High up in the Andes the alpacas were tended and cherished by the Incan people. This partnership was symbiotic until the Spanish conquistadors invaded in the 17th century. As these soldiers began their conquest of the Incan people, the prized alpaca was another portion of the casualties. The alpaca, which had been treasured as a source of highly prized fiber, was viewed only as a competitor for grazing lands allocated to the Spaniards’ sheep. As the surviving Incans were driven into the highest reaches of the Andes, they took their most prized possessions, alpacas. In the centuries that followed, a much hardier and healthier alpaca had to develop.
Alpacas have had limited exposure to the outside world. The alpaca remained relatively unknown in the United States until 1983. Today, over three million alpacas exist worldwide, with 98 percent still located in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The alpaca herd in the United States is estimated at 280,000 and is the newest Agricultural venture that has been capturing momentum from many interest groups.
Alpaca fiber will become even more prized as textile manufacturers, fashion designers, and the purchasing public become more educated with this wonderfully, natural fleece. LondonDairy has created the nations first known blend of Alpaca & Bamboo that is made in North America!
A major emphasis on selective breeding in North America will produce a healthier alpaca with improved fiber and conformation. This has been one of our farms goals and is shown off with our many years of awards.
White and near-white alpacas of high quality continue to be in great demand due to their superior genetic ability and worldwide favor due to quality, volume and availability. It is desirable to use selected genetics to improve all colored alpacas.
Colored alpacas have grown in popularity among North American breeders due to their beauty, uniqueness and the demand for non-dyed natural fabrics by health-conscious American consumers. We love the eco friendly gift of alpacas fibers. click here for other eco friendly items.
Prices paid for quality breeding stock will remain high in the next several decades. Increasing demand assures the increasing value of each quality alpaca capable of reproducing itself. It is the simplest economic situation:
Supply VS Demand
AOA and the regional associations of alpaca breeders will aggressively and effectively market the benefits of owning alpacas. This will dramatically increase in the United States among those willing to invest in alpacas and the appealing lifestyle it offers.
Now more than ever alpacas have become more affordable. There are more alpacas available and the economy has dampened all animal endevors. Each farm is their own business and structures their own price. One farms quality may be high and have very reasonable prices because of overstock whereas another may have lower quality with a higher price because the herd size is smaller. To each their own. Still, alpacas have continued to be favored because of the ease of care, huge tax benefits and high quality end product (fiber).
There is a growing demand for alpaca fiber in textile and fashion centers throughout the world. Given the slow reproductive rate of alpacas and the superb quality of their fiber. Consumers will continue to want more fleece than alpaca farmers can produce. Thereafter spurring a market where prices paid for alpacas and alpaca fiber will remain on the higher side.
Tax savings are another great benefit to owning alpacas. There is depreciation on purchased breeding alpacas, structures, machinery, fencing, driveways, equipment, and other items whose useful life extends to more than one year. This is a great opportunity to run your own side business.
Complete write-offs on many expenses, such as feed, veterinary fees, electricity for the barn, association dues & traveling for an alpaca related event! All are deductions that can be taken right off the top of your income bracket. Imagine your tax returns! They typically can buy an alpaca.
It is wise to consult with a qualified accountant before you begin your alpaca business. It is also wise to consult with an alpaca consultant if you are purchasing a quantiy of alpacas at the same time or if you are purchasing from an auciton. Wade's position as a leading consultant and Jugde makes him perfect for that position for the industry. Please don’t hesitate to call and just ask any questions you may have about consulting. Wade 920-793-4165.
Compared to other livestock, alpacas are inexpensive to own. Aside from the initial purchase of your animals (which can be depreciated in just one to five years), the maintenance costs are minimal. They are “earth friendly” by not disturbing your topsoil. A little hay, grain, and clean water; a bit of room to move around with other members of their herd; safe fencing and shelter; and as much love as you want to give them. These are the best requirements you need to provide for your alpacas. You will quickly discover that they give much more than they take. They interact to children with cautious curiosity! We give tours weekly and we’ve never had an alpaca spit or kick at one of our guests.
