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Alpacas 101. June 25, 2011. Salt River Alpacas, Liz & Chris Vahlkamp, 18890 MC 455, Paris, MO 65275 314-440-1627. Section 1: Pastures and Barns. Salt River Alpacas, Liz & Chris Vahlkamp, 18890 MC 455, Paris, MO 65275 314-440-1627.

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alpacas 101

Alpacas 101

June 25, 2011

Salt River Alpacas, Liz & Chris Vahlkamp, 18890 MC 455, Paris, MO 65275 314-440-1627

section 1 pastures and barns

Section 1: Pastures and Barns

Salt River Alpacas, Liz & Chris Vahlkamp, 18890 MC 455, Paris, MO 65275 314-440-1627

introduction
Introduction

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If you are thinking of purchasing alpacas – whether for pet, fiber, or breeding - there are many factors to consider. Our goal today is to cover three of those factors to ensure good husbandry, smart financial decisions, and basic fleece and conformation assessment.

  • Farm/Ranch layout
  • Business Models
  • Fiber and conformation assessment

This event is meant to be interactive, and a chance for you to ask lots of questions. So don’t hesitate to speak up!

farm ranch layout
Farm/Ranch Layout

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Some basic information about alpacas that will drive the number and size of pastures that you dedicate to your alpaca endeavor, as well as the design of your barn(s):

  • In the Midwest, you can typically run 6-7 adult alpacas per acre.
    • Will depend on the quality of your pasture.
    • Will depend how well you are able to maintain the pastures.
  • Clean up of alpaca waste is important to preventing parasites.
    • Reduces frequency of worming – less cost.
    • Allows for greater use of pastures.
    • Parasites can remain dormant through the winter and live for up to two years in your pastures.
  • Rotation of pastures is important to maximizing the number of alpacas per acre and minimizing parasites.
  • The type of alpaca operation you run will dictate the number of pastures.
    • A breeding operation requires four distinct pasture groups, while pets may require only one group, and a fiber operation three large areas.
farm ranch layout cont d
Farm/Ranch Layout (cont’d)

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Fencing – alpacas are prey animals with no meaningful fighting skills against predators, so considering the type of fencing you will use is important!

  • No fencing will keep a predator out that wants to come in!
    • Some types will deter predators better than others.
    • Different types of fencing have different costs – you’ll want to weigh the cost benefit against the type of alpaca operation you run.
  • Fencing to keep alpacas from other alpacas may prove just as important!
    • For instance, in a breeding operation, the males will rise up on two back legs and lien heavily on the fence – needs to be sturdy!
    • However, keeping alpacas from a pasture only for rotational grazing purposes might not require such sturdy fencing.
  • Types of fencing used by various alpaca farms:
    • “No Climb” fencing is most prevalent – carryover from a market where all alpacas were purchased for breeding. Most useful for parameter of designated pasture areas.
    • Wood fencing
    • Barbed wire
    • Electric fencing
  • By and large, alpacas are easy on fences and respect the boundaries set up for them.
farm ranch layout cont d1
Farm/Ranch Layout (cont’d)

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Livestock dogs or llamas in addition to your fencing:

  • Salt River alpacas has used both livestock dogs and llamas to enhance protection of its livestock.
    • We prefer dogs to llamas, but each owner has to choose what is most comfortable for him or her.
  • To select, you may want to consider the area in which you live:
    • Dogs may bark a lot, camelids are quiet – if you are in a fairly suburban area, camelids may work better.
    • Certain breeds of livestock dogs are meant to work larger areas than others and can be considered “escape artists” – do your research ahead of time!
  • Not all llamas are created equal! Some are very docile and bred more for packing, while guard llamas have a more challenging tempermant.
  • Not all livestock dogs are created equal! Some were bred to strictly protect against four legged predators while others are bred to also guard against the two legged kind. If you plan to have lots of farm visits, you’ll need a dog that is friendly!
farm ranch layout cont d2
Farm/Ranch Layout (cont’d)

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Gates and Pens – strategically placed gates and catch pens will make alpaca ownership a joy. Not having these in place will make life a bit more challenging!

