Suri Herd Improvement Program (SHIP)

What is the Primary Goal of S.H.I.P?

The primary goal of S.H.I.P. is to provide a variety of tools for herd improvement and management of Suri Phenotype and Fiber qualities for Suri Network members.

What are the Building Blocks of S.H.I.P?

A.  Suri alpaca breed standard.
B.  Suri alpaca and fiber research results.
C.  Suri show ring guidelines.
D.  Suri herd classification system for data collection.
E.  Suri EPD program and calculated results.

What is a Suri Herd Classification?

A. The evaluation of 16 phenotypic traits based on the Suri Breed Standard and research data.
B. A hands-on herd review by a certified Suri classifier using a point system for evaluating individual alpacas.
C. The collection of trait data for the Suri database and EPD programs.
D. Owners receive a herd report and access to an online database that identifies strengths and weaknesses of individual animals for specific traits that can be used in selection, breeding and marketing of their Suris.

How do I schedule a Herd Classification?

A. The breeder should review the entire document, Procedure
B. After reviewing the above-listed documents, call the Suri Network Office (970-586-5876) to discuss a preliminary review of the process.

How does a Classification Work?

1.  Suris approximately 12 months or older will be classified.
2.  Suris must have at least 3 inches of fleece OR be shorn with their fleeces in bags.
3.  The breeder must provide covered facilities and available handlers.
4.  Certified classifiers will average 7-10 minutes per alpaca with maximum 50 animals per day.
5.  Alpacas are scored per trait with 5 (High) 4 - 3 (Average) 2 – 1 (Low).
6.  ALL data scores are then reported and filed with the SN Office Suri Database for the EPD program.
7.  The breeder will receive a classification report.

Why should my whole herd be included in a classification?

A.  Data Collection is more accurate and useful if it includes the entire population. Using only selected animals minimizes the accuracy of EPD calculations. This is standard in the livestock industry.
B.  Trait data analysis results will become more valid as we include more data and pedigree links on all animals.
C.  Including all animals in data and all related pedigrees will reflect industry trends.

D.  At a minimum, all Suris used for breeding or fiber production (both now and anticipated in the future) should be included.

How often should my herd be classified?

A.  The suggestion at this time is a minimum of every 3 years for Classification and Fiber Test Data.  Fiber traits and to a lesser extent, conformation traits may change over time and reclassification is a good way to see which Suris are maintaining desirable scores and which are not.  

B.  Livestock and dairy industries collect data monthly for some and biannually for others.

What about new Suris being added to my herd after classification?

A.  If you have Suris on your farm that were not classified under a previous classification, you may have these additioanal Suris classified at any time.

B.  One scenario is that you may have have several Suris less than a year old last year that were not included in the classification so it would be a good time to get these classified.

C.  Another scenario is that you may have aquired new Suris since your previous classification and you would like to include these. 

Judge Conflict of Interest Clarification

Since one of our Classifiers, Cheryl Gehly, is an AOA Certified Senior Fleece Judge, we want to clarify the AOA Show Rules regarding showing in front of her in addition to having a SHIP Classification done on your herd.  Cheryl is a Fleece Judge only and thus must follow rules related to Fleece Show judging, specifically:

Chapter 6.  Rules Relating to Exhibitors and Handlers

Section 2.

H.  In the event that a Judge is hired to provide a herd evaluation (in this case S.H.I.P.), consultation or conduct a seminar and in so doing assesses the shorn fleece from any or all alpacas, those specific shorn fleeces are prohibited from being shown in front of that Judge in a Fleece Show.

Due to the anonymous nature of Fleece Show judging, no conflict exists as long as the S.H.I.P. Classification occurs on full fleece alpacas.  Once shorn, those fleeces are eligible to be entered in a show in which Cheryl is a judge.  The 9-month rule does not apply.

Walking Fleece Shows are Fleece competitions and the same rules follow.  However, given the public nature of the Walking Fleece Show, where the exhibitor accompanies the alpaca to the class for evaluation, the Rules Relating to Judges section of the AOA Show Handbook states the following:

H.  The Judge shall not be a house guest of any exhibitor within the week prior to, during, or the week following the show.

