Choosing Your Suri Alpacas
In an industry that is looking to consistently improve, there is no "perfect" alpaca. Becoming more informed about what to look for in an alpaca, gives you the power to make more educated decisions for your first herd. Some people purchase more affordable starter animals, who need more improvement. Some spend more & get a bit more of a head start. Beware of fire sales and of over-hyped animals. No matter where you start, your goal is to then breed up to improve the quality of your herd with each generation. When choosing your first alpacas, pay attention to: conformation, luster, lock structure, density, fineness & coverage.
Conformation - Basically this is the bone structure of the alpaca. It includes the straightness of the back, the angles of the legs, structure of the head, etc. If you look at the alpaca in profile, you want to see a nice square made from her back, legs & the ground.
Luster - This is the shine that an alpaca exhibits. The best was to see luster is to lift the fleece so you can see past the "dirt line" down to the skin. On some alpacas, you can observe a "greasy" look to them even before getting down to the skin. Many times, luster becomes duller once the animal begins breeding.
Lock Structure - This is how the suri's dreadlocks hold together. You want them to be as independent as possible as close to the skin as possible. There are 7 accepted lock structures that we can talk about at a later date. Lock structure often "blows out" after the animal ages & begins breeding, so it’s sometimes difficult to tell the genetic lock qualities of an older animal.
Density - This the number of fleece follicles per square inch of skin in the fleece blanket is. Basically, you need to get a feel for it by fondling various animals. When you get your hands in there, you want to get a thick handful of fleece before reaching the skin. Be sure to learn how to tell a fine, dense alpaca from one with coarser fleece (which can sometimes masquerade as dense).
Fineness - This is the diameter of the individual strands of fiber. It is measured in "microns": the lower the micron, the finer the fleece. When we measure fineness, the results come back in a report called a histogram. It’s tough to see fineness in a photo, but we can go over histograms sometime in the future.
Coverage - This is how thoroughly the fleece covers the alpaca. Ideally, you want fleece not only through the blanket & neck, but down to the toes & nose as well. Coverage is easy to evaluate in unshorn animals, but tougher after shearing, since many shearers buzz the face & sometimes down the legs.
"Silken Suri gave me constant support, information and encouragement. Amber is knowledgeable about what you need to know (that you don't know that you need to know)."
Katie Reeves, Suriously Alpacas