Breeding Selection

Breeding Goals and Objectives

Weather your Paco-Vicuña are kept as “pets”, contribute to a commercial fiber herd, or used to provide seed stock, the most important outcome of any camelid breeding is a sound, healthy cria. After breeding for healthy crias, North American Paco-Vicuña breeding choices should primarily focus on fiber quality, remembering that Paco-Vicuñas are bred for their fiber, not the show ring.


Desired Fiber Characteristics

There are several fiber characteristics that Paco-Vicuña breeders should concentrate on: fiber diameter, curvature, staple length, and standard deviation being the most important. Another critical component is measuring the change in fiber diameter as each animal ages. Several smaller farms in the mountain west take part in the breeding selection process at Jefferson Farms Natural Fibers in Salida. Jefferson Farms is home to the largest North American Paco-Vicuña herd in the United States and Canada with many high-quality male and female import bloodlines.

Paco-Vicuña crias

photo: Thomas Victor

Genetic Considerations

Part of the breeding decision-making process involves ensuring that a broad genetic base is maintained for long term health of the entire US herd. In a small herd, that broad genetic base is less important, but still a factor. Other genetic considerations are whether or not to pursue line breeding to attempt to solidify positive traits within a bloodline.(1,2) Regardless of your particular North American Paco-Vicuña herd, you should use the best possible stud to accomplish your breeding goals, not the most convenient. The NAPVA does not recommend breeding to males just because they are located on the same farm as females, unless they are truly herd sire quality, and any potential pairing is in line with specific breeding goals.

Dams at Jefferson Farms, Denver

photo: Thomas Victor

Trait Longevity

As North American Paco-Vicuñas age, their fiber may trend a little coarser and their staple may trend a little shorter, so a primary breeding goal is to stabilize – to the extent possible – fiber diameter as the animal ages. There tend to be two different trends that fiber diameter follows as an animal ages. The first trend – the desirable one – is where fiber diameter stays relatively stable, staying the same year to year or sometimes increasing a mere .5-1 microns annually. The second trend exhibits a more exponential increase in fiber diameter that typically accelerates around age 4-5. For instance, a yearly jump of 2-3 microns as early as the animal’s 3rd year is a big concern. Fiber diameter “blowing up” like this is highly undesirable and would eliminate any male from a breeding program like that at Colorado’s Jefferson Farms. For this reason, the NAPVA recommends that Paco-Vicuña breeders avoid breeding males until 5 years of age, thus ensuring a measurable stability in fiber diameter.

Lifetime Fineness

A North American Paco-Vicuña that maintains fineness its entire life maintains a high fleece value which is better for the farmer and for the animal. There are currently multiple Colorado-based herd sires that are holding under 16 microns diameter at over 8 years of age. Maintaining fineness like this should be the primary statical consideration for Paco-Vicuña breeders.

Fiber Diameter Example

Here are two hypothetical animals that follow typical trends in breeding operations.  The measurements represent the fiber diameter of each animal’s first 5 fleeces, measured in microns:


1st Shearing

2nd Shearing

3rd Shearing

4th Shearing

5th Shearing

Paco-Vicuña #1






Paco-Vicuña #2







In the above example, Paco-Vicuña #1 would make a good fiber male, or a reliable breeding female that has a good foundation to be improved upon. Alternatively, Paco-Vicuña #2 should not be used for breeding if male and has limited value as a fiber male. If Paco-Vicuña #2 were female, she should only be used for breeding if there were other very compelling reasons to do so. An important goal would be to try to stabilize the “blowing up” of fiber which could take multiple generations to correct. Note that Paco-Vicuña #2’s fiber stability issues don’t appear until the 3rd shearing’s fleece, and the 4th shearing confirms those stability concerns. Luckily, this particular trait appears to be heritable and can be included in a breeding program with careful fiber data tracking. A problem would arise if Paco-Vicuña #2 was bred aggressively as a 2 to 3-year-old sire before his lack of fiber stability was fully understood.