  • Alpacas are prey animals, so their instinct is to move away from you.
    • Having catch pens makes haltering, shots, and other close contact events a breeze.
    • Also consider moveable panels to set up your catch pens wherever necessary.
  • Alpacas and gates – they can’t seem to figure out a gate is open when you want them to, but they manage to unhook latches and get out when you don’t want them to!
    • So, when setting up your pastures, consider
      • Where you will place the gates – how easy will it be to move alpacas from one pasture to another.
      • The size of the gates and openings – what will be on the other side of the gate?
      • The types of latches.
  • Also consider other types of equipment that may need to move in and out of the pastures – lawn mowers, tractors, bales of hay, etc. – this will impact decisions on the size of your gate openings.
farm ranch layout cont d3
Farm/Ranch Layout (cont’d)

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Barns and protective structures – alpacas typically don’t like precipitation and they don’t walk well on ice! So, having appropriate shelter, relative to the type of operation you are running, will be important.

  • Again, the type of alpaca operation you run may dictate the types of shelter you provide.
    • For breeding operations, you will want a full-blown barn with electrical outlets, a feed/hay room, possibly a room to heat or cool, etc.
      • Births
      • Monthly shots
      • Illness
    • All of these are reasons to want a barn with stalls and the ability to monitor closely.
    • For pets or a fiber operation, minimal shelter may suffice
      • Three sided shelters can be good, but can retain heat in the summer
      • A basic roofed shelter to get alpacas out of the summer sun may work well for summer months!
      • A four sided shelter to keep alpacas out of the wind in the winter may work as well.
      • All will work to keep the alpacas dry.
    • In any event, be sure to have a sheltered area accessible to water year round, but that can also keep the alpacas from the ice! With padded feet and an ability to panic easily, they can easily slip on the ice, and getting them up and back to the shelter is no easy task!
farm ranch layout cont d4
Farm/Ranch Layout (cont’d)

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Barns and protective structures (cont’d)

  • Barns and how they tie in with the pastures
    • Most smaller alpaca farms have one barn from which they run all of their animals.
    • Many have “V” shaped pastures that fan out from each shelter area around the barn.
    • If you are a breeding operation, consider the set up to keep males away from females.
      • Some males will pace non-stop.
      • Some males will try to break through gates (sometimes successfully).
      • Some males will fight with other males if they sense the females are nearby.
      • Some females ready to breed will tease the males by sitting right next to the gate or fence line.
  • Some level of electricity will be important for at least an area of the barn.
    • Alpacas are from the mountains and built for “cool”.
    • Fans help considerably in cooling the animals during long spells of high heat (95 and over).
  • Water in the barn or near a shelter is important
    • Pipes freeze and you’ll need a back up.
    • Animals may need to be cooled with hose.
    • You may want to periodically hose their living quarters down.
farm ranch layout cont d5
Farm/Ranch Layout (cont’d)

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Barns and protective structures (cont’d)

  • Consider where you will shear – a critical piece of the puzzle for breeding and fiber farm operations.
    • Need a solid floor.
    • Need a roof over the whole operation in the event of rain on shearing day.
    • Need an area that can be swept and hosed down prior to shearing. Having your fleece as clean as possible is critical to maximizing the return on your fleece.
    • Need an area large enough to accommodate 5-7 people working together along with an area to lay the alpacas down and shear.
    • Need electricity for shearer and possibly for you if you use a blower on your animals.
    • Need good lighting.
    • Need an area that can accommodate multiple groups of alpacas as you go through the day of shearing. Will want to keep all of your alpacas close and ready to pull out for the shearer.
    • Ideally will want a shearing table nearby to skirt and grade your fleece on the spot.
farm ranch layout cont d6
Farm/Ranch Layout (cont’d)

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Other considerations for your farm/ranch layout:

  • Be sure to plan forward – what you think you may want today is most often not what you will want tomorrow!
    • Own a few alpaca pets and the next thing you know, you want to have a fiber operation to cover your costs.
    • Own a fiber operation and the next thing you know, you’ll want a breeding operation to gain better control over your fiber.
    • Own a breeding operation, and inevitably there will be “hangers on” – those animals you can’t stand to part with, animals that don’t move when the economy slows down, etc.
  • Consider where you will store your hay and feed.
  • Consider how much space your barn(s) will take up. You may think you only need five acres, but that barn can take up a lot of space!
  • Be sure to plan space for large vehicles turning around!
    • You may have hay deliveries or other items delivered on a semi.
    • You may have alpaca transporters that come with “big rigs”.
  • Consider where you will put your alpaca waste. You may actually end up wanting to sell as compost or vermiculite, so again, think ahead!
section 2 business models

