A sound foundation

International judge Nick Harrington Smith of Alpaca Evolution takes us through the basics of alpaca conformation.

Another year in the alpaca business almost over, more shows than ever, and with more owners than ever taking part in those shows, suggests that showing is becoming an ever increasingly important part of breeder’s decision-making process. Whilst no doubt show results are a useful tool, I have been quizzed as to why the show ring seemingly ignores conformation. Such comments from a number of sources caused me to think about conformation in general. I don’t agree that the judges ignore conformation but it is possibly not reasoned as emphatically as fibre traits, perhaps because of the 60:40 weighting. I will defend the judging fraternity in this respect and remind all that with only a few minutes per alpaca available, there is simply not the opportunity for any judge to describe in detail, and in a matter of seconds, all of the individual alpacas traits, be they good or bad.

Reasons or excuses aside, this issue alone re-enforces the argument that breeders should not use show results to make breeding decisions, but more importantly the need to be proactive in understanding why conformational points are individually so important. We see much written about individual fibre traits, but rarely about conformation so it is perhaps useful to refresh in our minds those basic traits that are most important. I was reminded recently that we all tend to forget the basics as we try to keep up with the latest news and developments in the alpaca world.

I was reminded recently that we all tend to forget the basics as we try to keep up with the latest news and developments in the alpaca world

The definition of conformation as per the Oxford dictionary reads “The shape or structure of something, especially an animal”, Collins also includes “the arrangement or parts of an object” so within our alpacas we can see the general shape immediately but we also need to appreciate how the parts or skeleton is configured to appreciate how deviation from the normal may impact on the well-being of the animal. After all, we need to ensure the most basic need, that is for the alpaca to be functional, or fit for purpose.

So, back to basics with a simple reminder of those basic conformational traits we need to be constantly aware of.

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