To Preserve, Protect and Promote the Suri alpaca is the purpose of the Suri Network.
The SURI NETWORK has been devoted to the “Preservation of the Suri Phenotype – Fiber and Alpaca” since its inception with the development and implementation of various programs as a service to its membership and for Suri owners worldwide. These ideals inspired the development the Suri Herd Improvement Program, or S.H.I.P.
The Suri Herd Improvement Program gives us concrete, objective data about our individual herds and the opportunity to advance our national herd using that data for our breeding and purchasing decisions.
To achieve the above goals, Suri breeders have looked to a livestock industry model as being the most likely path to a sustainable industry that can achieve these ends. In devising a road map for achieving these goals the Suri Network has already taken a number of steps:
First, in 2005-2006 a Suri Breed Standard was developed and approved by a large majority of breeders. The breed standard was reveiwed and modified in 2016 and ultimately approved by a large majority of the SN membership.
Second, based on the positive and negative Suri traits identified in the breed standard, a Classification System was developed that assigns a score from 1-5 for each of sixteen traits, eight each for fiber traits and eight for phenotypic/conformation traits. This system was tested and presented in a ‘hands on’ format to the membership at three yearly symposiums. It has now been used to classify over 1600 Suris at some 30 or more Suri farms.
Third, the Suri Network is collecting as many fiber test results as possible to add to our database. Breeders are being encouraged to submit to Suri Network any and all fiber testresults that have been done on their Suris along with an ARI certificate so we can correlate these objective fiber tests with classification fiber scores.
Suri Network has long advocated that members collect and record as much data as possible on their animals. In making this information available to Suri Network you will assist the network in developing the largest phenotypic and fiber database on Suri alpacas in the world.
Fourth, the Suri Network has strongly advocated the development of properly derived and reliable EPD calculations to assist breeders in making more informed and predictable breeding decisions. Seeing limitations in ARI’s EPD program for Suri breeders, the Suri Network has continued to pursue these critical issues and has developed a program that overcomes those limitations.
Fifth, parameters of commercially valuable Suri fiber traits and heritabilities were defined in conjunction with information from Dr. Carlo Renieri and Marco Antonini – University of Camarino, Italy. There was also collaboration with Renzo Morante, DVM, manager of the Pacomarca Experimental Alpaca Farm in Peru and Juan Pablo Gutierrez. PhD Animal Science, University of Madrid, Spain who presented his research paper on fiber trait heritabilities at the Suri Network Symposium in 2011.
The Five Pieces Come Together
Bringing all five of these pieces together to create a pathway to breeding and industry success is an important priority within the Suri Network’s Long Range Plan. Separately each piece is important, but when combined into a system, they have the potential to empower Suri breeders to accomplish great strides toward our goals of excellence and sustainability.
Our industry faces challenging hurdles to both short as well as long-term success and the Suri Network Board feels that establishing this pathway will be a tremendous benefit to members. As Suri Network looked at developing EPDs for our members we realized that simply providing breeders with a number that expressed the potential for changing the value of a specific trait, an EPD value, was not going to accomplish what breeders really needed in order to improve their breeding results or their financial success as breeders. They needed an integrated plan that includes guidance on how to gather and utilize the information available to them.
In any industry during challenging times there is one thing that always seems to hold true; as expressed by Brett Kaysen at the 2012 Suri Symposium, “Quality sells and Quality endures”. What could be truer of the Suri alpaca industry today? Alpaca is a luxury fiber.
As an alpaca breeder you are already in the top tier of the natural fibers business. Recently, world prices for alpaca fiber have been at the upper end of their historical ranges. Isn't it time for us to fully embrace the fact that we are producers of the best luxury fiber in the world, not blue ribbons?
So how do we capitalize on the progress this industry has achieved in the past 25 years and move up to the next level?
“Regardless of species or a specific trait within specie, to ensure sustained permanent genetic progress there must be a comprehensive genetic program put in place.”
This observation by Justin Fix PhD, VP Global Technical Services for NSR, succinctly states the mission of the Suri Network Suri Herd Improvement Program, SHIP! This plan is modeled after similar programs in many commercially successful livestock breed associations. SHIP is the Suri industries’ pathway to both individual success and also to the long-term success of our industry!
The Suri Network set about finding expertise to help collect data on traits, calculate EPD and EBV records, analyze that data and provide technical support. After issuing a Request for Proposals and reviewing the bids competitively, the Suri Network selected Justin Fix and Clint Schwab at the National Swine Registry (NSR) and the National Swine Improvement Federation (NSIF) with Purdue University. This group collected data from four major breeds, recorded measurement data on over twenty traits and calculated EPD and EBV records on over one million animals daily. The experience and expertise that they brought to this project is impressive and we believe they very capably handled our program.
Model trials were conducted in 2008-2010 on 7-10 herds and modifications were made in the process. Hands-on workshops demonstrating the herd Classification Process and procedures were conducted at Suri Symposiums in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and were well attended by members at the event.
A training program was developed for classifiers to assist in developing a uniform result from herd evaluations. In conjunction with the Suri Network office a format for data recording was developed to facilitate efficient and uniform reporting and recording of results. A standard process for scheduling and conducting an event was established and the Suri Network Board developed a budget and authorized a limited subsidy to assist breeders to cover expenses for herds to be classified.
The Suri Breed Standard
Establishing the breed standard was a very big step toward long-term success and something Suri Network members should be proud to have accomplished. Absent this step, there is risk that purposeful change could be made in the wrong direction! There are historical precedents in livestock history where this happened with unanticipated consequences. Obviously this is something we want to avoid. Genetic change is made by increasing or decreasing the prevalence of certain genes or gene combinations in a population of animals and when undertaking an endeavor to do so it is important to be aiming in the proper direction.
Not only does Suri Network have a breed standard but at the time the standard was adopted a mechanism was established for periodic review and if necessary refinement of the standard. This process is the function of the Suri Network Breed Standards Council, a group of breeders whose purpose is to monitor the standard for relevance and if necessary recommend refinements that may be necessary in the future. This group met in 2016 and proposed the changes that were lated adopted by the membership.
Now that we are starting to accumulate data through SHIP the Council will have information to review that will begin to indicate how the U.S. Suri population is performing relative to the breed standard. At the time it was written the standard was designed to be more of a guideline than a detailed or gold standard. As more information is collected it may be appropriate in the future to be more detailed in regards to certain points, especially in reference to fiber traits.
Established in August 2007, the Suri Network Breed Standards Council had been inactive for past several years as there was little information to review or need for any actions. It was reactivated at the 2012 Symposium as it was anticipated that there would be a need for discussions now that the first analysis of SHIP data is being undertaken. If any recommendations are made by the council they are subject to review and approval by both the Board and the membership. Changes should not be necessary very often and, when suggested, should be well thought out, researched, and include input from all stakeholders who might be impacted by any changes to the standard.
PAST S.H.I.P. PARTICIPANTS
Alpaca Jack's Suri Farm