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Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:

Fleece Scoring

Rachel Hebditch

The Alpaca Association of New Zealand has reviewed its fleece scoring system and decided to award 105 points instead of 100 so as to change the weighting for certain traits. This came about following a judges' training session.

New Zealand fleece shows and fleece scoring have differed from other countries in the distribution of points across the various fleece traits and the recently introduced separation between ?breeding attributes? and ?management attributes? These are the positive points that the fleeces receive, followed by the negative points that can be subtracted for management issues such as dirt, vegetable matter and poor skirting.

Scoresheets for suri and huacaya differ in a number of places and have always done so. The reasons are that in some cases the negative traits are not very common and therefore do not need to become a main focus of breeders/judges attention, guard hair is not a serious issue in suri but is so in huacaya. Alternatively there may be important positive traits that need to be rewarded such as lustre in suri.

The previous score sheets approved in 2014 have huacaya marks out of 10 for lack of guard hair and out of 5 for suri for lack of guard hair. These scores have not been altered in the 2016 version.

A difference in the 2016 score sheets is that lack of colour contamination has been increased to a potential of 10 points, up from 5 in both huacaya and in suri. Judges wished to be able to penalise colour contamination more than previously because it is a problem in our national breeding herd. So it was agreed that the points available should be increased, thus allowing more to be taken away as a reflection of the severity of the problem.

Once this guiding principle was agreed, we then needed to look at where the points should be moved from in order that they should be given to colour contamination. It was agreed that rather than reducing any other category's score the colour contamination score should be increased by 5 points. So the decision was taken to make the total number of points available across all categories become 105 (up from 100).

Why have we gone to a total of 105 points from 100? Our system is a number-based scoring system, not a percentage-based system. If you take into consideration the 15 points that can be removed in the management section (negative points) you can see that Judges have been using a total of 115 points to create their accurate assessment of a fleece. Now that our score is out of 105 with 15 points that can be removed in the management section, Judges have 120 points to use in their assessment.

Judges are in agreement that lack of guard hairs through the fleece has an important negative effect on the handle of a fleece and thus on the handle of the garments produced from that fleece. It is the presence of guard hairs that is far more of an issue in huacaya fleeces than in suri fleeces. Hairy huacaya fleeces are more commonly shown in fleece competitions than hairy suri fleeces. To make this issue a focus in huacaya, and to be able to penalize hairy huacaya fleeces it was decided that the available points needed to be 10 rather than 5. This allows a judge to give zero out of 10 points available, and this is a greater penalty than zero out of 5 available points.

The number of points available for the same traits may differ between huacaya and suri for positive reasons as well as for negative reasons as shown in the above examples. Lustre in suri for example is a positive trait that is rewarded with a potentially large number of available points. Fifteen are available for lustre in suri as it is deemed to be an important trait that where present, needs to be highly rewarded.

It is very important that exhibitors read their score sheets when they are returned with the fleece following a show. By reviewing the fleece on a table whilst reading the scoresheets, breeders will gain a clearer understanding of the good and bad points of their fleeces. The judges will continue to review the suitability of the scoring system as we strive to provide a clearer, simpler but accurate system.