A fully operational alpaca farm can be started for an initial set-up cost as low as $10-$20,000. This includes a few breeding-age alpacas and the infrastructure necessary to maintain them. This figure does not take your land and your own housing costs into consideration, but still, a financial expenditure that is attractively affordable when compared to the startup costs associated with most other home businesses or franchises.
Alpaca farmers who have been in business for four years or more routinely report returns on their capital expenditure which range between 25 to 60 percent. Many variables can influence your actual profits, but as an alpaca owner, you are investing your assets in a vehicle with a proven record for profitability and which promises to become even more financially rewarding in the future.
Demand for alpaca fiber continues to grow dramatically. You will harvest your fleece each year and have the option of selling it yourself or consigning it to on of the alpaca fiber coops. The latter offers you an easy and guaranteed outlet for your fiber.
Unlike most other home business or livestock, your alpacas are fully insurable! Your modest premium costs will protect you from catastrophic loss of animals. Typical rates are 3.45% of the value of your alpaca.
Alpaca fleece is within an elite group of fibers known as specialty fibers. This select circle requires that a fiber be rare and extremely fine. Alpaca fiber easily meets both of these standards.
The absence of lanolin and other oils in the fleece and its extraordinary fineness of handle mean that alpaca garments are both hypoallergenic and luxuriously soft on your skin. A majority of persons that are allergic to sheep wools are typically not irritated with alpaca fiber. You will notice the absence of the scratchiness (prick factor) found in garments made of more coarse fiber.
Unlike other mono-color animal fibers, alpacas produce fleece in more than 22 different colors. This amazing spectrum delights hand spinners and industrial manufacturers and reduces the need for dyeing, which further protects and enhances the resilience, softness, flexibility, and hypoallergenic qualities of the fiber.
The increasing high demand and limited supply equals an excellent financial market for alpaca fiber. Owners can easily sell their fleece to private hand-spinners or alpaca fiber coops
Alpaca fiber can pay for maintenance of your alpacas each year if you have the right outlet. Alpaca coats grow three to seven inches and produce three to ten pounds per year. Current prices paid for clean, high-quality alpaca fleece range from $3 to $5 an ounce. Using these established figures, an alpaca fleece weighing seven pounds which sells for $4 per ounce would produce a $448 income, which should be sufficient to cover annual feed costs, veterinary fees, and other maintenance expenses for that animal. This cycle repeats itself every year and makes the alpaca one of the few types of livestock that can virtually pay for its own room and board.
The future of alpaca fiber is very exciting. Improved diet, high-quality veterinary care, and selective breeding will produce even finer and more abundant fiber in the years ahead. This will immediately translate into increased income without additional costs for the alpaca owner.
Alpaca Care and Diet
Of all livestock you can own, the alpaca is one of the easiest and most inexpensive to maintain. This factor contributes significantly to their overall investment value and the quality of life of those who care for them. The alpaca is considered the world’s finest livestock investment.
Their physical needs are simple and dispositions are friendly to cautious for any new owner as well as the experienced.
Since alpacas have survived several millennia in the harsh cold of the high Andes, they have developed this remarkable fiber with high insulating properties to keep them comfortable. A three-sided shelter with the open side facing east-southeast is usually adequate. The maximum number of animals you plan for that area may vary for the size of your shelter. Observe behavior patterns of your herd with your initial shelter and adjust accordingly.
In warm weather, alpacas need shade and airflow. Make sure your shelter and/or barn has adequate ventilation. Fans have been very useful on the farm or at shows if temperatures are high. The alpacas will sit right in front of them.
Clean, fresh water should also be available in or near the shelter. Alpacas do not consume much water, but they will resist drinking stale or dirty water. You may find that your alpacas like the hose! You can spray their legs and underbelly to help them cool. Never wet their backs because it will cause a greenhouse effect and actually increase their body temperatures.