Section 2: Business Models

Salt River Alpacas, Liz & Chris Vahlkamp, 18890 MC 455, Paris, MO 65275 314-440-1627

business model introduction
Business Model Introduction

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  • Investing in alpacas can be a rewarding endeavor when you select the path of ownership with which you are most comfortable.
  • Historically, there was only one viable path for alpaca ownership: breeding.
    • This started with good reason – the number of alpacas imported into the U.S. were not enough collectively to start a fiber industry, and the cost to import was substantial.
    • Starting with a business model that encouraged building the national herd and selling animals to recoup the importers’ costs was a great launching point for this industry.
  • Today, however, there are several directions you can take, and the good news is that with good planning, you will have the ability to move from one segment of the industry to another without making a brand new investment.
  • The most important aspect of alpaca ownership is to be true to your own passions and skills.
    • Each segment of the industry requires a different skill set, and knowing where your real passion lies will help you figure out where you and your alpaca operation best fit.
alpacas as pets
Alpacas as Pets

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We’ll start with owning alpacas as pets because the information gathered here will transfer to all types of alpaca ownership.

  • So what does it take to own alpacas as pets?
  • A love of the species.
  • An appreciation for alpacas as they are:
    • They are not going to hang around to be petted – that’s what shearing is for.
    • They are not going to keep other species “company”.
    • They are not going to do a good job of “mowing your lawn”. Alpacas are selective eaters.
    • They are not going to learn to do tricks, pull carts, give rides to the grandkids, or act as a companion :)
  • A willingness to care for them for potentially long periods of time – alpacas typically live 15 – 20 years.
  • A willingness to own more than one – alpacas are herd animals and do best when there are at least two – preferably three or four.
  • A willingness to pay for them with time and money
    • Time:
      • As mentioned earlier, alpaca fields and shelters need to be cleaned up at least once per week.
      • Their pasture area needs to be cared for on a regular basis to ensure they have good food,
      • They need to have some type of shelter which will need to be maintained over time.
    • Money:
      • Alpacas need to be sheared once a year regardless of their purpose.
      • Alpacas will need hay for the winter, and minerals year round, as well as fresh water.
      • Fences, barns, and shelters will need to be mainained, which takes both time and money!
      • Vet bills may be incurred periodically.
alpacas as pets1
Alpacas as Pets

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  • What do I need to get started with alpacas as pets?
  • Animals - As mentioned earlier, a minimum of two alpacas.
  • Pasture - With 2-3 alpacas, you could start with just one acre and divide it in half to allow for rotational grazing.
  • Shelter – Salt River Alpacas recommends a three or four sided shelter for the winter months, and a well shaded area in each pasture for the summer months.
  • Fencing – any kind of fencing will work, but if you have barbed wire or any other type of strung wire, Salt River Alpacas recommends four to five strands to keep the alpacas from crossing under as they graze.
  • Water – an automatic waterer is always the best as it saves time!
  • How much can I expect to spend?
  • $50 - $200 per animal, depending on the farm. A one time cost. NOTE: You can find pet alpacas for free, but paying “something for something” gives value to the animal and holds the seller a bit more accountable for what they sell you!
  • $25 - $100 per animal annually on feed. Most non-breeding alpacas require very little in the way of food nutrients, but expect to purchase a 1500 lb bale of hay each winter per two alpacas, as well as minerals, and possibly alpaca chews for energy in the winter to stay warm. (a large bale weighs around 1500 lbs, each animal eats around 5 lbs/day)
  • $25 - $35 per animal annually for shearing.
  • $100 assumed for one vet visit a year – with multiple alpacas, something is bound to go wrong with at least one of them each year!
  • $5 per year, per animal on wormers. Alpacas need a Dectomax/Ivermec shot once a month from July – December in Missouri. Additionally, a periodic dosing (once every couple of years) of Panacur for three consecutive days will be needed
  • Total
    • high end, $200 upfront and about $250 annually thereafter, per animal.
    • low end, $50 upfront and about $150 annually thereafter, per animal.
alpacas as pets2
Alpacas as Pets

