podcast episode 3

Let your alpacas put some colour in your life

What is the best colour for an alpaca?

They come in a variety of shades – what would you choose if you were starting out keeping alpacas?

Colours stretch from true white to true black, via fawns and browns. We also have some Welsh gray – which manifests in the wet weather when they get all muddy! But since they are ‘dry-clean’ animals there true colour emerges when they dry out and fluff up again.

Genetics being what it is, you can’t be guaranteed to get a particular colour but the art of breeding proves itself over time.

Transcript
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Hi, Steve here and welcome to the alpaca tribe. The podcast for alpaca people. I've been musing about color and recognizing that there are many and varied with alpacas. What's the right color for an alpaca? Well, there's 23 different shades that people talk about or could be identified. Slightly over the top, perhaps, but there are certainly a number of shades that go through white off-white. The light, medium dark fawns. And then into the browns, the light, medium, dark. But brown is very, definitely different, to the fawn color and particularly seen when you open up the fleece and get down to see at skin level. You can then detect that fawn and brown are different colors. And then through, into dark black. Those that look black and those that are real. Blue black. It's a definite definite black. Millie who's the matriarch, the older female in the group. She's black, but her offspring almost invariably will tip over into brown before the end of the season. And before we do the shearing. And sometimes it can be clearly brown, but down at skin level it looks black, but on the outside it tends towards the brown and it's to do with the sunlight, et cetera. But some will stay looking really jet black. There's the range of colors, which is the best color for an alpaca? What's the most valuable colour. It has changed over time. When we started, the main concentration of breeding and effort into producing fine and dense fleece had been with the white. The white fiber allowed for dying so he could go any direction, any color. And, there was also then an interest in the natural shades. So that nothing was died. It was just the natural shades. And the quality of the colors going through to the darker ones has improved dramatically. And that's because there's been so much more effort and interest shown in breeding for quality. A lot of that driven by the show ring. And. If there's an awful lot of people taking white animals to the show, and less of the darker colors, that's the place to try and get some success. So it's changed over time. Does the color have any effect on the quality of the fleece? Well, not directly. I think it is to do with that range of interest and amount of effort put into breeding the different colors. So over time. It's changed. So you can have top quality fleece of any color. Having gone through to the point of improving the blacks to such a high standard. Where'd you go after that? Well, there's a lot of effort now gone into looking at developing gray alpacas and they are not ordinary at all. They are amazing beautiful animals. And we definitely don't have one. Apart from when it rains, and when they roll, and then they all look gray, we have Welsh, gray. That's different again. So when you're looking at animals in a field, you do have to recognize that you're not seeing necessarily the full color range that you would, when you see them. In the barn and you can open the fleece down at skin level. You'll see the length of the fleece, the fiber. That it goes from the true color it's skin level, and usually it gets darker towards the tips as it's got more and more dirt in it. So. Processing the fleece washing it, cleaning it. Removing all that dirt will bring out that brightness. that full color, and give you something that you can produce amazing quality products with. So, if you starting out, what color should you go for? Well that comes down to your choice really. If you're going to be breeding and producing animals then you need to take into account the bloodlines and try and get an understanding of what kind of offspring the male and females have been producing. The genetic mix, it's always going to be something of a lottery as to exactly what you get. But, generally, if you stick true to the color, you will stay with that color range. So it might vary slightly in terms of being a light fawn to a dark fawn but it's unlikely that you will suddenly jump to black, or to white. But if you're introducing more color variation genetically, then you can end up with some surprises. And we've had one of the brightest, whitest, cria that was ever born to us, was from a really dark brown female. And that was a surprise. And we've also had some others where we had a white cria that was born to a black female. So you've got what you can see- the phenotype- and what is there in terms of the genetics, the genotype, and that isn't always visible, of course. And therefore, you're not quite sure when you do the matings, exactly what will result. So it's always an exciting time when the cria are born, to see just what color it's going to be and to see how that then develops. Choice of color. If you're starting out, is down to your preference and if you are going to have a few in a field as pets then, it's a question of what's going to be attractive to you. So do you have a good look round check out the different kind of mixes. Check out, what it is they look like and what it is that you want. Go back to my earlier question of what's the right color for an alpaca. It's the color that you want it to be. Enjoy exploring. So I've come down to feed,the alpacas in the afternoon it's tea time. And they're all pretty good, in terms of being dry and therefore fluffed up. So they've got pretty good covering of fleece at the moment. Thinking about colors and the rain here, some of it is definitely dirt and that will become evident when we do the shearing and. Looking at Millie's and it's quite short now, cause she's that bit older and a few gray hairs sneaking in there as well. So the youngsters have got some quite nice looking fleece. We'll have to wait and see exactly what it is like once we get off. But there's a nice range of colors we've got a few light ones that we'll have some nice. Yeah, there's going to be some nice, Nona is objecting. Somebody getting too close to where she is. Hello Owena. How are you? Big Brown girl and she stands so tall, she actually ends up, she turns around and she's nose to nose with you, but she likes to come behind you and have a sniff. But she's pretty friendly. Each year when we have the babies, it changes the color of the animals in the field. You get a general feel of them being very light or very dark. And then particularly when you sell some etc, then it changes the look in the field as well. So that's what I was saying earlier about what, what is it that you want when you're looking for something to get a sense of what it's going to be like predominantly white or lighter colors or animals in the field, or you want to mix and that kind of range of shades showing. So it's, useful to try and get around, see a few in groups so you can decide on what they look like and what it is you want it to look like for you. Cause you're gonna spend time around them. You want something that's going to look attractive to you and for your setting. it would be nice if we could work out what color you can guarantee is going to come, but it's just not possible. And I think you just accept and enjoy whatever arrives. The food has reduced in the buckets inside, so they have all crowded around the same one. Now you can, you must be pregnant. I think you'll get really grumpy girl. I think he must be, think she must be pregnant this one. It was Betsy Millie's genes being expressed. Not so much in color, but in behavior. Hello? Yes, but she's being bossy about one of the old ones. So Nia is getting edged out. It's interesting. This dynamic that is there. So they're in and they'll have the feed and then they'll disappear out again. And earlier in the week, we've had a swing from it was like 17 degrees centigrade a few days ago. And then it's been sub-zero at night now, and it's been cold all day. And, we've had a bit of snow it's disappeared now, but we had a bit of snow in the air and a little bit lying. And 20 degree difference in a few days, which is a bit drastic, but, uh, they'll take themselves out again and they'll settle somewhere down near the Lake and they'll find a comfy spot and some will be near the hay and some will be elsewhere. I'm being investigated by couple of the youngsters who decided it's very strange to be standing here talking to my telephone. Do you think what'd you think. bumping into -this, is little Ifanwy she's decided that she needs to demand some attention by bumping into some of the others. There we go. Well, hopefully it's going to be a sunny little bit before the sun goes down and goes cold again. So you can enjoy being in the sun girls. There we go. So thanks for being with us. Hope you have a good week. And if you get a chance to go spend some time with alpaca and have a look at their colors!

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