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Meet Vicuna Heritage...

Vicuna HeritageShe is an amazing alpaca who has lived at Bonny Doon Alpacas since arriving in l987. She arrived as part of the second large importation of alpacas into North America. She is one of three unusually marked animals that came with that shipment. She and the two others are clearly phenotype alpacas (all the species characteristics that comprise an alpaca) but have the wild vicuna markings of a reddish gold coat and light colored underside. The other two vicuna marked animals "Vicuna Tradition" and "Vicuna Memory" were sold in l989 for $45,000 and $60,000 respectively. Besides their rare colors all three of these animals had excellent conformation, proportion and eye appeal.

Luckily, Vicuna Heritage stayed in Bonny Doon where she's become an unofficial model of excellence and an example of what every alpaca breeder strives for. When Vicuna Heritage arrived, the laser scan histogram was not in vogue, though I remember all three "vicuna" named animals having very fine fleeces. When we finally sent a clip of Vicuna Heritage's fleece out for a histogram it came back at 24 microns; exceptional for a 10 to 12 year old animal and even competitive with young animals who usually have superior fleeces.

The special qualities of Vicuna Heritage proved to be more than mere beauty and soft fleece. She's had 9 babies in eleven years and the total in sales of her offspring resulted in $140,000 in revenue. Vicuna Heritage has produced nine females and one male -- a sex ratio that we'd pay to clone to other animals if the scientific know-how existed.

Vicuna Heritage has proved to be an easy keeper too. In all her years and births she's only had one birth requiring veterinary assistance and health problems have been non-existent. She is an excellent mother, protective, and a good milker. She stands obediently and waits patiently when her baby attempts to nurse. And, despite her dominant role in the herd due to her age (alpacas respect age) she is not overly assertive. She is often found with her soulmate, "Buttercup", who arrived at the same time. The two eat together, spend nights kushed near one another and chew their cuds in unison on cold frosty mornings. They've even been known to to allow their crias (babies) to nurse from one another.

However, nothing lasts forever. The years are starting to show on both Vicuna Heritage and Buttercup. Buttercup was taken out of production last year. Vicuna Heritage was bred for the last time to an outstanding Peruvian Accoyo male named Ajax.

Both of these old gals have had problems maintaining a healthy body condition during pregnancy and lactation in recent years. Alpacas are burdened with the fact that their crias are unusually large for the size of the mother. Alpaca mothers weighing between 120 and 140 pounds often give birth to babies weighing between 16 - 22 pounds. For all you human moms who are about the same weight as an alpaca think of a human birth weight of three times normal -- that's the plight of a female alpaca. Not only are the babies big, they grow rapidly so mothers need good nutrition and plenty of it to transfer enough nutrition to a growing cria that will usually weigh more than 100 pounds by one year of age.

As you can imagine, this birthing and nursing regimen wears even the best alpacas down. In South America alpacas are bred until they no longer can reproduce or succumb from birth related problems. When Buttercup lost weight too rapidly and became emaciated after her ninth baby it was decided she'd paid her way with the many fine offspring she'd produced and she was taken out of reproduction. Vicuna Heritage showed less stress than her soulmate, so she was allowed sufficient recovery time and rebred for the last time. This next cria will be be Vicuna Heritage's last. She'll be retired to eating, strolling, and lolling around without the burden of a youngster to drain her of the life force. She deserves retirement, after all she has more than paid her way. Now, she and Buttercup can hum (how they talk) to one another about their many children on the cold mornings they enjoy so much.

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Bonny Doon Alpacas
Santa Cruz, California
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