Alpaca Atlantic of Tennessee, LLC
The world we live in is multi-dimentional. Some things are easy to view from all vantage points, and some aren't. You may have to dig a bit to get the full picture. It's with this in mind, that I offer my ramblings on the following topics. The breeders we've come to know are good, honest, trustworthy folks........but there are always a few in all walks of life that will encourage you to search for that third dimention. It's with those few in mind, that I offer you the flip side of the picture!
When we've bought animals in the past, or bred to herdsires, we thought it safe to assume that the animal's conformation had NOT been surgically altered in any way. Call us naive, but it never even dawned on us to question this as a possibility. While I can guarantee the high ethics of those we've done business with in the past -- I must also warn that there are breeders that have had conformation flaws surgically corrected - specifically, crooked legs.
Angular limb deformities are an interesting topic. This condition can either be a genetic fault/weakness, or can be caused by a lack of vitamin D. Treatments vary from the application of splints and increased Vitamin D, to surgical corrections. I've no problem with helping animals live comfortable lives, but I do have a problem when animals are surgically corrected, and that information isn't disclosed. And I have a problem when these animals make appearances in the show ring. We don't allow enhancements to fiber, but enhancements to skeletal structures go unnoticed.
My recommendation to everyone in the business is to demand the following statement be added to every sales or breeding contract:
Bill and I aren't perfect, and we don't have perfect animals - not sure I know anyone who does. We do our best, but sometimes crooked legs happen. The photos to the right are of Atlantic's Peruvian Marilyn. I've never seen a premature cria with legs this weak. She wasn't medicated, her legs weren't wrapped/splinted/braced, and she wasn't confined from the herd. Within 6 weeks, her legs were perfect. I know, these photos really don't belong in the surgical section, and her legs are not an example of angular limb deformity -- but I was so impressed with this girl, I had to put these photos somewhere!
- Sales: Breeder guarantees this alpaca has never undergone surgery to alter or correct its conformation. Breeder further guarantees buyer is fully aware of this alpaca's complete medical history.
- Breeding: Owner of herdsire guarantees (herdsire's name) has never undergone surgery to alter or correct his conformation. Owner further guarantees breeder is fully aware of (herdsire's name) complete medical history.
Back to the original point -- Doing our best to maintain a high standard of ethics is, without a doubt, one of the values Bill and I place at the top of our list.
If you're going to be messing with alpacas, you're going to be practicing selective breeding, with an eye towards improving the species. To do this, it helps to be familiar with genetype and phenotype.
In laymen's terms:
The one point that I want to make here is that it may not be in your best interest to put all your savings into one animal, if you consider an animal based solely on either its genetics or based solely on its appearance.
- Genotype: the genetic makeup of an animal - can't be seen
- Phenotype: the physical expression -- what you see
To have breeding value, a herdsire has to do more than just take home blue ribbons in the ring and have a healthy pair of testicles. He's got to produce offspring that are at least as good as himself -- if he doesn't, you're breeding down in qualtiy. A good stud should contribute at least 50% to your breeding program, while a bad stud contributes 100%. When you shop for a herdsire, either to buy, or to use, look at his progeny -- forget about the ribbons. Your cria is not going to pop out wearing one!
I've seen boys on the market with stunted growth (illness as cria?), or dropped fetlocks (premature birth), or slick legs (fiber rot from hanging out in the pond drinking Coronas and contemplating how good life is........or perhaps that's what I would like to be doing!!!) -- and they never take home the blue, but may produce crias that do - because these flaws come from environmental/health issues -- and won't influence the sperm in any way!
You've got to use a great deal of caution though, if you're shopping for a bargain alpaca that's got a compromised phenotype (ugly) with killer genetics (cute sperm). It seems that an awful lot of flaws are blamed on non-genetic issues. Research the lines, talk to references, and trust your gut.
I've also seen boys that were so stunning they gave me whiplash. They had a wall of ribbons but way too many pet-quality offspring. They looked great, but couldn't consistently reproduce their own quality. And if you think you can research their offspring completely on your own, as they say back in NY, forget about it! Not all offspring are registered. Point being, what you see (stud), isn't always what you get (offspring).
If every alpaca in the country were shown, using measurable, objective standards, and judged by judges that applied those standards identically......I would value blue ribbons.
When you read that an alpaca has won five blue ribbons in five shows - you might want to ask a few questions before you allow yourself to be impressed:
Shows are a wonderful opportunity to meet future friends, buy the latest must have gadgets, swim through the creative marketing of others, and have a look at some really great looking alpacas. Just take care though to see a blue ribbon for what it really is.
- What class was the ribbon won in? If it placed first in the costume or obstacle class....I'm not sure I would care. The ability to be dressed up like Batman, or climb a bridge while having someone open an umbrella in your face has nothing to do with producing fiber or quality offspring. And if the alpaca won ribbons consistently for their fiber, and never stepped foot into a ring to have its conformation assessed...it might have the body of a mutant llama - no offense llama folks! Or, if all ribbons were for shorn classes -- you might just want to have a look at that fiber before you make any assumptions - it might be as coarse as sheep's wool - no offense sheep folks.
