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Lifestyle Investment: Becoming an Alpaca Owner

Tips & Resources

It's summertime here in Colorado which means that everyone is calling, texting, and emailing us about when they can come a visit these fuzzy creatures! Along with those calls, texts, and emails comes a lot of questions about raising alpacas, and how they can start whether that be breeding for fiber or raising seed-stock, show winning alpacas.


In just 2022 alone before we sheared our alpacas (end of May) we have sold over 20 alpacas, some of which have gone to brand new alpaca owners and the others to existing alpaca owners looking to enhance there herd. This year has been one of the busiest sales years for us and even outside breedings have sky rocketed for us, and we we constantly answering the same questions over and over again. We thought we would share our knowledge and these answers into a how-to-guide for people looking at a future with alpacas. We have been in the industry since 2009, but have researched and been around alpacas since 2005. Our alpaca ranch is just over a decade old, so we do have lots of experience with startups, operations, accounting, event management, sales, and marketing. This isn't our first time running, launching, and managing a successful business, so you can trust us. 


Do your research. This is something that in order to start any type of business you will NEED to do, especially when entering the livestock business. In order to be a successful breeder (seed-stock or fiber) you cannot just buy alpacas because its your favorite color or because it's super soft or even because it kissed you. You will not be profitable and will not see any results that lead to your end goal, period. We didn't do our research when we first started, which is why we never saw results that we wanted. The breeder that we bought our first alpacas from was not reputable and lied to us about the quality of animals we were buying, and it hurt us. We didn't see the results we were told we would see because of the quality of animals we bought, it was truly devastating. We kept those animals but did more research and attended MORE alpaca shows, visited MORE alpaca farms and soon we went to an auction where we bought the highest quality of alpacas that we possibly could buy: the 2010 Snowmass Genetic Advancement Sale held by, Snowmass Alpacas LLC, Julie & Don Skinner (Snowmass Alpacas is now owned by Lynn Edens). At that auction we bought three males (Snowmass Matrix Rose, Snowmass Premonition, and Snowmass Reserved) and a handful of females, pregnant and maiden females (Snowmass Cashmina, HWA Plantel's Promise, Snowmass Sunset Dreams, Snowmass Sizlin Sunshine and more). Those are the animals that founded Red Granite Ranch. By doing our research the second time we saw the results the year that those pregnant females gave birth in 2010 and 2011, and then continued to see those results when we bred those three males to the correct females and those crias then hit the show rings taking championship banners. Take your time in the research process, there is absolutely no rush getting into this business. Make sure you know what you are buying and know enough information about differing a good alpaca from a bad alpaca, only buy from reputable breeders, and always, always, always, always, never be afraid to be straight forward and ask questions when starting the alpaca business. We are always here as mentors, so don't be afraid to come knocking at our door.


Considerations when planning your farm:

- Will you have a centralized barn or will you have multiple portable style shelters?

- Will you have grazing areas or will you feed hay every day?

- What is the maximum number of alpacas you will have on your farm?

- Will fencing be portable or fixed, or a combination of the two?

- How will you deliver water to you alpacas?

 

Are you interested in?

- Development of breeding stock?

- Producing alpaca fiber for the commercial or cottage industry?

- AOA Show System participation?

- Augmenting an existing fiber production business?

- The farming lifestyle?

- The potential tax benefits of owning your own livestock business?

Alpacas offer a truly outstanding choice for livestock ownership. They have a charismatic manner, they do very well on small farms, and produce a luxury product which increases in demand each year. Visit Local Alpaca Farms and locate alpacas for sale. This is one that we cannot stress enough about. You need to take the time to visit local alpaca farms before getting to far ahead of yourself. You need to get acquainted with these animals and by going to the farms you will have the opportunity to see the operations of a working farm. When we first started we visited Oregon, Kansas, and even local Colorado farms, and even to this day we visit alpaca farms in order to see the alpacas we are either wanting to buy or even just catch up with the owners. Like any industry, the alpaca industry has a wide variety of farms. These owners range from experienced and take great care of their animals to well, ones who don't exactly do that. You want to locate a farm that has healthy alpacas, that are well cared for, and that are on a regular schedule for feeding, shots, and shearing. And a heads up from us, be prepared for the farm to qualify you as much as you are qualifying them. If they don't ask you about location, shelter, protection, and even herd size it would be your best interest to find a new alpaca owner and a new set of alpacas for sale. Make sure these alpacas are also AOA Registered, and you never can just purchase one alpaca they come come in pairs and or groups. Review the farm environment and operation of each, all the owners about their views on the industry. 

 

Can Alpaca Ownership be Profitable?

To be straight, it depends. With focused effort and the willingness to learn new skills, alpaca ownership can be a very profitable thing, but if you aren't willing to do any of those things, alpaca ownership won't be profitable for you. It's as simple as that.

Recently, for the Red Granite Ranch business we have began learning new marketing skills with our fleeces. We used to just sell skeins or yarn and alpaca socks, but never were super profitable with that, that was until we invested in turning our fleeces into rugs, blankets, hats, gloves, clothing items, and so much more. We saw our fleece item sales sky rocket within the first month of putting the items on shelves. Not only have our fleece item sales sky rocketed but our auction prices have since investing in new genetic lines and outcrossing them with our males and females. So this lifestyle both personally and finically can be rewarding if done right.

 

As is true to any business start-up, owning alpacas involves a willingness to work and take financial risks. Your ultimate success will be determined by your ability to market your animals, fiber and finished goods, as well as your available resources, your communication skills, and your ability and willingness to provide top-notch customer service that results in a good reputation. It is impossible to guarantee the ultimate success of any business.

Join Alpaca Owners Association (AOA). The world's largest alpaca association with around 4,000 members and over 280,000 alpacas in its registry database. AOA oversees an internationally recognized pedigree registry, Expected Progeny Difference (EPD) program, alpaca show system, judge training program, and industry magazine (Alpacas Magazine). AOA also provides education to current and prospective alpaca owners throughout the world along with a national marketing program for alpacas and alpaca fiber products.  

 

Other Sources of Information:

- The Ideal Huacaya (AOA)

- The Ideal Surimi's (AOA)

- The Alpaca Registry

Updated June 26, 2022