So you want to know about alpacas??

You’ve heard about alpacas and you want to know as much about them as possible!  
Well that’s the way I felt when I first stumbled onto them.  I read about them in a book on llamas - - -  the last chapter was about the llamas' funny little cousins, alpacas.
Everything I read there told me that these little beasties were the livestock I’d been hoping to find, to raise, to have on our new little farm.
That was 18 years ago - and I’ve never looked back.
So, what about you?  Why do you think you might like to have an alpaca or 10 or 100 in your backyard?
Well let's see if you fit into any of these categories.
1)  You think they are adorable and want to have them just for fun.  Wouldn’t it be great when the grandkids come to visit?  The neighbors would think they were cute.  But you have no illusions that you would ever want to sell them or spend time spinning their fleece.

2)  You are a spinner, or a knitter, or a felter.  You love fleece and fiber, and maybe someone showed you some really nice alpaca fleece.  You fell in love of course.  Ideas of having the alpacas themselves in your backyard, having fun with them, and growing your own products from the alpaca, and then taking it all the way to a finished garment, sounded like an ideal business plan.

3)  You went to an alpaca show and fell in love.  Someone might have told you how much money you could make raising alpacas.  If you have babies and sell them right away, you’ll have paid for your initial investment immediately.  The rest is gravy - the costs are minimal, and there are all of those tax write offs as well.  If you have business profits from another successful enterprise, investing in a new alpaca business allows for an immediate write off.  And its such a fun write off!
Well - lets take number 1 first.  
Yes - you should consider alpacas for your backyard, just for fun.  As long as you choose the right alpacas, and get to know alpacas in general first.  Kids adore them, and usually have no false expectations of them, as we adults tend to!  Kids are thrilled just to give them handfuls of pellets, and learn to lead them around on halters.  But us adults must learn to be OK with the fact that most alpacas are not real huggy.  Petting is usually not something they enjoy, though some like a scratch on the chin, and many like to sniff noses.  They are curious and intelligent, but most will avoid being touched.  Nonetheless you will likely fall head over heels in love with them, accepting them for the gentle sensitive beings that they are, and forever want them to be a part of your lives.  If this is you, your top priority when selecting alpacas must be personality.  They vary greatly, just like people!  
Number 2 - Fiber lovers rejoice!  Yes, your business model is a very valid one.  There’s not a big profit margin, and you must love fiber and love the process of turning clouds of fleece into something beautiful.  The possibilities are literally endless.  Maybe you would pay someone else to do the carding and cleaning - and you can then take the yarn and knit finished products.  Maybe you like to felt beautiful scarves or vests.  Maybe you love to spin - and you’ll sell the yarn.  Whether you create wearable art, scarves, yarn or felt - these all fit into a small business plan.  You do, however, need to understand,  that simply selling raw fleece from the alpacas will not be a viable business model.  The money received from raw (unimproved) fleeces will barely cover the expenses of caring for the animals for the year.  You must add value to the product yourself.  The more alpacas you have, and the more you are willing to treat them as a true livestock, the less the cost per fleece, and the higher the profit margin.  But it takes many many high quality alpacas to approach establishing a profitable business from selling just raw fleece alone.  And yes - it would be good to note the term High Quality just mentioned.  Alpacas vary hugely, and you must select alpacas appropriate to your goals.

Number 3)  The business of raising and selling alpacas.  It’s a fantastic business.  It’s what we do - and have been doing for a dozen years, as our only income.  But it is very tough to work your way into the top tier of alpacas in this current economy.  There is a learning curve, which is much less forgiving than it was when I first bought alpacas.  Yes it can be done, but you must be realistic when deciding how much to invest, and what your expectations are.   
    Number one - this is a business, not an investment.  A business requires you to spend a great deal of time educating yourself and learning about marketing, which includes showing, and networking.  You must learn to recognize the best alpacas, and continue to improve your herd, if you want the babies you produce to be continually sought after.  
    Some of your babies will be sold for very little, to folks wanting to have alpaca pets.  Some may be sold to fiber farms.  The best will be sold to start up breeders and high end alpaca farms, looking to improve their own herds.  We are all a little addicted to breeding the very best alpacas, and many are willing to pay handsomely, but only for the best.   
    It’s very easy to buy.  It takes talent and initiative to sell.  We will help you in every way we can, but it is your business to create.   The alpacas you choose to buy initially, for raising show and high end fleece alpacas, are critical.  Find a mentor you trust and pick their brain.  Go to shows and look at more and more and more fleeces.  Talk to everyone!  It’s great fun, really.  Many of our best friends can be found at shows, and we cheer each other on in the ring.  Only when you feel comfortable, select your alpacas.  Only invest what you can afford to lose in your new venture.  Breed to the very best.  This is a great time to buy - as prices have dropped considerably in this market.  Whether you are buying horses, alpacas, or houses - it’s a great time to buy if you have a stable reliable income.  Congratulations!  And let us help do a little mentoring with you.  I’ve been a veterinary assistant instructor, and alpacas are my passion.  I love to teach!

So yes - if you have decided to start a new business raising alpacas - while it's scary, like starting any new business, there are ways to minimize risk and maximize fun.  For many wonderful people, alpacas have become a part of their heart and soul.  Once you get to know them, I think you'll understand!  The best part of the business model - - -  alpacas are like potato chips.  You just keep wanting more.   Think of it.   A product that sells itself.   Your customers return, searching for the next great alpaca that will put them on top of the alpaca world.  We trade breedings and buy new girls - all working towards the perfect alpacas.  It is completely addicting.  Which is why this business is here to stay.

Of these 3 categories - you will notice that there are really 3 different categories of alpacas that you should be looking for when you buy.

If you are buying Alpacas for fun,  buy alpacas that Are fun!  These will range in price from nearly free, to about $500.  Be a little careful, as the free alpacas may (not necessarily, but may) have issues that make them difficult to handle.  The more expensive pets should be young adorable sweet alpacas with nice fiber too.

Alpacas for fiber, should buy alpacas that will produce the length and softness of fleece that you want for your products, for as long as possible.  Some alpacas produce finer and longer fiber for most of their lives, while others may not.  But conformational issues are not as important to you, and you can find very nice fibered alpacas for not much money, that don't fit into the show world.  These may range from several hundred dollars, up to $1000.00 or more  for a nice female that can reproduce, and provide more fiber babies for you.

Alpacas for breeding and show?
Well let's just say you should try to avoid spending too much money on an alpaca that doesn't warrant it.  The good news is you don't need to in this market.  But you do need to shop very smart, as your new herd will be built on this foundation.   Alpacas in this category generally range from $1,500 to $25,000 (and up) for breeding males.  About $3,000 to $25,000 for breeding females.  There are those that sell much higher - such as a beautiful grey girl that sold for $80,000 this year at auction.  Yup - in this terrible economy, the best still bring top dollar.  Which is why we keep breeding for the stars.  But how to choose?
We can help.   Our specialty is helping to shorten your learning curve!
Once you have decided you want to learn more . . .    also read my article The Basics for New Alpaca Owners.  It will offer insights into what it might be like to live with alpacas every day.  To make sure they are for you.    They are for us!!!