Great Tips On Starting An Alpaca Farm

Great Tips On Starting An Alpaca Farm

Alpacas are some of the rarest and most amazing farm animals in America. They prefer colder climates but easily adapt to the warmer summer climates of seasonal areas. They originate from the Andes Mountains but they have dense areas of population an many areas of the world.  They are frequently thought of as mini llamas but are not pack animals like the llama at all and in fact, they make much nicer pets than the llama. Here is a look at some of the tips on starting an alpaca farm:

How much land?

First things first! When starting an alpaca farm, before you even buy the alpaca, you will need to set up a section of land that will accommodate them. Alpaca are pack animals by nature. To accommodate their natural living preferences, you will want to have a decent amount of land. Depending on the farmer and the pack, an acre of land can accommodate from 5-10 alpaca comfortably. In general the larger the area the better you can separate areas for rotational grazing. If you only about an acre, don’t be discouraged. Alpaca aren’t likely to ruin your lawn but if you don’t have the space to rotate, consider supplementing your alpaca with hay or grain.  The one separation that is a must to prevent unwanted breeding is a male pen and a female pen. When you are preparing the land, keep in mind that there are some plants that will be toxic to these animals. Some plants like poppies, buckwheat and acorns are poisonous to alpacas, so you will want to remove them around the land that you have prepared.

Build a barn

Alpacas need a barn so that they have somewhere to eat and sleepWhen you have your land ready, the next thing you will want to do is construct a barn that will act as a shelter for the alpacas. You will not need to worry about the cold winter season, since they have a thick fur that will keep them warm. However, you will still need to construct a barn for extra protection, especially during the summer. The barn will create a shelter that will keep them cool and away from the direct sunlight, which can be uncomfortable for them. Ensure that you choose good material that will be u for the roof of the barn. It should be able to help control the temperature. Avoid using iron sheets as the roofing materials for the barn.

Enclose the land with a fence

You are going to need to put up a fenceYou will also need to ensure that you have secured your land with the right fence. The alpacas will behave like any other animal, whereby, they would walk out of the secluded zone. For that, you will need to erect a fence around the land. The fence should be between 4 and a half to 5 feet tall. You can either use boards or woven wire, which should be no more than 4 inches apart. This will prevent the possibilities of having their head stuck in between the boards. You can use the no-climb fence, along with electric wire that is placed on the outside, bottom and top, for the sake of keeping intruders and predators away.

Find a Reliable veterinarian

When you have mastered starting an alpaca farm, you will want to find a veterinarian that has knowledge about the alpacas. Ensure that the vet is near, for the sake of checkups, emergencies and other routine shots. It is advised to seek professional help, in case you are not capable of delivering such services yourself. For the sake of routine checkups, you can learn from the professional and carry them later on your own. This will help you save up money that you would spend to hire the professional for the services.

Create a business plan

When you have checked that the land is ready, along with the necessary features put into place, you will now be ready to start your business. A business plan will be an important aspect that you will want to consider. When creating the business plan for the alpacas, here are some factors you will want to include;
• The mission. You will want to define what you would achieve from the alpacas, whether you will just keep them as pets, or you will sell them full-time.
• Business service/product. Consider how you would breed the alpacas.
• The marketing plan. Determine how other people, who are interested in the animals, will know about them.
• The competition. Ensure you know who your competitor is and what defines them.
• Risks and opportunities. Specify the things that can go wrong and what are the opportunities that you would capture.
• The capital requirements. Specify the number of alpacas that you will need to start an alpaca farm, in relation to the cost of each alpaca. Calculate the cost of fencing and other supplies. You should also include the calculation of the promotion and advertising as well as the creation of a website. A website will be quite vital, since you will market your alpacas easier.
• The Projected gross farm income. Here, you will include the expenses and revenue of the first, through the fourth year. This will help you determine if you are making profits or losses.
• The herd plan. Here, you will need to categorize the herd of alpacas that you have, in relation to the female and male breeds. Ensure that you categorize the alpaca that sells most, whether male or female. This will help you know what to invest in most. You should also indicate the alpacas that require more attention, in terms of care and medication. This should be presented and compared in the first, through the fourth year.
• The cash flow and break even analysis. This will be very vital to determine when you started making profits and if the cash flow is reliable enough.

