Mulberry Alpacas Home Page
Located in the mountains of Ashland, Oregon  
Mulberry Alpacas Saturday, 19 July, 2008  

 

The Last 20 Years

American alpaca ownership has been increasing for almost twenty years. In the 1980s the biggest marketing problem was explaining what an alpaca was. The most frequent question that people asked was, “What is the difference between an alpaca and a llama?” Today, thanks largely to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA), (and the internet in general) a much higher percentage of the American population have an awareness of the alpaca and the marketing issue has changed to “Why should I buy an alpaca, and where from?”

Mike Safley of Northwest Alpacas states that “ the American alpaca market was constructed like a sturdy chair with four strong legs. If you were to remove one of these legs, the market, like a chair, might wobble a bit. The first leg is formed by a strong breed association, the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, (AOBA), and an industry wide marketing strategy. The next leg is the Alpaca Registry Inc., (ARI), which has DNA verified parentage and closure as its foundation. The third and fourth legs are the alpaca show system and breeder driven alpaca improvement programs.”

Taking the four “legs” one at a time, it is important to credit AOBA with the great work they have carried out in educating the public in general, and in marshalling a rapidly-growing and diverse industry under one umbrella. In the four years to 2004, AOBA literally doubled in size, and now has over 4000 active members, all pulling together to make this a truly magnificent industry to be part of.

The Alpaca Registry is a database housing the genealogy, blood typing and ownership records of alpacas in North America and those of a few alpacas outside this area. Since its inception in late 1988, the Registry has mandated blood typing as a requisite for registration and accepts only offspring of registered alpacas that qualify by blood typing. The Alpaca Registry, Inc. (the "Registry"), a Colorado non-profit corporation, owns the Alpaca Registry database. The Registry is governed by its five member Board of Directors who are elected by the Registry's membership. Registry membership includes all owners of living, registered alpacas. Board members serve staggered terms and are collectively responsible for policies and procedures governing registrations, transfers of ownership, and the screening of unregistered, non-pedigreed alpacas. The alpaca registry was closed to imports in the late 1990s in a vital move to bring about the following three major benefits:

  1. A closed registry protects the value of member’s alpacas.
  2. Registry members who are committed breeders reap the benefit of sales in astable or appreciating market place.
  3. A closed registry leads to accelerated alpaca improvement.

The alpaca show system is run on a comprehensively structured basis run and managed by “AlpacaShows”, a certified division of AOBA. There is a national team of highly qualified judges who are put through regular refresher courses to maintain consistency throughout the United Sates. The show system is so important that the AOBA Show Division will require alpacas entered in certified shows be micro-chipped by June 2005. For alpaca breeders, the results of this show system are often vitally important in the sale of their animals, because what greater proof an alpaca’s value can there be than a consistent win in the show-ring?

Over the last two decades, the US alpaca industry has slowly worked its way to a position of comprehensive understanding of the way head for breeder development. There are now surfacing several innovative concepts to ensure that, in as short a time as possible, the available gene pool is driven to an optimum position. One such example is the Ideal Alpaca Community, whose mission statement is as follows

"The Ideal Alpaca Community is a group of breeders who believe in the ultimate potential of the alpaca. We are joined together by common principles and goals. Our collective purpose is to raise genetically superior alpacas that produce high volumes of fine fleece. We have chosen the World Wide Web as the communication medium we will use to reach our mutual goals, keeping our individual farms and ranches informed of our collective achievements.

We all share a belief in the Ideal Alpaca Breed Standards, Ideal Alpaca Type, and the use of progeny-tested, impact sires we call Studmaster™ males. It is through the use of high quality males and their progeny that the genetic improvement of our individual herds will be assured."