Thursday, 4 August 2016

REM to B-E-W

"we're off to a new paddock - Florina, you shut the gate!"

Those who know me, will know that REM are one of my favourite rock groups...Rapid Eye Movement, a tenuous link to this years only cria, who turned out to be a 'BEW', a Blue-Eyed White. We had hoped to have four cria running around this summer, but two females lost their pregnancies over the winter, one female, (as you may have read in the previous blog) had a still-birth, and the final one, born the same day, was a white boy, with a small grey spot...and over the next twenty-four hours, I realised he had blue eyes. I had been aware of the existence of such alpacas for many years, and knew that it wasn't an ideal condition, but I hadn't come across one, and didn't know anyone with one - it seems to be a bit of a taboo subject - and so began research into what we had been presented with. Perhaps a little ironically, the apple variety he was named after, being an 'H' year for us, was Hawkeye Delicious, before we confirmed his condition the next day.
Apple Vale Hawkeye Delicious
Apple Vale Elstar, our fawn female from Apple Vale Bramley (sire: CME Centurion), had been sired by Qjori of Patou, and knowing that Qjori had some grey ancestors, we selected a grey stud male (Urcuchillay Smokin' Ace) to cover her, in the hope that a grey cria would be forthcoming. Well, it appears we have a male carrying a grey gene, so that's a positive.

What have a I learned from my research:
One of the six foundation white sires imported into Australia, must have been BEW - he produced 25% grey cria from all colours of females. The other five produced 3% greys, mostly from grey females. This sire was confirmed as BEW by his last owner.
 
What is clear, is that the phenotype of BEW is the result of multiple genotype, a combination of genes, and is not due to a single BEW gene, and it is not a disease.

BEW is most likely to occur between two whites, grey x white or grey x multi;
 
Mating grey to a dark-eyed white has higher risk of producing BEW;  A BEW should not be mated to a grey or a broken-coloured mate.The best mating would be to a solid black or dark bay;
 
Some all-white alpacas have white spots on them, but of course you cannot see them, and it is possible to get a BEW from an all-white bred to a white-spotted, or grey alpaca. To eliminate BEW's from the gene pool, we would have to eliminate all greys, white spotted, and patterned alpacas, and a good number of white alpacas would still have white spot alleles, which we would initially be unaware of - so it just isn't a realistic course of action.

BEW's are often deaf, and we are fairly sure that Hawkeye cannot hear. It is considered that in a captive, farmed situation that is of little disadvantage, as their sight is so good, and they are aware of the herd movements - certainly Hawkeye charges around the paddock freely like any other cria. He is quite a character, and will happily chew or suck your shorts, and has become a bit of a nuisance to his aunties.

They often have very good fleece qualities, as they may come from the best white-breeding lines, and some consider that the best use of Blue-Eyed Whites is to produce more, possibly better-fleeced grey and coloured alpacas. Clearly careful selection of the mates is paramount, for this to produce satisfactory results.

It is too early for us to say whether that will be our course, but it gives us possibilities from a dismal summer of births, or lack of them. 

I understand that there is currently no formal BAS judging policy on them, but there are moves to make the situation clearer. There's more information in the references given at the end of this blog.

"...oh, no, I said too much, I haven't said enough....." Losing My Religion - REM;


Meanwhile, we have re-mated or mated our eligible females, and so we look forward to next summer in that respect. We got our hay in a couple of weeks ago, between showers  - 100 bales which usually sees us through the winter. 

We have a couple of short-fleece shows - the North Devon Show yesterday, saw Apple Vale Fortune lose his un-beaten record for this summer, when he came second, in a reversal of a previous result, to Alpha Bilbo, who went on to become Champion white male. Next week, Ellingham and Ringwood. Today we welcomed a lovely couple of potential new alpaca owners, and introduced them to the herd.

Credits: Elizabeth Paul - The Alpaca Colour Key 2011 (available from Classical Mile End) 
Merriweather and Merriweather - Nyala Farms 2007
A better use for Blue-Eyed Whites - Alpaca World Magazine - Elizabeth Paul - Sept. 2005
 

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