An Association on the move… and we know where we're going!
Early in 2006 the CLAA contracted a consultant to help the association develop a strategic plan for our industry. The process began with directors from the CLAA, Alpaca Canada, Llama Canada, and various industry representatives attending a one-day workshop at our office in Calgary. In March of 2006 a comprehensive survey of the CLAA membership was conducted on a number of wide ranging long-term goals that originated from the industry brain storming session. Participation in the survey was exceptional with over 42% of our members responding. Support for all stated goals was over 90%. In late 2006 committees comprising association members were formed and the work required to move the Association, it's breeders and it's alpacas forward, began.
Government funding received in late 2005 had already helped us to develop a Genetic Evaluation Program to address future quality and production needs (bearing in mind one of the mandates of all breed associations incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act is breed improvement). In conjunction with a professional consultant, industry leaders, breeders, and fibre experts developed a list of measurable characteristics/traits of interest and future economic importance. A program was then developed to use the objective data gathered on these traits to assist breeders to move more rapidly in a positive direction. The G.E.P. was introduced to the membership in mid 2007. While the program can already assist breeders in making important breeding decisions within their own herds in 3 to 5 years it is anticipated we will have enough data to start more meaningful statistical analysis on these traits and develop relevant and useful information on our National herd. Data will be gathered and analysed on an annual basis.
The genetic evaluation program is the cornerstone of one of the CLAA's now stated goals to become an International leader in the development and export of alpaca genetics. Currently Canadian members successfully market live breeding stock internationally, There is perhaps in the future a potential to develop a Semen and Embryo export market, which would facilitate this marketing of genetics internationally. To our advantage Canada is already well known world wide for expertise in exporting livestock genetics and our Government takes great pride in this. With our respected registry and focus on sound and science based breeding practices we have a real opportunity to become world leaders in alpaca genetics. The CLAA is strongly focussed on this is a long-range goal, recognising that we first need to quantify that we have some of the best genetics in the world (G.E. program), and secondly to make international breeders aware of our genetics. The CLAA in recent years has substantially increased its International advertising budget and continuation of this also forms a large part of the Associations future plans.
With the goal of being a world leader in camelid genetics our surveyed members also indicated the need to be able to access genetics of animals that will positively contribute to our own herds. Many of these are currently being bred and developed in other countries. Taking advantage of breed improvement that is occurring in these countries is not quick or easily accomplished. A committee was formed in 2006 to review options and consider policies regarding registry recognition, artificial insemination and embryo transfer. Policies of these magnitudes require, of course membership approval and the first of these policies are expected to go to the membership in late 2007.
These first three goals are all members directed long-term visions for the CLAA and if successful will help to ensure demand for Canadian alpaca breeding stock genetics. An internationally respected registry with strict rules for admittance. A genetic evaluation program that identifies animals capable of making positive contributions to our industry. Possibly an embryo transfer program that allows us to more rapidly replicate those sought after genetics. Our ability to carefully select those animals from foreign registries that will complement the improvements we are making and that comply with our rigid registry standards. Promotion of our registry and the gains we are making to existing and emerging markets. These will all lead to an increased demand for Canadian genetics.
The future of our industry of course will not rely exclusively on developing International markets. We have a thriving domestic industry and the CLAA has an active committee working towards the goal of increasing the awareness of alpacas in Canada. Communicating with members and potential members the benefits of belonging to a dynamic pure bred livestock association such as ours and promoting alpacas in Canada as viable and profitable candidates for livestock diversification are just two of this committee's functions.
Progress has also been made in the all-important area of government awareness. The association applied for and received federal government funds in late 2005. This is the first time in the history of the CLAA that the association has received federal government funding. It is likely just the start. Our animals thrive in any area in Canada, do well on marginal land, and are perfect for smallholdings. The government is concerned about the declining rural population, and is eager to assist projects that will lead to agricultural diversification and development of new industry. We could be just that perfect fit and communication of this message also forms an important part of the CLAA strategic plan.
With a potentially increasing alpaca population in Canada the planning development process also identified the lack of Canadian research with camelids, as well as a shortage of experience camelid veterinarians. The CLAA and its members have pledged to be proactive in supporting research both financially and with accumulated expertise. In the ensuing years the CLAA will increase it's support of camelid research in Canada, and suggest and participate in research projects that will result in long term benefit to our industry.
The CLAA and it's members recognise that a consistent breeding approach, a consistent marketing approach with a consistent message to new breeders, industry, and to government is of utmost importance as we move ahead. The Government funding received in late 2005 allowed us considerable consultant support to assess our marketing plans and strategy. The Association has now developed a comprehensive, ambitious but achievable series of goals. Importantly, ones that were met with near unanimous membership approval. Breeders of alpacas in Canada are moving rapidly forward and they know where they're going.