A new genetic coat colour test has the potential to change the way the alpaca industry operates and make it easier to breed highly sought after 'classic grey' stock.
Neogen recently released its new Alpaca Coat Colour Test which will provide breeders with a new level of confidence in breeding progeny carrying coat colours desired by fleece mills and fashion designers.
With a few drops of the animal's blood Neogen's laboratory in Gatton, Queensland, can help identify the genetics behind the alpaca's coats.
Belgian Huacaya breeder Laurence Varlet was the first commercial breeder to use the test and said breeders could begin marketing animals with certain proven genetic values.
"Until now it's been impossible to know prior to breeding if our lighter coloured animals carry grey genetics," she said.
"Sometimes you can be 99 per cent sure an animal with a light coat will produce healthy grey offspring so you go ahead and breed them and then spring rolls around and you've got crias (juvenile alpacas) with different coloured coats.
"It can be disappointing because you're back to square one and you must wait at least another year to try again."
The genomic test was developed in collaboration with Dr Kylie Munyard from Curtin University in Western Australia.
Dr Munyard said unlocking the genetic key to coat colour has been difficult but would make a big difference to breeders.
"Coat colour in alpacas is a complex trait, and there are two main genes responsible for the base coat, which are both assayed in this test," Dr Munyard said.
"The test also identifies animals with the 'cryptic grey' coat pattern which is generally too pale to be seen.
"With this test, breeders have the opportunity to test white or light fawn alpacas, or those with uncertain patterns, for the mutation found in 'classic grey' alpacas.
"In addition to identifying the grey phenotype, the test is also useful for non-grey animals, in identifying the base coat colour and determining common progeny colours from parent's determined base colour."