COMPLEMENTARY MATINGS –
THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL BREEDING
The key to successful breeding of Chinchilla is proper mating! The old saying “like begets like’’ is relatively accurate in breeding of any type of livestock. And Chinchillas are no different.
Using genetic terminology, we have the phenotype and the genotype. The phenotype is what we see in an animal. The genotype is what is actually there in the genes. All a person can do is mate according to observation or what we see, and that is the phenotype. The established breeder who has good quality knows that with certain traits in certain lines of animals that the phenotype and the genotype are practically identical.
However, for all practical purposes on totally unknown unrelated background animals, mating to complement the phenotypic characteristics is the only workable way to mate them. This means never to put major weaknesses together. In other words, if a female Chinchilla is considered for breeding and she is evaluated and found to be strong in all characteristics except density (the thickness of fur), the only way to improve her is to mate her to a male that is good in all characteristics but exceptionally strong in density. We can compare a Chinchilla with a strong chain and say a chain is no stronger than its weakest line. Improve that weakest link, and you have strengthened the chain.
Building a Chinchilla is like building a strong chain – it is no stronger that its weakest link. So, when one evaluates his females to put into breeding, he must analyze the approximate eight basic characteristics and say which is the weakest or which needs improving the most. All the trial and error matings in the world will not work unless the male selected for her is good in all characteristics but superior in the qualities she is weakest in.
The biggest stumbling block is that most ranchers do not realize the importance of understanding and identifying the different characteristics of the animals he is working with.
All the genetic theory in the world will not work unless one has a good knowledge and understanding of the characteristics he is working with in the Chinchilla. I have known of “computer freaks’’, as they called themselves, who thought that they were going to solve all the breeding problems with a computer. The one major fallacy, neither the computer nor the operator knew the first thing about Chinchilla fur quality.
It does not take a genetic genius to produce superior quality animals. It takes only a burning desire to excel and hard work. In most cases in practically all lines of livestock, the superior strains of dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, dogs, and yes, even Chinchilla have been developed by breeders who have never read a genetics book. In some cases, these fine breeders could barely read and write. In most cases, the genetic theorist and many authors of genetic books cannot apply their theory on their own farms. I have heard many people make such comments as, "Oh, it may not look so good, but it has champion quality in the bloodlines"; And "we don’t pay attention to the looks the first or second generation, we just mate according to bloodline and we will get just what we are looking for the third and fourth generation." This is a bunch of hogwash!
These people try to impress others but only end up kidding themselves if they do actually follow these practices because they never seem to produce good animals. Dozens of times a person may produce a Grand Show Champion or a very superior animal. Let’s say it is a male; it is put into breeding. Then, other brothers and close relatives are kept and used, or sold to others, with great expectations, only to find that they never produced as good quality as the champion that looked good.
What I am saying I guess, is that most of the time the phenotype and the genotype are closely the same in good lines of stock; And if a person makes a study, fully understands and can identify the different characteristics, he can become a good breeder if he will mate his animals according to what he sees in them (the phenotype) and will complement the major weaknesses.
I have observed ranchers making such comments as, “this animal or that animal took a Grand Show Champion, etc, but produces poor offspring.” They also blame the show system for being no help to them and being inconsistent when the real problem is their inability to mate animals. Some people want to buy only blue ribbon winning animals when the truth is many times blue ribbon animals mated together will not produce the desired results if the characteristics of quality are not perfectly complemented.
We have observed many people who have had good stock in the past only to lose it in two or three years due to improper matings, and they then put the blame on a poor start of breeding stock. The saying is often heard, “I bought a male from ”X” rancher and it just did not work with my herd or animals from “so-and-so’s” herd. Ninety-five percent of the time if the stock purchased was of good acceptable quality and the reason that it didn’t work was that like weaknesses were combined; For example, a person might buy a male that possibly could have taken a blue ribbon at a show and was excellent in all characteristics, except for clarity of color. That male at the show in top prime, looking its best and covering or hiding much of its cast, would have a lot of eye appear. If this male was purchased by a rancher whose main need was clarity of color, it would do him no good and his offspring would be worse color if mated to the rancher’s already off-colored females.
