There are many websites available, which provide
useful information. Some are from Universities, Alpaca Industry
Sources, Veterinarians, Alpaca Breeders, and other sources. Using
Google and Alpacas (or Alpaca and the specific information will help).
Useful websites we have found are:
- AOBA.com (Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association)
- ARI.com (The Alpaca Registry)
- Washington State University
- Oregon State University
- Ohio State University, Auburn University
- Northwest Alpacas has a prolific website with information (and a marketing machine)
- Alpaca's Magazine
- American Livestock
Books we have found useful are:
- Murray Fowler - Medicine and Surgery for the South American Camelid
- Eric Hoffman - The Complete Alpaca
- Norm Evans Field Manual
- Ohio State's Notes from 2002 Camelid Vet Conference
- Ian Watts - The International Alpaca Handbook
Visit 5-6 farms in your area.
Alpaca breeders are helpful. They want to show you their farm, their
alpacas, and answer your questions. While they want to sell you
alpacas, MOST are sincere in their desire to help you rather than just
foist alpacas on you. They love the alpacas, are afflicted with the
disease, many are certifiable alpacaholics and can think of and talk of
little else (some need a 12-step program). Most are genuine, some just
want to sell you an animal, but most genuinely love and believe in
what they are doing. They are honest and truly want you to be
successful. They also know you may become addicted and want more
alpacas. Visit and talk to many; learn, compare. They all have four
legs and fiber but qualitative differences make the values of one
$5,000 and another $35,000. To the inexperienced eye, these differences
are minor. Learn the differences to give yourself the best opportunity.
Attend shows, conferences, and seminars. There are industry or
university classes and seminars on:
- Farm Layout - Dr. Anderson - OSU paper
- Breeding Philosophy
- Neo-natal and Birthing
Formulate a business plan
before you purchase. Do you plan to own alpacas as pets, for fiber
production for your own crafts; or as an alpaca breeder's business
either small or large?
Alpacas are wonderful, the
second oldest domesticated animal (5-6,000 years) and are spiritual
mysterious animals. They are much easier to care for than most
livestock. However, they do require care, feeding, regular worming, and
other medical attention. Do not under estimate the responsibilities of
caring for these beautiful creatures. Understand what it takes and be
sure you are prepared to accept it. Alpacas cannot take care of
themselves and are dependent on you. Each day they require feed and
fresh water. They do require cleaning up after. On a more infrequent
basis, you will need to trim their toenails, train, vaccinate, worm,
and shear once a year. You must learn these and be disciplined enough
to do them. Additionally, you will need a system of record keeping and
the dedication to follow it through. Are you prepared for it and
willing to sacrifice to do it. "Keen observation" as well as weight
scales will allow you to "know" when something is wrong, so you are
able to address it. If not, you can still own them but board (or agist
as the industry term is) them with experienced alpaca breeders. Another
way to move slowly, both physically and financially, into alpacas is
to buy a pair of fiber quality alpacas. These will be less expensive
and give you an opportunity to learn the care and feeding (husbandry)
for these animals.
If you desire to have a
profitable business, understand that in addition to capital, time, and
attention, a well thought out business plan, a distinct and logical
breeding program, daily care and attention for healthy animals that you
must also operate the financial and ESPECIALLY THE MARKETING ASPECTS
of your business. This can be time consuming and costly. Pick the
breeder(s) you buy your animals from carefully. You will want (and
need) their continuing support. The transaction is not like buying
produce, which is over (and even consumed) in a short period of time.
The purchase/sale of an alpaca
should be the BEGINNING not the end of the transaction. It should be a
relationship (a very long term relationship) or you have made a
You will be on the phone, on
e-mail, probably back and forth in person for a long period of years.
There are so many items to cover -- all with hundreds of details and
- fencing and shelter
- pasture (or if you buy forage - what kind? How is it tested?)
- feed supplements - Whose and what to use?
- minerals - alpacas have a need for more and different minerals.
- genealogy and breeding
- vaccinations and other medicine
- different kinds of wormers, when, etc.
- pre-natal care
- post partum feeding
- cria care
- advertising: costs, where to go, what works and doesn't
- shows: which to go to, why, how to prepare, what to do when there
- hundreds of details you could never think of, research, and most
importantly, experience beforehand.
The breeder(s) you choose to
buy your alpacas from can help to make the difference. They should have
never heard a stupid question (or better stated, a question from lack
of knowledge). They should be accessible. Of course, you will have to
understand they cannot be by their phone or computer every minute, but
they should have the inclination and make the time to get back to you
in a reasonable time. They should be willing to give you the time to
give answers to your questions. This will not go on for days or weeks
but months and years.
Most alpaca breeders have the desire. Make sure yours will take the time to mentor you.
In addition, choose your vet
carefully. Make sure they either have camelid experience or, if there
is not one in your area, are willing to
- research and learn (you may have to provide them books and resources),
- go to continuing education (you may have to contribute to the cost if they take the time), and
- have the time to invest to grow with you and other breeders in the area.
Some care items are similar,
BUT it is a specialty, alpacas are different. It is time consuming and
takes considerable expense for a vet to learn. Combine this with the
fact that it will generally not be a large percentage of their practice
(there are many more dogs, cats, sheep, cattle, and goats in this
country than there are alpacas) and you can get an appreciation of how
important this decision will be. Are they open to this? Will they make
farm visits? Are they a sole practitioner? (If so, what is their back
up?), part of a larger group or practice? Do they have a back up
network such as universities, regional vets they can contact, etc.,
etc., etc. There is not a long-term history in this country with
alpacas (20 years) and many experienced veterinarians disagree on
basics. You will have to learn, listen, and make your own practical
Don't underestimate either the
time needed or expense of marketing if you desire to be financially
successful. This is generally an area that is overlooked and under
funded. This will make or break your profitability.
Before starting, but after setting down your business plan, you should convert this into two separate budgets.
1) Capital Budget: (In reverse order of importance)
- Land and buildings if you do not own them
- Water Sources
- Medical and other care products
- Neo-natal kits
- Scales and other equipment
- Transportation if you plan to show your animals
- Finally, the animals
Then how you plan to finance this. Equity, debt, partnerships, etc.
2) Operating Budget:
- Generally, daily feeding and care is
inexpensive - 50¢ to $1 per day per animal. However, there are many
- Veterinary care
- Replacement of supplies, equipment, etc.
- Capital improvement
- Marketing Expenses - This is the area most people both
a) underestimate and b) do not spend enough
time on after they have found they have underestimated. Basics that
should be included to be successful are:
- Other internet areas such as Alpaca Nation, AOBA (Alpaca
Owners and Breeders Association, State or Regional Alpaca
- AOBO Farm and Ranch Guide is a must
- Alpaca Magazines
- American Farmer
- Attending shows with your animals
- Local PR such as farm visits, seminars, school visits, local farms and festivals, etc.
- You should spend 10-15% of your annual budget for marketing.
You could obtain potential for revenue from:
- the sale of animals
- the sale of fiber
- herdsire service
- processing and selling "alpaca beans" for fertilizer
- transport of alpacas
- boarding alpacas for others (agistment)
- production andsales of alpaca products
- proceeds from shearing alpacas
With these different potential sources of revenues, it would be wise to insure your alpacas.