- How many animals were in the class? If the animal took third place, and there were only three alpacas in the class - the animal won a ribbon for coming in last! You think I'm exaggerating? In May of 2003, the PAOBA Breeder's Showcase Alpaca Show had only 1 participant in each of the following huacaya classes--
- Adult Dark
- 2-year old Dark
- Mature Dark
- Adult Light
- Mature Light
- Full Fleece white 2-year and older female
I could go on, but the show results had 112 pages and I have better things to do, but I think you get the point that when there isn't competition, a blue ribbon has questionable value. Each of these winners can claim first place, but in reality, they could each claim last place as well. Check out AOBA's
Alpaca Show site and have a look at the numbers for yourself. You can also check out some of the shows that aren't heavily attended to find where to pick up the easy ribbons if you're into that!
- Was there any real competition? You would almost need to be at the show to assess this one - but if the animal won a blue ribbon over pet-quality competition....even though it was the best in the class - it might still be a sad example. In cases where the quality isn't present, judges are supposed to withhold ribbons if they aren't earned. Or another scenario - how many times have you watched a class that had a no-show - yet you just saw the animal in a pen? Breeders, wise to the ring with visions of blue, often pull their animal if they know they're going to be trumped by real competition.
- Was it a sanctioned show, or a county fair?
- How many shows was the animal in, where it was dismissed from the ring and never placed at all? If a person invested enough money hauling a friendly alpaca around the country - eventually they're going to hit a show that's poorly attended and will get a ribbon or two or three.
I'm a frequent visitor to chat sites like Yahoo's AlpacaSite, or
AlpacaNation's Forum, and am absolutely amazed at the number of people that slam breeders, because they weren't given the guarantees they thought they deserved. When you ask if they included this possibility in the purchase or breeding contract -- their response is always, "No," followed by some excuse about trusting the breeder. Well folks, don't assume anything and trust the contract. If you want a breeder to give a refund for:
- A breeding female sold as a maiden that produces nothing by crias with full choanal atresia, or crias with 3 legs, or blue-eyed white deaf crias, or wry-faced crias,.....
- A breeding, because your newborn 2-day old cria just broke its neck in the handle of a water bucket that was hanging on the wall
- A breeding where the cria survived, but was born with defects so bad that the right thing to do was to pull that animal from the breeding pool and keep it as a pet
- A "future herdsire" that matures with marble sized testicles. He's got live sperm and is able to breed -- just takes 20 breedings per conception
- A maiden that conceives, but never carries to term
- An animal that is found to have a terminal condition, before you take posession
- A proven herdsire that dies of fatty-liver disease the day after you take posession
.....include these possibilities in the contract!!!!
And about those "Standard AOBA Contracts." Don't ever offer to sell us an animal using one of these -- they aren't worth the paper they're printed on - which is probably why they aren't being sold anymore. From a legal standpoint - they are garbage: full of loopholes, subjective conditions, meaningless terms, and guarantees that aren't. Contracts need to be black and white, conditions need to be measureable, and terms need to be specific. Contracts need to cover every condition that's important to both the seller and buyer. They are meant to protect both parties - not just the one cashing the check. If you don't feel comfortable with the contract - don't walk, run away from the deal. You need to be as comfortable with the paper, and the person standing behind it, as you are the animal.
Some of these situations may be realistic, and some may not -- but if you as the buyer think you deserve restitution, and don't have the condition/situation outlined in the contract before you hand over your check -- you don't have the right to demand a refund after your cria is born with 5 eyes. You don't legally deserve compensation unless it's covered in the contract. Whether or not the breeder feels a moral obligation is really their choice. But you don't have the right to attempt to ruin a person's reputation because you didn't have the foresight to manage your business dealings in a business-like manner. Your contracts are the foundation upon which your business is built. Don't build it on sand then complain when it falls apart!
One last point. Be very careful about what you put into print on the internet. If you vent on a chat group, those words may haunt you for years. I think it's healthy to rant and rave and act the fool - but that's what friends are for, not public internet chat groups. Before you put something into print, do yourself a favor and do the following:
It's because of my own advice that I almost always lurk in the shadows in these groups!
- Type away, then let it sit at least 24 hours. Read it and see if you were acting out, in the heat of the moment
- Imagine if you'll be embarassed by your words in a week, a month, a year....because you're not going to be able to delete them from every computer they've been sent to
- If you're wanting a constructive resolution to your problem, do you think this might ever come about after you hit the send button
- If you're wanting a destructive resolution, will venting on a public group help your cause?
- And lastly....ask if you would like to do business with a person like yourself. Are you giving the impression of a trustworthy professional, or..........something else?
This page and all photographs © Copyright 2003-2009, Alpaca Atlantic of Tennessee, LLC.