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  • How do I select alpacas as pets?
  • The most important traits for alpacas as pets are temperament and health.
    • Alpaca “pet” owners are probably not going to handle the animals much during the year. As such, having animals that are mild mannered, easy to catch and easy to walk on a lead is important.
      • Ask to watch the seller catch and halter the animal.
      • Take the animal for a walk on a lead.
      • Ask to see the sire and/or dam to observe their temperament.
    • Don’t be bashful about asking the seller for health records to ensure the animals have been cared for and that they don’t come with any kind of hidden health problem. Also, feel free to ask about the health of the sire and dam. Pay attention to conformation – serious conformational flaws may cause health issues in the future!
  • Consider a combination of Huacayas and Suris – having both on hand for friends and neighbors to see is great fun!
  • Assessing fleece traits will not be a critical piece of the equation.
  • Why alpacas as pets?
  • For some, the majesty of alpacas is inviting, and your love of this species is just enough.
  • For those that are thinking of purchasing alpacas for fiber or breeding, this is a great way to start!
    • Low cost of entry
    • A chance to see if alpaca ownership is for you.
    • An opportunity to learn basic handling and care of alpacas before you invest big dollars!
      • Learn to give shots and trim nails
      • Learn how to catch alpacas, halter them, and lead them
  • If you are thinking of breeding, we would suggest upgrading your first purchase to two young show prospects, and spend a year showing, and learning about fiber characteristics and genetic lineage.
starting a fiber herd and fiber business
Starting a fiber herd and fiber business

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Do you love spinning, knitting, weaving, or textile design? If so, running an alpaca fiber herd can be an extremely rewarding business model! And the options for running the herd as a profitable endeavor are several.

  • So what does it take to own alpacas as fiber animals?
  • Animals - to operate under a true fiber herd model, you will want to run a larger herd.
    • Fiber alpacas average about 4 lbs of blanket fiber, so a herd of 75 – 100 animals is not unrealistic.
  • Pasture - For this size herd, Salt River Alpacas would recommend at least three pastures, with each pasture being a minimum of 15 acres. Dry lotting will not be an option as fleece will need to stay in good shape.
  • Fencing – you are now looking at a “real investment”, so Salt River Alpacas would recommend no-climb fencing for the perimeter of the designated area, but pastures need only be divided by strands of wire.
  • Shelter – You may want to consider one large four sided shelter for all elements, and run your herd out of different openings of the barn depending on which pasture they are in.
  • Tractor – you will want a tractor and a bush hog to periodically “mow” your pastures to keep weeds and uneaten patches down – keeping plant seeds, burrs, and other vegetable matter out of your alpacas’ fleece will be of utmost importance.
  • Shearing area – this will be a critical part of your operation. While used only once a year, you will need to ensure that shearing runs as efficiently as possible and that the fiber off of each animal is kept clean.
  • Hay storage area – with a large herd, you will need to store multiple bales of hay for winter.
  • Water – one automatic waterer placed strategically in the barn could serve all three pastures.
  • A good location – In order to maximize your profit margin on a fiber herd, you will most likely want to sell end products, and being in a location that attracts tourists or is relatively close to a large urban/suburban area will help greatly in driving sales. Other alternative is an internet-based model.
starting a fiber herd and fiber business1
Starting a fiber herd and fiber business

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  • How much can I expect to spend on my fiber operation?
  • Expect to pay $200 - $500 per animal as a one-time cost. You may be able to get the animals for “pet” prices depending on the type of products you will be selling.
    • The better the fiber, the more expensive the animal. But depending on the products you elect to sell, you might not need such high quality fiber.
    • Word of warning – every farm will tell you they have “fiber males” for sale, and many may be willing to give them to you. However, there are many alpacas that will not fit your fiber needs, so do your research and don’t feel pressured to take animals that won’t fit your model!
  • The additional costs per animal will be the same as the “pet” category, but vet costs will be reduced as the $100 is spread over many animals. So $60 - $160 per animal. NOTE: keeping the “per animal expense” down, but not forgoing good care, will be critical. Consider learning to do your own shearing, etc.
  • The real cost will be in the production of the products you sell, so careful consideration and research will need to be done to make sure your revenues from sale of products will cover your processing costs AND your animal care costs.
  • An introduction to the state of textile production in the U.S.
  • The demise of the commercial textile industry for natural fibers left a large void in knowledge, machinery, and infrastructure.
  • The importation of alpacas began a revival of rare natural fibers and a need for processing on a small scale.
    • This has since translated to sheep and goats and the demand has grown even more.
    • The mini-mill system has become prevalent, but has about as many drawbacks as it does positives.
    • As the growth of alpacas continues in this country, we are now entering a phase of budding commercial processing again.
    • However, there exists a recognition that the “old system” for wool is broken and to start again will take ingenuity.
    • Rapid change and an entrepreneurial spirit have emerged. Things are far from perfect, but getting better every day!
starting a fiber herd and fiber business2
Starting a fiber herd and fiber business