In the event that a S.H.I.P. Classification occurs within 9 months prior to a Walking Fleece Show where Cheryl is the Judge, those alpacas and their owners are prohibited from showing in front of her.  If other alpacas on the farm were not part of the S.H.I.P.  Classification and not evaluated by Cheryl,  those animals may be entered in the Walking Fleece Show, but the owner must appoint a handler to show an eligible alpaca on their behalf.

Why should I have Fiber Tests done?

A.  Laboratory Fiber Test Data is an objective measurement with exact values.

B.  Classification provides subjective values for 16 traits as viewed by classifiers. Classifiers will continue to work together for consistency in evaluating those traits.

C.  The compilation of both data sets, fiber tests and classification data, plus the ability of owners to add additional herd data in the future, will provide a more complete picture of the North American Suri population.

How often are EPD'S run?

A. Data collection will be on-going and maintained in the SN Suri Database.
B. Collected Classification Data will be transferred to the EPD Program Manager for analysis and results, termed an “EPD RUN”. The frequency of these runs will depend on the amount of new data collected and costs. Ideally runs would be done 1-2 times per year.
C. Fiber test data from all approved labs will be accepted as received.
D. EPD calculations will be run initially on the most important traits to fiber production and the preservation of the Suri phenotype.
E. Classification evaluates 8 fiber and 8 conformation traits for the database and present and future EPD runs.

What are the Classification Costs?

A. The classification fee is $500 per day for an estimated 50 alpacas and farms are encouraged to work together
to provide this number of alpacas.
B. The breeder(s) involved will pay all travel, lodging and meal costs for the classifier.  For more information, Check the S.H.I.P. Classification Expense Guidelines  document.

How can I reduce my costs for a classification?

A.  Select a classifier that can travel to your farm economically.  For example, is the distance to your farm/ranch such that the classifier can drive rather than fly?

B.  House and feed the classifer at your home.

C.  Encourage other Suri owners near you to conduct a classification during the same period.

D.  Read the document S.H.I.P. Preparation Guidelines to provide an efficient environment for the process.

What are the strengths of S.H.I.P?

A. Data collection is inclusive of ALL breeder’s Suris, not a group of selected alpacas as this would decrease the accuracy of the results.
B. Herd/Individual ratings in combination with the EPD results will provide breeders with tools to make rapid advancement in positive traits.
C. Identification of Suris with proven production of certain traits can improve the quality of the breeder’s herd.
D. Breeders may identify and market individual animals ranked high for production of certain traits.
E. EPD and Classification Data provide recognition in the livestock and camelid industries

How does classification differ from placing in the show ring?

A. Classification is an evaluation against the IDEAL based on the Suri Breed Standard.
B. Show ring judging is comparative only among those in that class on that specific day.
C. Show ring exhibition provides a subjective opinion and farm name exposure for a few individual alpacas, but is not inclusive of the entire herd.
D. Classification allows the breeder to categorize alpacas by their most valued use for future production of offspring and fiber.
E. Classification reports and EPD results provide owners with actual breeding tools for herd improvement.

Why should the EPD results be open for viewing by all Suri Network Members

A. Open data is the norm in all livestock industries.
B. The U.S. alpaca breed improvements will be made through use of accurate data available to all owners or
potential new owners.
C. Increases marketing ability for all breeders regardless of their available marketing budget.
D. Knowledge and education are valued tools for owners to identify Estimated Breeding Values for any alpaca.
E. Preserving and improving breed quality is based on wide utilization of EPD tools.

F. AOA EPDs are not currently open.  Each contributor has to opt in to make scores available for public viewing.  This tend to make the national herd look better than it acutally is because owners typically want to make scores public for only their best alpacas.


  Suri Network
P.O. Box 1984
Estes Park, Colorado   80517
Phone: (970) 586-5876
Fax: (970) 591-0007

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