There are many websites available, which provideuseful information. Some are from Universities, Alpaca IndustrySources, Veterinarians, Alpaca Breeders, and other sources. UsingGoogle and Alpacas (or Alpaca and the specific information will help).
Useful websites we have found are:- AOA (Alpaca Owners Association)- Washington State University- Oregon State University- Ohio State University, Auburn University- Northwest Alpacas has a prolific website with information (and a marketing machine)
Magazines:- 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, theiralpacas, and answer your questions. While they want to sell youalpacas, MOST are sincere in their desire to help you rather than justfoist alpacas on you. They love the alpacas, are afflicted with thedisease, many are certifiable alpacaholics and can think of and talk oflittle else (some need a 12-step program). Most are genuine, some justwant to sell you an animal, but most genuinely love and believe inwhat they are doing. They are honest and truly want you to besuccessful. They also know you may become addicted and want morealpacas. Visit and talk to many; learn, compare. They all have fourlegs and fiber but qualitative differences make the values of one$5,000 and another $35,000. To the inexperienced eye, these differencesare minor. Learn the differences to give yourself the best opportunity.Attend shows, conferences, and seminars. There are industry oruniversity classes and seminars on:
- Farm Layout - Dr. Anderson - OSU paper- Husbandry- Breeding Philosophy- Neo-natal and Birthing- Marketing
Formulate a business planbefore you purchase. Do you plan to own alpacas as pets, for fiberproduction for your own crafts; or as an alpaca breeder's businesseither small or large?
Alpacas are wonderful, thesecond oldest domesticated animal (5-6,000 years) and are spiritualmysterious animals. They are much easier to care for than mostlivestock. However, they do require care, feeding, regular worming, andother medical attention. Do not under estimate the responsibilities ofcaring for these beautiful creatures. Understand what it takes and besure you are prepared to accept it. Alpacas cannot take care ofthemselves and are dependent on you. Each day they require feed andfresh water. They do require cleaning up after. On a more infrequentbasis, you will need to trim their toenails, train, vaccinate, worm,and shear once a year. You must learn these and be disciplined enoughto do them. Additionally, you will need a system of record keeping andthe dedication to follow it through. Are you prepared for it andwilling to sacrifice to do it. "Keen observation" as well as weightscales will allow you to "know" when something is wrong, so you areable to address it. If not, you can still own them but board (or agistas the industry term is) them with experienced alpaca breeders. Anotherway to move slowly, both physically and financially, into alpacas isto buy a pair of fiber quality alpacas. These will be less expensiveand give you an opportunity to learn the care and feeding (husbandry)for these animals.
If you desire to have aprofitable business, understand that in addition to capital, time, andattention, a well thought out business plan, a distinct and logicalbreeding program, daily care and attention for healthy animals that youmust also operate the financial and ESPECIALLY THE MARKETING ASPECTSof your business. This can be time consuming and costly. Pick thebreeder(s) you buy your animals from carefully. You will want (andneed) their continuing support. The transaction is not like buyingproduce, which is over (and even consumed) in a short period of time.
The purchase/sale of an alpacashould be the BEGINNING not the end of the transaction. It should be arelationship (a very long term relationship) or you have made amistake.
You will be on the phone, one-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 andnuances.
- 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- transportation- vaccinations and other medicine- different kinds of wormers, when, etc.- birthing- pre-natal care- post partum feeding- cria care- illnesses- behaviors- training- 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 mostimportantly, experience beforehand.
The breeder(s) you choose tobuy your alpacas from can help to make the difference. They should havenever heard a stupid question (or better stated, a question from lackof knowledge). They should be accessible. Of course, you will have tounderstand they cannot be by their phone or computer every minute, butthey should have the inclination and make the time to get back to youin a reasonable time. They should be willing to give you the time togive answers to your questions. This will not go on for days or weeksbut months and years.
Most alpaca breeders have the desire. Make sure yours will take the time to mentor you.
In addition, choose your vetcarefully. Make sure they either have camelid experience or, if thereis 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 andtakes considerable expense for a vet to learn. Combine this with thefact that it will generally not be a large percentage of their practice(there are many more dogs, cats, sheep, cattle, and goats in thiscountry than there are alpacas) and you can get an appreciation of howimportant this decision will be. Are they open to this? Will they makefarm visits? Are they a sole practitioner? (If so, what is their backup?), part of a larger group or practice? Do they have a back upnetwork such as universities, regional vets they can contact, etc.,etc., etc. There is not a long-term history in this country withalpacas (20 years) and many experienced veterinarians disagree onbasics. You will have to learn, listen, and make your own practicalassessments.
Don't underestimate either thetime needed or expense of marketing if you desire to be financiallysuccessful. This is generally an area that is overlooked and underfunded. 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- Fencing- Water Sources- Medical and other care products- Neo-natal kits- Scales and other equipment- Transportation if you plan to show your animals- Finally, the animalsThen how you plan to finance this. Equity, debt, partnerships, etc.2) Operating Budget:- Generally, daily feeding and care isinexpensive - 50¢ to $1 per day per animal. However, there are manyother expenses:- Organization- Veterinary care- Insurance- Replacement of supplies, equipment, etc.- Capital improvement- Marketing Expenses - This is the area most people botha) underestimate and b) do not spend enoughtime on after they have found they have underestimated. Basics thatshould be included to be successful are:- Website- Other internet areas such as Alpaca Nation, AOBA (AlpacaOwners and Breeders Association, State or Regional AlpacaAssociations- Advertising:- 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.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017