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Glossary

     
Word   Meaning
     
Agistment   An arrangement where an alpaca owner boards his or her alpaca(s) at a location other than their own property, usually for a fee. A short period of free agistment is often offered with the purchase of alpacas if the new owner needs time to ready his pastures and facilities.
     
Agouti   A locus on the chromosome where colour occurs. Sometimes also called the wild or natural colour gene (this would be vicuna color in alpacas).
     
Alpaca   A sheeplike animal of the Andes. It is a South American member of the camel family, Camelidae (order Artiodactyla), of mammals; it's Latin name is Lama pacos. It is closely related to the llama, guanaco, and vicuņa, which are referred to collectively as lamoids.
     
Apron   The chest area of an alpaca that may exhibit longer, coarser fibre than that found on the neck or shoulder.
     
Blanket   Prime quality fleece usually found from the shoulder through the midsection to the base of the tail, extending down past the halfway point on the sides of an animal. Edges of the blanket are characterised by a change in the grade of the fibre. This area of prime fleece may vary greatly in size, depending on the uniformity of the fleece on an animal.
     
Clip   The total amount of fibre harvested by an alpaca in one growing period (which is usually one year). Older animals or animals with slow rates of growth may be shorn after a growing period of two years. Fleece that is left on an animal for more than one year may deteriorate in quality due to more extensive contamination, tenderness, sun bleaching, tip and fibre damage and felting.
     
Clostridial Diseases   Diseases caused by the Clostridia family of bacteria. These can be fatal and can live for years in the soil. Alpacas should have a regular vaccination programme as advised by a vet.
     
Coefficient of variation   A statistical term that expresses the standard deviation (SD) of of a group of fibre diameters as a percentage or average. It is computed by dividing the SD by the mean diameter (of all fibres in the sample) and then multiplying by 100. A CV of 20 percent is accepted as normal in many kinds of fibre-producing animals. A low SD and CV are usually indicative of a low "prickle factor", which is desirable in any fibre product, especially a garment.
     
Conformation   The shape or contour of the alpaca, resulting from the appropriate arrangement, or balance, of all its body parts.
     
Cria   (Cre-a) A baby alpaca, usually younger than five months. The word derives from the Spanish terms for creation and nursing.
     
Crimp   The degree of corrugation or regular wave found in locks of fibre. This can vary from an extremely tight crimp with many closely spaced corrugations to a lock that is completely straight with no wave or crimp whatsoever. The presence of crimp may give more elasticity to the fibre once it is processed into yarn and result in better performance of the yarn.
     
Crinkle   Crinkle is related to crimp and is used to describe the wavy characteristics of each fibre as opposed those characteristics of crimp found in all fibres uniformly in each lock.
     
CV   See "coefficient of variation"
     
Dam   An alpaca's mother.
     
Density   The number of fibres in a specific area of an alpaca's body.
     
Dystocia   Difficulty in giving birth or being born.
     
Fineness   The diameter of an individual fibre, often measured in microns with extremely precise laboratory instruments. Genetics, nutrition, health, stress and age may affect this measure, and it can change dramatically from year to year.
     
Genotype   The entire genetic constitution of an individual alpaca.
     
Handle   The way an alpaca fibre feels when touched; sometimes used interchangeably with "softness."
     
Hembra   A female alpaca (South American origin - seldom used in New Zealand).
     
Herdsire   A male alpaca with genetic characteristics desirable for breeding.
     
Histogram   The most common method of graphically presenting quantitative data relating to fleece characteristics. The variable of interest, such as fiber diameter measured in microns, is placed on the horizontal axis and the frequency values, such as the percentage of fibers per micron, are placed on the vertical axis. Typically depicts the measurement of 2000 fibres in scale.
     
Huacaya   A type of alpaca with fine fibre and a woolly appearance.
     
Huarizo   Offspring of an alpaca female and a llama male. Lacks the size and weight-bearing ability of the llama, and the fibre quality of the alpaca is compromised.
     
