North American Paco-Vicuna (right photo)
Photo Credit: Wikipedia (left) H.G. Fowler, Light & Grace Creative (right)
The North American Paco-Vicuna Association’s primary breeding goal is to select breeding Paco-Vicuna stock whose genetic traits maintain each animal’s initial fineness throughout its lifetime. Our Association has championed breeding Paco-Vicuna adults that express superior, fine, and dense fleeces along with the lighter bone structure. By breeding to accentuate these traits, we have produced a domestic herd that is largely under 16 microns and that has superior density and above average curvature measurements, even at 6-10 years old. Many of our top herd sires maintain a 14 to 16-micron fleece at more than 8 years old, as well as curvature measurements that are greater than 65.
Density of a North American Paco-Vicuna Blanket
Photo Credit: Jane Levene
The density of a North American Paco-Vicuna® fleece is such that it needs to be pulled apart with effort, and comes off the animal at shearing as a pelt-like blanket. North American Paco-Vicuna® fiber also has fine crinkle rather than an organized crimp style, a trait associated with higher degrees of curvature, similar to fine merino wools. The North American Paco-Vicuna Association’s breeding goal is to consistently – and annually – produce 13 to 17-micron fleeces, with a minimum of 3-inch staple, regardless of animal age. By selecting for the expression of vicuna fiber characteristics and physical traits, we have been able to produce animals with an increased vigor at birth, improved maternal instincts and protectiveness, as well as superior fiber growth rates and early maturity. Typical North American Paco-Vicuna® fleece colors are natural white, beige, vicuna (light, medium, and dark), and a rich mahogany.
An aggressive and comprehensive EPD (Expected Progeny Difference) program was established by Phil Switzer in 2014. Now in its’ 7th year of tracking all data (in partnership with Colorado State University) from the registered North American Paco-Vicunas® in the United States today. Some of the measurements being analyzed are fineness, staple length, fleece weight, and curvature. To participate in the EPD program, micron testing and staple length documentation of registered animals is mandatory for every shearing up to age 8.