Breeding PVs

Breed pairings generally start with selecting a registered North American Paco-Vicuñas female, not just any run-of-the-mill female camelid. With a gestation period of nearly one year and a breeding life of less than 15 years, female Paco-Vicuña have a limited number of offspring so it’s important to maximize every breeding. There are significant advantages to picking the best possible Paco-Vicuña stud based on your desired fiber outcome, so it’s important to have clear breeding goals. Specific breeding goals may vary from owner to owner… some will value staple length over fineness while others may value fineness over staple length. Setting your breeding goals is always a balancing act. One accepted way of rating fiber characteristic importance looks like this: first Fiber Diameter, then Curvature, then Staple Length, then Standard Deviation. Regardless of your particular breeding rankings, you don’t want to see big deficiencies in any fiber category. Here are some items considered you should consider in your breeding decision-making.

  • Is there a significant bloodline consideration?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each Paco-Vicuña’s fiber traits?
  • Does each breeding animal have complete fiber history and/or fiber histograms?
  • Is fiber color a consideration?
  • What can be learned from previous offspring and extended lineages?

Emphasize Luxury

When one considers the value/weight of various fiber traits, there are going to be strengths and weaknesses of each measurement relative to the others. For example: Is the fiber exceptionally fine, but with a short staple? Does a certain Paco-Vicuña’s fiber have a long staple, and low standard deviation, yet isn’t as fine? Is one animal’s fiber fine with high curvature and also a high standard deviation? A good starting point to answer these questions is to conduct a basic evaluation of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various fiber characteristics.

Dams at Jefferson Farms, Denver

Photo: Thomas Victor

Emphasize or Correct Traits

Another important breeding consideration is whether your breeding goal is to solidify a strong trait or improve a weak trait. A ‘negative assortative mating’ – or corrective breeding – matches a weak trait with a strong trait in hopes of getting the best of both parents. A ‘positive assortative mating’ matches strong traits, hoping that future generations will pass the trait on more reliably. Both breeding strategies are valid… the choice of which one to employ depends on the characteristics of your breeding Paco-Vicuñas and your long-term breeding goals. (1,3) When breeding, it’s important to not accidentally solidify an undesirable trait. For example, breeding an exceptionally fine female with measurably short staple to an exceptionally fine male also with a measurably short staple could inadvertently solidifying that measurably short staple.


How important is color? In general, people seem to be drawn to the extremes of color – the whites or the mahoganies. While a particular North American Paco-Vicuña  might tend to throw either lighter or darker offspring, breeding selection can skew the odds of getting a lighter or darker colored cria, but nothing is guaranteed. With that in mind, color can be a good tie-breaker when picking a herd sire, yet shouldn’t be your primary goal if other fiber characteristics might suffer.

Breeding Records

A tremendous amount can be learned from the history of the lineage and previous offspring. It is essential to register, fiber test, and maintain complete records for all North American Paco-Vicuña sires, dams, and offspring. Having complete information in front of you is the best way to observe and analyze fiber trends that will help maintain the larger herd’s genetic diversity. The following are a few examples of fiber trends from a Colorado Paco-Vicuña ranch. Chimor (a sire) almost always improves fineness, but generally not length. Sire Big Red throws outstanding offspring with outstanding females, and tends to throw dark color, but doesn’t seem to improve average females. Meanwhile, sire Ayar Cachi has consistently good offspring regardless of female quality, but rarely “off-the-chart” outstanding offspring. Sire Apollo has been wildly inconsistent with offspring – either outstanding or below average. One of Apollo’s outstanding offspring – Echeon (a sire) – is starting to have outstanding offspring of his own. Only time will tell if Echeon consistently passes on excellent fiber traits.


Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different herd sires and their extended bloodlines is vital to making informed breeding decisions. It’s all about the fiber testing results, and not just for one year. It’s year after year, offspring after offspring – a process of constant evaluation/re-evaluation with data from every shearing (diameter, staple length, standard deviation, curvature, etc.) informing the next breeding decision

Breeding References:

1. Bourdon, Richard M. (2000). Understanding Animal Breeding. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

2. Marshall, Steve (March 2017). Consistent Quality Alpacas. Camelid Quarterly, 16 (1), 35-37.

3. Marshall, Steve (March 2017). Matched Mating. Camelid Quarterly, 16 (1), 26-27.