Advice when raring alpacas

Typically, the alpacas tend to be tolerant animals, meaning that they can bear any health condition or discomfort for a long time, without you even realizing. This implies that if they have any disease, they will endure it and it would be too late once you notice symptoms. For that reason, it is highly advised to always perform routine checkups on the alpacas, to ensure that their health is good. This will help you save your alpacas and avoid any possible deaths, which will be a negative effect on the business.

Alpaca Facts and FAQ

Is An Alpaca A Good Pet?
What do Alpacas Eat?
Do Alpacas Need to Be Fenced In??
Do Alpacas Need Shelter?
How Much Room Does An Alpaca Need?
How Much Do Alpacas Weigh?
How Much Does An Alpaca Cost?
Do Alpacas Spit?

Is An Alpaca A Good Pet?

It depends on your definition of a pet. If you are looking for an animal that hangs out in the backyard without needing much care other than a feeding twice a day, than yes. They will be perfectly happy with you feeding them, going to work, and then feeding them again when you get home.

If you are looking for a pet that is going to come running to be pet when you pull in the driveway, then you don’t want an Alpaca. Alpacas are prey animals and are used to running away from anything that is not an Alpaca. They may get used to you enough that you can get a quick stroke in, but they will not come up and brush against you seeking attention. Read over our Alpaca Facts and then you can decide that answer for yourself.

What do Alpacas Eat?

What do Alpacas Eat?Alpacas are ruminants, or mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food. They eat vegetation all day and then regurgitate it so that it can be chewed again. This allows them to be very efficient digesters since they eat vegetation with very low protein and mineral count.

They are best fed with pasture grown grasses and whatever else they find. They will mow the grass for you without ripping up the roots, allowing the grass to grow back if you rotate pastures. They are best suited for low protein grasses and high protein foods will disrupt fiber production.

During winter months, and in areas without pastures, the answer to “what do Alpaca’s eat” is a little different. They will need to be fed with hay purchased from your local farming store. Second cut hay is almost always best for an Alpaca and supplemental grain may need to be added to balance the diet.

Do Alpacas Need Shelter?

Yes, Alpacas need shelter to shed them from natural elements and protect them from overheating. It is also a good idea to shelter them so that they can stay out of the rain and keep their fleece protected.

Depending on where you live, you might just need a run in shelter, or maybe a full blown barn. A run in shelter is perfect for areas that do not get too cold in the winter. Keep in mind that Alpaca are native to cold environments, but Antarctica might be a little much for them!

Do Alpacas Need to Be Fenced In?

If you have a large enough pasture area, a fence may not be absolutely necessary but it is always a good idea. Half of the reason for a fence is to keep your animals in but the other half is keep predators out. A good fence will keep the Coyotes, or whatever local predators you encounter, out of your farm.

Check with local farms to see what size fence is common in your area. They will be able to give you some good insight on what you need to be able to protect yourself so that you know what kind of fencing to purchase. We also have other great Alpaca facts on this page for your to check out.

How Much Room Does An Alpaca Need?

How Much Room Does An Alpaca Need?This depends largely on what you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to keep your costs low and feed strictly on pasture foods, then you will need to stay below 5-6 Alpacas per acre of land. If you are ok with purchasing hay and feeding them that way, then you can safely fit 15-20 Alpaca on a single acre of land.

Alpaca do not need much room and will mostly stick in a group with the rest of the heard. They need enough room to walk around and that’s just about it. As long as they can get away from each other if a fight erupts, then you should be all set.

How Much Do Alpacas Weigh?

A full grown Alpaca can range between 130 and 170 pounds. Full grown males will be on the high end of that range, while females are on the low end. They are large animals, but about half the size of a llama.

How Much Does An Alpaca Cost?

Alpaca prices vary greatly in price. If you are just looking for a pet or fiber producing Alpaca that is not going to breed or expand your farm, then you are looking to spend about $400 an animal. If you are looking to purchase animals that will breed and grow your farm, then you are going to spend a whole lot more.

Alpaca that are Proven (have breed successfully) are worth more money because they are known to have had a live birth and provide properly for their young. If they are unproven, they are still going to be higher in price than a pet, but you are taking a chance on whether or not they will breed.