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  • How do I get started on setting up my fiber operation?
    • What products will you sell and what type of fiber is needed to sell those products:
      • Grades 1 & 2 are typically used for garments worn close to the skin.
      • Grades 3 & 4 are typically used for outerwear garments or items such as blankets and socks – still relatively soft to the touch, but strong enough to handle frequent abrasion.
      • Grades 5 & over are typically used for high abrasion items not warn against the skin – rugs, table runners, purses, etc.
    • How will you get those products made:
      • Mini-mills – great if you want to sell yarn or roving made from your alpacas. Expensive, so do the math to make sure you can make a return!
      • Cooperatives – three of them – AFCNA, NAAFP, NEAFP. Each has a slightly different angle on the same thing – they take in your raw fiber, process it, and sell you finished product at a wholesale level so that you can retail. Research each to see if any will work for you. Some focus more on yarn, some on garments; some sell you product relative to how much raw fiber you send in, etc. So make sure the program that fits your needs.
      • North American Suri Company – just starting up (Liz Vahlkamp) – specifically designed for Suri fiber and its unique needs. Private company that purchases your raw fiber based on Grade, will combine all North American Suri received, process on demand, and sell to textile designers/marketers who want to purchase in larger quantities (minimum 25 lbs of any one color, grade, length).
      • Alpaca Blanket Project – buys your fiber, processes into blankets by Pendelton, you buy wholesale.
      • Purchase your own equipment – to maximize your profit margin, consider purchasing at least some pieces of equipment that might be used towards making your end products
        • A small wash operation with picker (typically costs $4.00/lb at a mill)
        • A felting machine
        • A knitting machine
starting a fiber herd and fiber business3
Starting a fiber herd and fiber business

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  • How do I get started on setting up my fiber operation (cont’d)
    • How will you sell your products?
      • Retail:
        • Store front - if a store, consider where that store will go – on your property, in town, etc.
        • Fiber festivals
        • Internet
      • Wholesale:
        • Clothing stores and other retailers
        • Textile designers
    • How will you know what to sell?
      • First, sell into markets you know – there will be lots to learn, so already having a good grasp of your customer base will be an important part of the process.
      • The farther you move up the value chain, the higher the potential profit, but the higher the risk.
        • Consider your own risk profile
        • Know your limits
  • Revenue and expense from a typical fiber alpaca.
  • Cost can be substantial or small depending on how you want to grow
    • Consider starting with a smaller herd and a room set aside in a barn to sell merchandise.
      • Per animal cost - $100 per year (average of $60 - $160)
      • Cost per fleece to process into yarn, assuming 4 lbs - $130 (cost will decline with volume)
      • Revenue from 3.5 lbs of yarn at $20.00/skein and 6 skeins per pound - $420, or $190 in profit.
starting a fiber herd and fiber business4
Starting a fiber herd and fiber business

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  • How do I select alpacas for a fiber herd?
  • Fiber assessment is going to be critical in selecting your herd.
    • If you are planning to sell garments worn close to the skin, look for adult alpacas that have held their micron.
      • These won’t necessarily be easy to find and you should plan to pay for them – they are truly valuable!
    • If you are planning to set up a broad array of products, consider gathering a herd that represents a combination of low and high micron animals.
  • Color will be important!
    • Natural colors are “neat”, but don’t necessarily sell well in all markets.
      • White will sell in every market, so plan to go with at least 50% white. Alpaca takes a dye beautifully!
      • Knitters more often love white, black, and dyed colors – tend to avoid fawns and browns, and will purchase grays on limited basis.
      • Purchasers of end products like the fawns, browns, grays and black.
      • Natural colors do over dye, but are not always even and repeatable.
      • Colors as novelty yarns can be fun and different from other fiber species, so having some on hand is worthwhile.
  • Consider the pounds of fiber produced by the alpaca
    • To maximize profits, you will want to find those alpacas that produce at least 4 lbs of blanket per year.
  • Suri or Huacaya?
    • Salt River Alpacas recommends a combination of roughly 66% Huacayas and 33% Suris.
      • Fibers are suited to different applications
      • Huacaya is more versatile, while Suri is more rare and prized for the applications for which it is used.
      • Huacaya is easier to process, nice Suri will bring a higher profit margin per pound.
running a breeding operation
Running a Breeding Operation

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Breeding programs for alpacas are still the most prevalent but also the most expensive. Do your research carefully, don’t feel rushed in your decisions, and have a plan in mind for your first purchase

