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Thursday, January 15, 2015

For the Love of Alpaca

One comment that I hear frequently is "I would love to have some alpacas, but I can't afford it. Why do they cost so much?"

There are many reasons to own alpacas, either for business or personal use. As a livestock business, alpacas offer many opportunities to buy, breed, show, sell offspring and foundation stock, breeding services as well as producing a fiber harvest from the fleece each year. This fleece can be sold raw, processed into products or distributed into fiber co-operatives to further grow the US fiber supply rather than importing alpaca fiber from other countries.

Others may choose to add alpacas strictly for fiber purposes, participation in 4H, or for no other reason other than love of the animal. Alpacas appeal to many people simply because they play a role in sustainable living--an animal that can provide fiber, keep the pastures mowed without tearing up the earth, all while providing and endless supply of fertilizer! Alpacas are also relatively easy to care for and capable of providing hours of entertainment with their antics. It doesn't hurt that they are also completely adorable!

Whatever the reason for wanting to have some alpacas, my advice is to forget about price. First, examine the reasons you want to add alpacas to your life. If you wish to get into alpacas as a business, there will be endless hours of research involved with identifying your business objectives, then finding the right alpacas to meet your business goals. You could very well find that the business plan you decide on will not require the highest priced alpacas that you could find. Very high quality show and breeding stock alpacas are available, it just takes time to educate yourself on what you want and how to find it.

The same advice applies to those that wish to add alpacas as farm pets, 4H projects, fiber animals. Determine your goals. Is fiber quality more important than a gentle animal with an even temperament? How much time to plan to spend actually working with your alpacas in terms of halter training or other activities? Will you need to handle animals on your own for basic herd health like toenail trimmings or giving vaccines/medications or will you have help? Someone that wishes to work with or interact with their animals daily for a specific purpose (beyond basic daily care and feeding) may have different requirements than someone who wants minimal interaction, and every alpaca has a different temperament or personality to also consider. Some alpacas shouldn't be bred or shown, and others simply make bad pets.

Prices for alpacas range anywhere from $100 up into the thousands. The most important thing to find in your quest for alpacas is a breeder/mentor that will help you find the right animals for your situation, at the right price. Most breeders often have animals available that may not be listed for sale, but will be sold or included in a package deal so that you are matched with the alpacas that are right for your specific need. This is especially important if this is your first alpaca purchase as alpacas are herd animals and must be kept in groups of 2-3. Ethical breeders will not sell a single alpaca to a farm without other alpacas. We often work with our fellow alpaca breeders to put together a package for a client. This can include animals from more than one farm, or referrals of clients to the farm that has exactly what they need.

So, if the only thing stopping you from following your dream of owning alpacas is the price.....ignore the price. Visit local alpaca farms, talk to breeders, tell them what you want and answer the breeders questions honestly. Tell them your budget, if the breeder can't work within your budget, can they help you find someone who can? At ShaDo Alpacas, we can work within your budget and have many other resources available to us to find you the right alpaca at the right price.