The efficiency of the alpaca is especially noticeable when you consider that they are highly developed ruminants and require much less food intake than most other ruminants.
If your pastures have adequate natural, non-fertilized grass, they will content themselves to simply graze there. Alternating them between pasture areas allows the grass to re-grow and fecal parasites to die before reusing the areas. Ideally, rotation schedules at least two weeks long will allow these desirable events to occur.
You can supplement grass intake with a low-protein grass hay. Protein levels need to be watched. Have your hay tested to check that the protein levels are around 12%-14%. Remember, your alpacas are designed to utilize their food in a very efficient manner. Put their hay in an area where it can stay dry and in a container that minimizes waste.
Most alpaca owners will add a small amount of commercial grain prepared for alpacas to their animals’ daily diet. The important value of this is to provide selenium and other necessary vitamins, which cannot be obtained from grass and hay in the United States. Free choice minerals with salt are also suggested for optimum dietary needs.
The general rule is that on average seven alpacas can be easily and efficiently maintained on one acre of usable land. This will vary depending on your farm layout, the nature of your land, and other factors. Obviously, if your pasture has a little grass and a lot of alpacas, you will need to provide additional high-quality grass hay for your herd.
Alpacas are non-aggressive animals that do not “challenge” fences like other types of livestock. Your fencing should be designed more toward keeping predators out than keeping your alpacas in. This suggests a height of at least five feet and mesh openings no more than four inches wide. Woven and electrical wires have been used. Existing fencing at a property should be evaluated and improved upon for your alpacas.
Under normal circumstances, your medical expenses for your alpacas will be minimal. These are essentially hardy and healthy animals, toughened by 5000 years of life in the hostile environment of the high Andes.
The standard regimen of care for the alpaca includes annual inoculations and monthly worming. Toenails need to be trimmed as needed. As you become more experienced, you may want to handle most of these procedures and utilize your veterinarian only on an as-needed and consultative basis.
One of your first tasks in researching your alpaca options should be to locate a qualified veterinarian near you who has specialized experience in treating camelids, preferably alpacas or llamas. Check your area for llama breeders and inquire about their vet services.
Next is to schedule a visit to tour the ranch and just become more informed about raising alpacas. We have many educational seminars through out the year and often I have new interests come and help with herd management skills on weekends. Call and find out when our next opening is!
An adult alpaca weighs 120-190 pounds and is 34-38 inches tall at the top of the front shoulders (the withers). Crias weigh 14-20 pounds at birth.
15-20 years in South America, but we expect between 18-22 years due to their pampered care in North America.
11 months & one week. Healthy females can produce offspring at an average rate of one cria each year. Twins are very rare and in most cases are not desirable due to high infant mortality.
There are more than 22 natural shades produced from the alpaca fleece, but blends and variations account for many more possibilities.
Sub-order: tylopoda camelids
New World name: lama pacos alpaca
Growth rate of fiber
3-7 inches per year.
Weight of fleece
Mature individual alpacas can yield anywhere from 3 to over 10 lbs of fiber per year. LondonDairy Studs have to have over 8 pounds of fleece. Our top producer is Galileo, 12lbs.
Countries of Origin
Peru, Bolivia, and Chile; first imported into the United States in 1983.
Approximately three million worldwide, with 98 percent still living in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. Roughly 90 percent of all alpacas are huacaya and ten percent are suri. These same percentages apply to the alpacas currently in the United States.
The Huacaya (wa-ki-á) is the “cottony fluffy” alpaca, whose full coat presents a round and wooly appearance. The huacaya fleece is crimped, very dense, and covers all 22 colors recognized by AOBA. Huacayas account for approximately 90 percent of the alpacas registered in the United States.
The Suri (sir-ë) is the alpaca with dreadlocks. In full coat, these long, non-crimped, lustrous “pencils” hand downward, creating a layered and majestic appearance.