Alpaca Facts & Lifestyle
People are drawn to the amazing alpaca as a lifestyle upgrade. There are many places you can invest your money to try and make it work and grow for you. Alpaca ranching is one of them. And it’s generally just a whole lot more fun. You can’t run your fingers through the luscious softness of their fiber along side of their neck and feel your stock portfolio. You can stand in the shelter that with your own hands you built and as you watch the sun rise through the mist on a frosty morning with alpacas milling about you, you vaguely remember once upon a long time ago seeing a sun something like that through your car’s windshield as you waded through six-lanes-wide stopped traffic on the morning commute. We dreamed it and now wea re doing it. Another cool part is, even though it’s fun, you really can make money at it. All investments have risks and when you work with mother nature nothings a sure thing. But the potential is strong. Alpaca ranching is a growing industry. There have been alpacas in the country for 25 years now with a herd over 150,000 animals alone in America and the numbers go up every year. Alpacas are a world wide business with it roots in South America – Peru, Chile, Bolivia. Herds can be found in Austrailia, Canada, England, Europe, and Asia. More animals, more breeders, more farms, the higher the demand and that stabailzes higher prices.
Desirable Females Can Bring the Highest Prices. A female alpaca, because she’s breeding stock that can make more little alpacas, can sell from $8,000 to $40,000 depending on the qualities of her fleece, conformation, demeanor, mothering skills and parentage. You can buy an animal with lower qualities for a lower price and “breed her up” to produce offspring that can sell for a higher price. We also remind folks that when they buy that $15,000 to $20,000 female alpaca, they are usually getting two or three alpacas in that purchase price, as the girl will be sold pregnant and can come with a breed-back included that will produce a third animal.
Boys On the Other side usually sell for less. A “fiber boy” who is not herdsire quality will go from $1,000 to $2,000. With higher qualities of fiber and conformation come higher prices: From $4,000 to $10,000 for a Junior Herdsire with the potential to become a future breeder. If you have one with OUTSTANDING qualities the price goes higher. If they’ve put babies on the ground the price goes up even more. Excellent proven alpaca herdsires can sell for $20,000 to $50,000. Don’t think of this as common. An alpaca of this quality is hard to come by, hence the high price.
Only the best males are used in breeding, the top 10%, as we are all trying to improve the quality of our own herd specifically and the North American alpaca herd in general. So most males will not fetch huge prices. Nevertheless, top-of-the-line ultra-elite herdsires can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the year 2000 the top-selling male in the country went for $200,000. In 2004, the highest selling herdsire auctioned for $500,000. In 2005 it was $600,000. In 2006 it was $750,000 for half interest. These astronomical numbers are not normal, certainly not readily available to most folks and should not be expected, but they do show that the alpaca market is growing and that smart people are getting involved because they can make a return on that investment.
Alpacas were first imported into the US in 1984. There were only a few owners in those early years, less than two hundred. In the year 2000 there were two thousand alpaca farms and ranches in the United States. now, in 2009, there are almost five thousand. More people create higher demand for quality animals. More demand creates higher prices. The demand stays high because more and more people are looking to change their way of life. Maybe they’ve sold a business to make that change. Or maybe they’ve bought property with their retirement earnings and are looking for “something to do with this acreage I’ve got.” But they hear about alpacas and they come looking. And they buy, just as we did.
You control your own rate of growth. And your rate of risk, too. You can chase this as far as your comfort zone allows. On the low end, you can buy just one animal and pay someone to raise it for you (called agisting or boarding). That’s how we started when we just owned a small tract home with no room for livestock, yet still wanted to get involved in the alpaca business. Or you can start with a couple of fiber boys and learn how to care for them before taking on more animals. Some might just want a few carefully chosen females to create babies that can be sold each year, thereby keeping their herd size consistent. Others might keep the majority of the crias born each year and steadily increase the number of alpacas on their land with the goal of achieving a large herd at some specific point in the future. And there are those who want to go big and purchase a large herd right off the bat. This industry is tailorable to one’s personal goals and comfort level.
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