Jen Pietsch
Orcas Island, WA

I love spending time outdoors, gardening, running and raising my fleeced friends!
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Thursday, January 17, 2008

postheadericon Growing Possibilities

The first spring seed catalogs have started rolling into my mailbox, and I am planning and dreaming of my new Orcas garden. Burpee’s glossy photographs aside, this takes some serious imagination here in the far away frozen tundra of Chicagoland! We have had the farm now for less than six months; before the next six months pass we will have, if all goes as planned, two new cria on the ground - or - as they say in the business, “dams with cria by their side.” How I love the sound of that!

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

The two expected cria are by two of my girls, Wanda and Carmen, with sires from San Juan Island’s Krystal Acres Farm. The couple who operated the farm before us had bred there in the past, and the resulting cria were sound and of good conformation; the decision to breed at Krystal Acres again was E-A-S-Y. Albert Olsen and his wife Chris picked up the girls on Orcas and transported them by ferry to San Juan. Coordinating the effort was our herd manager, Janet Franklin. We we are lucky to be working with Janet; she is keeping me and the herd under her able and experienced wing until our arrival this June -- Thank You Janet!

Albert and Chris ran tests to ensure the girls were “sufficiently pregnant,” then transported them safely home where Janet has had them in the best of care since. Now is when the decisions become difficult. I have seven girls that need to be bred come this spring to ensure babies for the following spring…

The Breeder’s Eye

Many of an alpaca’s physical characteristics are influenced by multiple genes (polygenic influence). This makes predicting breeding outcomes difficult. Understanding how genetics can work for breeders is critical for herd improvement. (Which is what I want.) What worries me is the second element of the puzzle, the art of breeding. Good breeding depends greatly on the “breeder’s eye” -- being able to visualize through an intuitive sense how a given breeding will work out. This is a skill I will have to develop over time.

What is Heritable?

Heritable traits are generally thought to include: fiber density, fiber length, fiber fineness, and the animal’s growth rate. What isn’t heritable usually includes traits involving reproduction and disease resistance, according to the literature. Over the next few weeks I will be looking for a balance of good heritable traits and fair stud pricing. I will be gambling my vision, my girls, and what I have learned thus far about genetics in order to improve our herd.

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Who to breed to whom will be the focus of the next batch of posts… we at Orcas Moon Alpacas are looking for a few good men -- who produce only women! Now back to my Burpee’s catalog...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

postheadericon Sail Away from the Safe Harbor

This quotation comes to us from Page 43 of the San Juan Island's 2007 Telephone Directory, of all places.

It's chalk full of such witticisms; talk about a page turner!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

--Mark Twain (1835-1910)