What is the value of a gelding alpaca?
By Christine Perala Gardiner
Another name for a gelded alpaca is a "fiber male", a non-breeding animal. What
value are these boys to an alpaca industry busy breeding for a future textile
market? Fiber males have values sometimes overlooked in the rush to produce
breeding livestock. First and foremost, the alpaca is a fiber production
industry. Gelded males have lower levels of testosterone, so they keep their
fleece fineness years longer than intact breeding males. The primary measure of
a gelding's value is the fineness, uniformity and quantity of his fleece.
Is that it? We don't think so. There are many other qualities that make gelding
alpacas valuable animals. Perhaps their next greatest quality is their looks;
they are just beautiful creatures, in a world where there is never enough
beauty. They're always photogenic, and their soulful eyes speak to the human
heart. They're by nature gentle creatures without much defense, always alert,
cautious and shy. By virtue of their size, alpacas are naturally good with
human children, as they are with their own. Geldings make the best companions
for children, since boys don't have to look after crias of their own.
Well-trained geldings have greater value than those who run when humans come
Geldings can do the work of interacting with people better than breeding girls.
Interacting with humans is hard work for alpacas - we are so much clumsier and
louder than they are. It's stressful for girls and can impact their growing
babies, but boys can take the stress better. Geldings are the best candidates
for animal therapy; going into hospitals to let patients touch them, meeting
with groups of school children, visiting retirement homes, greeting the public
in public places. Lots more people would love to see and touch them, and there
is great potential for the niche market small business to train and present
alpacas, to assist with healing people who have suffered emotional or physical
damage. Gelded males can be gentler, and for this purpose gentle alpacas have
greater value than fierce ones.
Some geldings are naturally more fierce by nature, and will challenge a predator
when a threat comes near his herd. These "guard alpacas" have greater courage
in the face of danger. In Australia, gelded guard alpacas have helped the sheep
ranchers reduce their losses to predators, and have saved ranchers many times
more than their cost.
But don't neglect one of the alpacas' most enduring farm products; manure.
Alpaca manure is fantastic fertilizer, either raw for trees and shrubs or as
compost for vegetable crops. A local source of wholesome farm nutrients is, or
soon will be, a great asset to small-scale sustainable agriculture. Alpacas and
llamas could help to revitalize fresh food production near our cities, where
people live, reducing our vulnerability to terrorist attack against the food
transportation system. Healthy soils are living soils, and alpaca manure can be
a key ingredient in recovering soils capable of growing the best medicine for
people, healthy food.
Put together, what is the value of a gelding? The answer depends on how creative
folks are at putting together these many values into an integrated, healthy
farm system that includes farmers, children, the infirm and the healthy, with
fiber and food production. This could paint a beautiful picture for the future
of our society.
Christine Perala Gardiner
The Farm at Tickle Creek, Sandy Oregon