Enhanced Alpacas

Project title: Integrating genomics, phenotyping, and nutrition strategies to enhance alpaca fiber quality and survival in Arequipa’s highlands.

Principal investigators: Dr. Luiz Brito, and Dennis Pilares Figueroa,

Problem statement and need

Peru is the world leader in alpaca production, with a population of over 4 million animals. Thousands of rural Peruvian families raise flocks of alpacas at elevations of more than 4,000 masl, under harsh environmental conditions, including in the Arequipa region.

The alpaca fiber market is the sole source of income for many Peruvians, but in 2017, as many as 180,000 alpacas died due to a cold snap in Peru. Similar occurrences were reported in other years, including in the Winter of 2022, as a changing climate batters the Arequipa agriculture market at both ends: colder seasons in the winter and dryer seasons in the summer. In addition to increased mortality due to climatic events, various other issues jeopardize the alpaca industry sustainability, including low fiber quality (and consequently, low price), birth rates as low as 40-60%, and reduced growth and survival of animals raised in high altitudes. The low productive performance is mainly due to poor pasture quality and a mismatch of genetic potential of the alpaca population to the extreme climatic conditions of the region and the fiber quality level required by the market.

Proposed research program and outputs

The main objectives and outputs of the project are:

1) Develop genomic-based breeding strategies for increasing the genetic diversity and improving the genetic merit of alpaca herds for fiber quality and survival in the region of Arequipa.

  • Assess the genomic diversity of alpaca herds.
  • Purchase 50 genetically diverse males from other regions of Peru and donate them to alpaca breeders in the Arequipa region. Do genetic evaluation of these alpacas.
  • Implement a laboratory for measuring alpaca fiber quality and train Sumbay Station staff.
  • Develop the Sumbay alpaca breeding program to serve as a demonstration site for alpaca producers from the region and as a center for exchanging genetic material with local farmers.

2) Evaluate nutritional management practices and identify high-quality forage adapted to the Arequipa highlands for meeting the nutritional needs of alpacas during different phases of their production cycle.

  • Introduce forage species that require neither irrigation nor chemical treatment to provide adequate nutrition.
  • Assess impact of diet on fiber and meat quality, survival, and growth rate.

3) Develop outreach activities and training material for alpaca farmers, UNSA students, and extension

  • Work closely with UNSA faculty and staff to develop teaching/training materials on alpaca genetics and breeding, reproductive management, pasture and mineral supplementation strategies, nutrient analyses, and use of forage resources to meet the nutrient needs of alpacas.
  • Develop and teach two summer courses in the second year of the project for UNSA students and professors and other Peruvian universities.


Lori Hoagland

Lori Hoagland
Professor, Purdue University
Horticulture And Landscape Architecture
Nexus Institute Co-Director

Walter Daniel Leon-Salas

Walter Daniel Leon-Salas
Associate Professor, Purdue University
Purdue Polytechnic Institute
Nexus Institute Co-Director

Dennis Macedo

Dennis Macedo
Associate Professor, UNSA
Nexus Institute Co-Director

Purdue University