It has recently occurred to me just how many mother-daughter pairs I have in my foundation alpaca herd. It also occurred to me that all of these mother-daughter pairs are on my "absolute best" list. Thinking about it further, I realized that this is in no way a coincidence. It's also, I think, a really good thing.
Our first generation of alpacas is only just coming up on a year old, so all of the mother-daughter pairs that I'm thinking of were purchased, not produced. This means that I had to like a female enough to buy both her and her mother (or daughter, as it were). This happens not infrequently anyway as part of group deals, but often, one or the other is moved along to a new herd, the logic being, "I don't need both." The ones that stay -- both mother and daughter -- must be superlative enough to warrant keeping both of them. The fact that they're both great means that they must be fairly pre-potent for the traits that I value.
I also have quite a few half-sisters. This is no accident, either.
Here is one mother-daughter pair. Violet (left) is a female who has distinguished herself by producing multiple color-champion grey offspring with amazing reliability. Lois is one of those color-champion offspring. These are girls that I would clone, if I could. (Cloning livestock is actually not all it's cracked up to be.)
Sparky (right) and her daughter Starr are two more girls who I wish could just clone themselves.
Thunderstruck (rear) and her daughter Maui are two new additions that got me thinking about this whole mother-daughter thing. When you have a really awesome female, like Thunder or Violet or Sparky, you sometimes think, "That's all well and great, but can she produce it?" I think what is so nice about having a fantastic mother and daughter is that you can look at the daughter and know that the answer is going to be, "Yes." This suggests that the heritability of the traits of interest is pretty strong in that line, and thus, that the daughter has a good chance of producing them as well.
Millie (right) and her daughter Prayer don't like to pose together, but they are another good example of what I am talking about.
Rayo (left) and her daughter Raya are another.
Sisters are great, too. Most herds are going to have lots of sisters, typically sired by the same male. (In fact, one method of herd or flock improvement is to use one male over all of your females, keep back all of his daughters, sell the male and buy a new one for the next generation.) Some breeders don't even consider paternal siblings to be "sisters" (since a male will typically sire so many offspring relative to a female). We have plenty of paternal sisters here as well -- when I like a sire line, I tend to "collect" it -- but here are two maternal sisters out of the same (harlequin) dam.
These two girls had never met until they came here. Ella is in the rear and Sassy is in the front. They are now pretty close to inseparable.
The paternal siblings are numerous enough that I won't post all of them, but here's a particularly good example.
One of my largest two cohort groups by far are the descendents of Caligula's Casanova, in particular through his two sons, Dually and Pundit. Pictured here are four members of that cohort group. From left to right: Prayer (Casanova daughter who was also pictured above); Princess Leia (one of three Pundit daughters on our farm); Peach (behind) and Bella. Peach and Bella are both Dually daughters who, like Ella and Sassy, had never met before, and who are also now inseparable.
The fact that I have so many related animals is absolutely no accident. Animal breeding is about trying to improve each generation, and one of the goals of domestic animal breeding is trying to achieve consistency of production. That is one of the defining traits of a breed -- the idea that it breeds true. Alpacas are, by and large, a bunch of wildcards, much more-so than other livestock. Therefore, when I find a bloodline that seems a little bit more predictable than others, I tend to want to use it ... Sometimes a lot of it.
Yesterday was the big day: I drove up to Vermont to pick up our very first ever batch of yarn from Vermont Fiber Mill in Brandon, VT. I am so happy that I went with this mill. The yarn is gorgeous.
You may notice that this yarn is all earth-tones: fawns, browns and whites. This is because I chose to send these colors to this mill, and my greys and blacks to another mill. I just got an email this morning saying that our other batch of yarn is all finished and ready for delivery, so we should be seeing that next week. I deliberately sent yarn to two different mills to compare. I am very very happy with the product from Vermont Fiber Mill.
I mean, look at this!
... And what you can't see is how very wonderfully soft it is ...!
That isn't all of it, of course. This is all of it!
Coming up next: The Howling Hill Yarns alpaca yarn store! (No, seriously! Coming soon to this very website!)
K writes this stuff, for some reason that has yet to become apparent.