Alpacas: The Synthesis of a Miracle

by Mike Safley

The following text is from the book cover:

For thousands of years, the alpaca, a New World camel related to the vicuna, has grazed quietly in the high altitude of the Peruvian Andes.    In 1992, Peru created the Council of National Camelids of South America (CONACS), and it became legal, for the first time, to export Peruvian alpacas to other nations.  Today, the animals once renowned for producing the "fibre grown closest to heaven," are grazing worldwide, in North America, Australia, and Europe.

Alpacas: The Synthesis of a Miracle is the human story of the alpaca as told in the biographies of Julio Barreda, one of the world's most highly regarded alpaca breeders, and Frank Webster Michell, innovative textile producer.  Both men contributed mightily to the modern market demand for alpaca.  Safley traces Barreda's life from his introduction to alpacas at six years of age, through the trying times of land reform and bloody terrorism, to his determined and systematic improvement of the world famous Accoyo herd.  Michell, an Englishman, came to Peru looking for chinchilla, and stayed to create a fully integrated, international alpaca textile industry based in Peru.  Drawn from personal interview, family documents and old herd records, this history is of inestimable value to those interested in  alpacas.

In this comprehensive text, Safley covers the current use of modern genetic theory by Peruvian, North American, and Australian breeders.  He discusses the role that the show ring plays in the selection of animals, for better or for worse, and how breeders can use modern genetic selection theory to scientifically raise the quality of their herds.  Past president of the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association and the Alpaca Registry, Inc, Safley proposes breeding standards that will lead to an improvement in both suris and huacayas.  He does not shy away from controversial subjects such as the crossbreeding of suris and huacayas, or the use of inbreeding to fix desirable characteristics and eliminate possible genetic defects.  

In the past, serious alpaca breeders have had to search out breeding information from texts written for sheep, cattle, or horse breeders.  Woven throughout this extensively researched text are Safley's fifteen years of personal experience breeding alpacas, documented information gleaned from dozens of trips to Peru, and conversations with Don Julio Barreda, and textile manufacturers, such as the Michell family and representatives of Grupo Inca.  Here, gathered together for the first time, is all the information alpaca owners need to breed their animals for specific traits and to scientifically improve the quality of their entire herd.

Alpacas:  Synthesis of a Miracle is compelling reading for anyone who owns or breeds alpacas, or anyone merely interested in the history of these enchanting animals whose luxury fibre was once worn by the Incan Sun Kings and today graces the patrons of haute couture.