Another example could be texture or fur strength. These two characteristics work together much of the time. Years ago, texture or very fine fur fibers was stressed almost to the point in many cases of getting it too fine and silky and causing it to lose strength if not dense enough or not prime. An animal could have everything except fit in this category (that is, too fine a texture). In perfect prime at a show, it may go to the top of the show. However, mate this animal to one that might lack eye appeal in a show because of being too coarse in texture and one with lots of king hair which some judges would say looked ‘too minky’ and the resulting texture is theoretically ideal.
The saying that certain lines ‘click’ with others is a far overrated saying. The person that this works for is probably knowledgeable in proper mating procedures – that is complementary matings.
Size and fur length go together. Many times a rancher takes his animals to a show and they get knocked down because of size. Yet his pelts are of acceptable size but criticized for lack of loft. This rancher could get confused stating that his pelts are big enough yet his animals are too small. He could also again criticize the show system if he didn’t realize the problem. All this rancher needs to do is increase the length of fur and the loft is improved in his pelts and the size of his animals is also increased.
This fur length can also be a problem if too long. In instances where density is also lacking, the fur can lose strength and lay over if it is too long. Also, if it is too fine and silky this problem is compounded.
Conformation is another area that is confusing to many. Some animals have what appears to be a dipped neck or when sitting in a show cage take on the appearance of lacking a full neck. Many times these same animals will make a good pelt. This can be because the fur length, density, and veiling are good in the neck area even though the body of the neck dips down. The neck is the weakest part of a pelt and is generally the area needing the most attention. Another animal may be blockier as neck conformation yet lack density and veiling the neck and consequently have a weak necked pelt. The way an animal will sit, especially in a show cage, is an inherited characteristic. If a judge says an animal appears to have a weak neck, one must be able to identify why it is weak in order to improve the situation. If a person wants to compete well in shows as well as produce good pelts, he must breed for animals that have a relatively full neck (body-structure wise). Also, the animal must be dense and well-veiled in the neck and be one that shows off well his good characteristics by sitting well in a show can. This CAN all be obtained in an animal.
In very, very tough show competition, (in either animal or pelt shows), generally density is the limiting factor at the end of the show. To be a color champion, an animal must have an overall balance of good qualities. Put all of these color champions together and you generally have adequate size, color, conformation, veiling, texture, etc. But that animal with super dense fur really stands out among them.
Also, when approaching the ultimate in breeding, one animal is generally better by only a slight edge). This slight edge accomplishment may be defined as refinement. This can only be obtained by a thorough understanding and application of complementary breeding practices. Texture, veiling and bar now come into very important play. The perfect texture, which is the balance between fineness and coarseness of the fur fiber, is very hard to hold once obtained. I firmly believe one must have both extreme working on his ranch as a check and balance to feed in at appropriate times when needed.
Veiling and bar work together as the veiling is the outermost tip of the fur fiber at the end of the white bar. An animal is light or dark in color phase in proportion to the length of the bar and veiling tip. A light animal has a very long bar and short veiling tip. An animal need not be dark to produce a dark pelt. A pelt is generally one or two color phases darker than the animal it came form. A medium to dark medium animal can make a relatively dark pelt.
The bar of a Chinchilla can be anywhere from pure white to blended gray or blue gray. A bar that is distinctly clearly defined and white gives an animal more eye appeal and character than a blended bar.
The bar and veiling is where the clearness of color or off-color is measured. An animal can be clear in the veiling and off-color in the bar. It can also be clear in the bar and off-color in the veiling. In a show, if a judge says an animal is casty or off-color but doesn’t describe where it is off, the rancher must understand the fundamental characteristics to know how to correct the problem.
Breed for that animal that is large and blocky, super dense, clear and well-veiled and then add the refinement of just the right texture and fur length with a clear, distinct bar and you have a champion animal that will produce pelts that will top the market.
There are two key words the rancher must always remember -- SELECT and CULL. Your eyes and intelligence SELECT and your conscience CULLS. The wise farmer throws sentiment out the window in order to obtain and maintain quality animals. Herd Improvement must take precedence over Herd Expansion.
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