The selection of a stud male is arguably the most important decision a breeder will make.
A female alpaca produces only one cria per year, but an active stud male has the capacity to produce many offspring in the same period, with the potential to either improve herds or put them back by a year.
The most important factor is fleece. The alpaca industry is a fibre industry, and quality and quantity of fibre will be the criteria for ultimate payment. Fleece density and coverage of the male should be sought after. Density relates to fleece weight and a good male should be able to cut 5-6 kgs (11-13 lbs) in a 12 month period. In Australia, we regard good working males to have under 25 micron fleece, have very little guard hair, and feature character and style in the fleece. It is also desirable to have well-covered legs and a bonnet.
Character and style is recognised by a good bold staple with well-defined crimp. Ideally this should be evident all over the animal, including neck, legs and head, as well as throughout the blanket. A single coat colour with uniformity of micron should be sought. Micron tests should be taken from a midside sample.
Conformation is of great importance. The alpaca should be in proportion and compact, with a broad chest and hindquarters. Upstanding animals with 'presence' and good strong bone structure are desirable. When walking, the hind legs should follow the front legs and the back legs should not touch, ie cowhocked. The front legs can be slightly deviated from the knees.
The animal should look alert, with upright bayonet shaped ears. (Banana shaped ears is typical of the llama) Ears must not be fused at the tips. Teeth must not be over or undershot - ie must meet the upper dental pad. Both of these characteristics are genetic defects and should not be passed on.
Testicular size should be inspected. Both should be of even size, with the adult being 4cm x 2cm. It is undesirable for the alpaca to have blue eyes, as some have been found to have hearing problems. Temperament would not be classed as a high criteria, as most alpacas are easy to manage.
Purchase of a male is an important investment. Take time to check if he has progeny on the ground. Consider if he is consistently producing similar cria. Ask for fleece test data. See the dams and decide if he is making the improvements you require.
Be prepared to do your homework!
Benleigh Alpaca Stud, Victoria, Australia