Until our economy faltered, it was a major investment to begin raising these animals. Five years ago, the least expensive good quality female alpaca on the market would have sold for $10,000 and it was not uncommon to see sales near $30,000. Many visitors to our farm fell in love with the animals, the idea of raising them, and their wonderful fiber, but it was simply out of reach. So, today, many people are re-visiting the idea of owning alpacas and are making the move to make that investment. Today, it’s possible to start an alpaca farm, with two good quality bred females in the neighborhood of $10,000. Raising alpacas is a legitimate livestock business, with corresponding tax advantages, and there are few other business ventures that require such a small investment, both in time and money.
Alpacas originated in South America and have only been exported from that country for around 25 years. So, why would anyone want an alpaca? As an alpaca farmer, I can say that, if you like raising animals but dislike a lot of work, alpacas are your answer. They eat very little, are easily handled, and, since they use common excrement piles, cleaning the barn is a fairly simple task. Other than shearing once a year, there are no other requirements in grooming and they are very hardy animals.
The alpaca industry is in the infant stage and we believe it will flourish as people learn more about them and their fiber. Prices for the animals will, over time, decrease as the number available increases, but it is still possible to raise alpacas, sell their offspring and their fiber, and make a profit, especially since the start up expense of an alpaca farm is now affordable. Alpacas require a fenced enclosure to keep predators out, a shelter to keep them from the wind and rain, hay (one small bale feeds 5 to 7 alpacas per day) a grain supplement, and about an hour a day for general care and maintenance. Generally, the cost to keep an alpaca is approximately $250 a year, which is less than the family dog.
The alpaca registry (ARI) indicates there are 162,648 registered alpacas residing in the US. The Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association and the Alpaca Registry are the two main sources of information and assistance to alpaca farmers. The people involved in raising these animals are from all walks of life and are actually a close knit community, working for the common goal of having wonderful fiber and developing the alpaca fiber industry here in the US.
Alpaca fiber is 5 times warmer than wool, is as soft an silky as cashmere but stronger, and it’s hypoallergenic.
Oh yes, one more common question: “Do alpacas spit?”……yes, at each other, over food usually. Or, if an alpaca is defending her yourg or has been mistreated, they may be inclined to spit. But,
if you visit my farm, you’ll find friendly loving animals
that put smiles on the faces of all who meet them.