We are frequently asked why we breed white fleeced animals when the natural colouring of alpaca is so beautiful and varied. My answer to them is two fold, first and foremost, white is the most versatile colour you can breed. Not only is white almost always finer in handle but it also allows for hand dying. Breeding white also allows you to get a variety of colours in your cria, from pure white to dark brown.
Statistically speaking, whites will have a much finer micron count then coloured animals, especially when compared to darker colours. The fact that lighter coloured animals have finer fleeces is why animals are judged in their respective colour classes. Many breeders believe that if you periodically infuse a fine fleeced white animal back into your colour animals you will help maintain as low of a micron count as your genetic line will allow. Other breeders disagree with mixing white back into colour stating that you can get white spots, patches and stray white hairs. I personally believe that much of the "spots" we see on the blanket is a genetic spotting trait. If you look closely at brown animals they frequently have lighter "patches", although these are not as noticeable as if the patch was white. Just look at Rose Grey and silver grey. These very popular colours are due to infusions of white and/or brown with a dilution gene. Almost all rose grays will have "spots" of brown in them.
I think putting white back into colour is fine, especially if you are keeping track of outcomes for your specific animals. I would cauituosly breed a white to a black. I haven't had enough breedings to give advise on that but since black does not seem to be as dominant as some colours, it may cause some stray white hairs to show up in your fleece. This would only really be a problem if you were showing the animal or selling the fleece to commercial places. I have never had a problem selling black yarn from a animal with a few stray white hairs and even indefinite blacks spin into beautiful charcoal black yarn which is also quickly snatched up.
I get a lot of enjoyment in breeding my whites to various colours. Want a fawn? Try breeding a white to a medium brown. Want a pinto animal? Try white to a brown with patching. Want white? Breed to white. Although you can get a variety of colour and you probably won't be able to accurately predict what colour the offspring will be, this for me makes the coming of the cria a lot of fun.
The second major reason to have a least one white animal on your property is so you can dye the fleece or yarn. Many craft people love the alpaca but want colour (look at how many coloured items sell in your ranch shop). By having animals that are white you automatically expand your offering of product and hit another market. I mostly sell my carded fleece dyed to felters and my dyed white yarn to knitters. You can use natural dyes or acid dyes there are markets for both of these.
Why purchase a white animal? There isn't a another colour that will provide you the versatility one good white animal can. Bring some fun back into your breeding and appreciate the flexibility of a white fleece. Experiment with your own breedings and find that perfect colour match.
Peter & Sue Livingston
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