  • So what does it take to own alpacas for breeding?
  • Animals - your can start with a small number (three to four) and start with bred females, unlike the other two models.
  • Pasture – your operation will grow, so plan for the size you will be most comfortable with. Assume eight acres as a minimum. Dry lotting is a possibility and can accommodate many more per acre.
  • Fencing – you will want secure fencing between lots – your males will be more interested in leaving their pasture, crias end up under gates as they begin to graze, etc.
  • Shelter – you will want a barn that is more than a shelter – stalling, secure separation, area for breedings, possible vet room, etc.
  • Panels and catch pens – you will handle your animals much more.
    • Catching for medical checks
    • Catching for breedings
    • Catching for shows, etc.
  • Alpaca shoot – not a necessity, but Salt River Alpacas highly recommends it for your safety and the animal’s safety!
  • Shearing area – this will be an important part of your operation, though perhaps not as critical as for a fiber farm.
    • You are breeding for the betterment of fleece, so knowing what you’ve produced will be important!
    • Turning your fiber into end products helps offset costs and allows you to really understand what you’ve produced.
  • Hay storage area – As you herd grows, you will need to store multiple bales of hay for winter.
  • Water – multiple automatic waterers placed in each stall or pasture will be necessary.
  • Veterinarian – a knowledgeable vet, or one that is willing to learn about camelids is critical! Mizzou has a good alpaca staff at the vet school.
running a breeding operation1
Running a Breeding Operation

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  • What are my expected costs to run a breeding operation?
  • For your initial outlay, there are different ways to start, so here are a few:
    • Experienced, bred females – Salt River Alpacas recommends this if you have not bred livestock before – can run from $3,000 to $6,000 per female.
    • Maidens – if you are familiar with breeding and have a good vet nearby, this could be a good way to go – can run from $1,500 to $3,000 per female. Would still advise having the selling farm get the maiden bred.
    • Young, male show prospects – if you are brand new to the world of breeding, want to get your feet wet, but aren’t certain which way to go, this is a great way to start! Expect to pay $500 - $1500.
  • Your annual costs will include not only those mentioned with the other programs, but expect to pay more for the following:
    • Feed – will run about $100 per year, per animal.
    • Hay – will want to ensure high quality hay for your growing crias and lactating and pregnant females. Expect to pay $6 - $8 per 60 lb bale, or 12.5 bales per year per alpaca is about $100 per year per animal.
    • Advertising – you are going to want to sell your animals over time, so you will need to have a marketing program. Assume an annual cost of $3000.
    • Vet and medical – you can figure about $100 per year per animal on average. When you start, cost may be higher.
    • Transportation, shows and misc – assume another $100 per year per animal.
    • Skin biopsy – one time cost of $250. Salt River Alpacas highly recommends this for serious fiber breeders!
  • You should also assume that there will be no revenues for at least three years as you get yourself established.
  • Where will my revenues come from?
  • Four possible income streams:
    • sale of animals – $50 - $6,000 each – remember, many will be pet or fiber males.
    • stud fees - $6000 per breeding male, per year once you are established.
    • sale of fiber and related products - $200 per animal as stated earlier.
    • Boarding for customers - $1200 per year per animal boarded.
running a breeding operation2
Running a breeding operation

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  • How to select alpacas for a breeding operation
  • Fiber assessment is going to be critical in selecting your alpacas.
    • Ask for histograms as a minimum, and ideally biopsies.
    • Ask for a sample of the most recent clip if they have it – particularly important if the farm doesn’t run histograms.
  • Conformation assessment is going to be critical in selecting your alpacas
    • Ask for health records.
  • Information on offspring – show wins? Histograms? Medical information?
  • The breeders from whom you buy animals will be very important
    • Are they reputable?
    • Can they give references?
    • Are they available to answer questions once you’ve purchased your animals?
    • Are they experienced themselves?
    • What are their own breeding goals?
    • What kind of data do they have on their animals? Histograms, medical records, skin biopsies, etc.
  • Utilize the Alpaca Registry to research lineage.
  • Visit some shows and get into the pens with the animals to look at their fiber.
  • Visit several farms before making a decision.
  • Suri or Huacaya?
    • For breeding, most farms start with one breed – select the one you are most passionate about. Otherwise, no right or wrong.
summary
Summary

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  • Owning alpacas can be a rewarding and fun project as long as you select the right path.
  • Don’t be surprised if you start down one path of ownership and find yourself going down another in short order – but don’t over-extend, and don’t get into areas that don’t suit your personality!
  • Think forward and be prepared to grow.
  • Be prepared to change – this industry is moving all the time…sometimes seems like not fast enough, but in hindsight, you’ll be amazed at what has changed in a short period of time!
  • Whether you are buying pets, fiber animals or breeding animals, buy from reputable breeders.
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