Linebreeding   The mating of individuals within a particular line. A mating system designed to maintain a substantial degree of relationship to a highly regarded ancestor or group of ancestors without causing high levels of inbreeding. Mike Safely (Northwest Alpacas, USA) and other knowledgeable breeders contend that major genetic improvement in the future is unlikely without using some form of linebreeding. Linebreeding, with all of its faults, is the best way to insure that an alpaca is likely to be prepotent when it comes to passing on its characteristics.
     
Lock   An organized cluster of fibres, in size anywhere from a noodle to a man's thumb. In a suri, the fibers may twist together to form a ringlet.
     
Lustre   The texture of the fleece and how much it reflects light and looks attractively glossy. Sometimes described as brightness.
     
Macho   A male alpaca (South American origin).
     
Maiden   Mature female ready to breed for the first time - usually between 12 and 18 months old in New Zealand. Generally older (18 to 24 months) in the United States.
     
Medulation   Hair-like fibres with a hollow core. Ideally these should occur very infrequently in an alpaca fleece, as they are difficult to dye and are uncomfortable to encounter in a garment. Often referred to as "guard hair" or "kemp." Medullation is more prominent in the apron and belly area.
     
Micron   A measurement of fibre diameter, equal to 1/25,000 of an inch, or 1/1000th of a millimeter. Used to refer to the fineness of a fibre. A smaller micron number equals a finer fibre.
     
Midside   A point approximately midway between the front and rear legs and just lower than halfway down the side of an animal. This is the typical spot for obtaining a fleece sample that can be sent for testing (histogram).
     
Orgle   Characteristic rapid grunting sound made by breeding males during copulation.
     
Parturition   The process of giving birth; also called birthing or unpacking.
     
Phenotype   The entire physical, biochemical, and physiological makeup of an individual alpaca, as determined both genetically and environmentally.
     
Roan   Alpaca fleece colour determined by a fairly uniform mix of coloured fibres. For example, the fleece of a silver alpaca is actually made up of intermittent black and white fibres.
     
SD   See "standard deviation"
     
Shear   Remove an animal's fleece with electric shears (similar to dog clippers) or scissor-like hand shears. Alpacas are generally shorn yearly to preserve fleece quality and allow them to be comfortable in summer weather.
     
Sire   An alpaca's father or a male alpaca with the genetic characteristics desirable for breeding.
     
Skirt   Remove vegetation and other contaminants from a shorn fleece.
     
Spit-off   When female alpacas become pregnant, they quickly become unwilling to be approached by a male. A pregnant alpaca will usually run and spit at a male that approaches her, and repeated 'spit-offs' are a good sign that a pregnancy is progressing normally. An ultrasound scan is used to confirm pregnancy after 35 to 40 days.
     
Standard Deviation   Standard deviation (SD) is a statistical term that indicates the amount of variation occurring in a group of fibres using the average as the starting point. For example, if an alpaca's fleece averages 22 microns and the SD is 5 microns, 68 percent of the fibre is expected to be between 17 and 27 microns. The lower the SD, the more uniform the fibre distribution and the more desirable the fibre is for processing purposes.
     
Staple   A lock of fibre containing a number of individual fibres. Staple/lock structure can vary significantly within a type of animal such as huacaya alpacas as well as between types such as huacaya alpacas and suri alpacas.
     
Suri   A type of alpaca known for its high-lustre fleece with fibre that has no crimp or crinkle, that tends to hang parallel to the body of the animal and that twists into pencil or rope-like locks/staples, giving the animal a slender, fluid silhouette.
     
Tui   A weanling (see weanling in glossary) alpaca.
     
Vicuņa   A small (40 kilograms) South American camelid with an extremely fine cinnamon and white coat. Some consider the Vicuņa to be the direct ancestor of the alpaca. The fleece of the Vicuņa is even finer than alpaca fleece, albeit considerably less dense.
     
Weanling   A young alpaca, usually between six and 12 months of age, that is no longer nursing.
     
Wether   A neutered male alpaca.
     
Wool cap   Wool on the alpaca's head and between its ears which is considered a desirable aesthetic quality; also known as the topknot. Considered to be an indicator as to the overall fleece characteristics of an alpaca.
     

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