Are You a Breeder or a Producer?
by Niki Kuklenski
Given the current climate of the camelid rescue population, it seemed appropriate to discuss breeding responsibility. Breeders and rescue groups have struggled for forever to find a balance of placing animals in responsible homes that don’t hurt the breeder’s potential sales.
Right now, many farms are struggling with wanting to breed their animals but feeling guilty given the recent rescue of 600 mostly llamas (and a few alpacas) from the defunct Montana Large Animal Sanctuary in Montana. Coupled with the dispersal of the former Meadow Wood Farm herd, it has left many breeders and responsible owners scared to breed. Truly there is a glut of unwanted llamas and alpacas all over the country. Mostly depending on where you live and who you have producing locally. There is a HUGE difference between a “producer” and a “breeder.”
In order to carry on bloodlines, styles, etc. you have to have breeding. Our registries and species would perish if we did not. It is important however to contribute to the improvement of the species and have an end goal in mind for the animal you are producing. In camelids, we do not have an official “cull market” to get rid of mistakes and experiments like they do in cattle, sheep etc. Thus, it makes it even more important that we breed carefully and with an end use/product in mind.
My definition of a producer is someone that has a goal of simply making more of something, in this case camelids. A breeder is someone who is pursuing breeding to improve on the species with an end product in mind. This end product has a market and specific traits, not just fiber or a cute face. The product is built on over a number of years and a breeder has the ability to carefully select for the traits they want and slowly create it. They also get a consistent product. When you look at their herd, you can see that consistency in their animals. This product is also in demand because of the quality it possesses.
Producers have throughout our history ruined companion animals (horses, dogs, llamas etc.) because of our need to select aesthetically pleasing traits that are not functional. We always seem to find a way to mess with “Mother Nature” and try to create something we think is better because we know better. Look at the recent designer dog craze. It has created a bunch of dogs that have severe health issues and they have been marketed and sold by backyard breeders for families.
In the camelid world, I have seen a lot of rescues throughout my 25+ years of owning them. The vast majority of these animals come from people that were either taken advantage of in a pyramid type scenario, sold animals they should have never had or bought into breeding thinking they were going to make lots of money. Once they end up with a bunch of babies they couldn’t sell and hadn’t trained, they dumped them and so begins the cycle of rescue. You rarely see exceptional packers, 4-H animals, trained drivers and more in rescue. It should also be noted, that depending on where you live, the market for selling these types of animals can vary greatly. Everyone breeds for the showring and fiber, who truly breeds for packers, 4-H animals, driving animals etc.?
I encourage each owner and breeder to consider breeding only what there is a market for, to produce far less animals per year and lastly focus on the training of these animals. If we all had a “breeder” mentality, I think that our rescue issues would decrease significantly. Breeding is not a dirty word, but it should be done responsibly.