Most people looking to start their own heard will purchase the best quality females that they can afford. The farm that sells them to you will typically get them pregnant for you as well. This way you are really purchasing 6 Alpaca instead of the 3 that you are bringing home. That farm will also help you get on your feet by providing answers to simple questions like “what to Alpacas eat” and “do Alpacas spit”.

Once you have read all of our Alpaca facts, head over to how much does an Alpaca costs for more great information on this topic.

Do Alpacas Spit?

Yes, Alpacas do spit when they feel threatened. Unlike Llamas though, Alpacas are not like to spit on humans unless you really make them mad. If you get spit on, you most likely got caught in the crossfire between two Alpacas that are arguing.

Thanks for Reading our list of Alpaca Facts, we hope to see you again sometime soon!

Picking The Right Alpaca Herdsire

Picking the right Alpaca herdsire for this generation of your herd can make or break the entire generation at your farm. Choosing a champion Alpaca as your main herdsire can take your herd to the next level instantly. On the opposite spectrum, choosing the wrong one can send you in a downward spiral FAST.

What is a Herdsire?

Picking The Right Alpaca HerdsireA Herdsire is a male Alpaca that you keep primarily for Sir’ing your farm. He is meant to be the daddy to as many females as possible to produce high quality Cria’s and expand the herd. Most large farms have a handful of herdsire’s so that they can continually expand without crossing bloodlines. If your herdsire produces quality offspring that other breeders will even pay a stud fee to have your herdsire breed with their females.

A herdsire should be one of, if not the, best quality male you have on your farm. In order to continually improve the quality of your herd, you need two parents with the best genetic qualities possible. If your herdsire has produces top quality fiber, then most of his offspring will produce the same.

Spare no expense when acquiring your herdsire. If you start with a low quality herdsire, you will need to continually find better quality to improve the quality of your herd. Starting with a top of the line herdsire will allow you to skip a lot of that process and start you at the top.

What to look for

so many to chose fromThe most important thing to look for when selecting a herdsire is to be sure that he does not have any conformation faults. Make sure that the legs are as straight as can be and the bones are thick. If you have a crooked legged herdsire, then you are going to end up with a herd of crooked legged Alpaca.

The second most important thing to look for is the quality and quantity of the fiber. Which herdsire you select will vary greatly depending on your preference here. Most high quality Alpaca will either be producers of a large amount of fiber or producers of the highest quality fiber, but rarely both.

If your entire business is centered on your farm producing as much fiber as possible, then you want to start with a herdsire that produces as much fiber as possible. It’s important to look at more than just how much fiber he produced, but how much was produced in his bloodline.

You should also pay attention to how long they produce this amount of fiber as they age. If they produce 10 lbs. of fiber a year for the first 5 years and then drop to 3 lbs. a year, you should probably look for a different herdsire. You don’t want to bet the farm on something that could turn out like that.

Some farms would rather focus their energy on the quality of the fiber produced. Some farms have been known to have adult Alpaca fiber classified as baby Alpaca grade, which fetches a high premium. If you can get your herd to produce fiber of this quality, you will produce more income.

The last thing to look for in a herdsire is overall “proudness”. You want him to walk up on a hill with his head held high looking like he owns that hill. Good posture and overall proudness will help keep the quality of your Alpaca heard strong.

How to Pick The Right One

Good posture and overall proudness are keyDon’t bet your farm on a young boy that may or may not grow up to be a champion. While he may look like he is going to grow up and be one of the best herdsires of the land, he may not even be able to reproduce when it comes time. You want to have as many potential suitors as you can to begin selecting from.

Many breeders use a process of elimination in order to select the perfect herdsire for their Alpaca herd. They will start with a group of Alpaca and eliminate them from the running as they do not make the standards. When they are “eliminated” from the running, they will be castrated so that they can be kept in the large pack with the females.

The first test for most breeders is how much fiber they produce in their first year. The first year fiber is the softest and worth the most money, but it is the hardest to get as well. Most will suggest that an Alpaca herdsire should produce at least 6 lbs. of fiber with its first cut.

The next test for your young potential herdsire is the results of the second year cut. This is where you will start to see how much fiber they are going to produce over the long haul. You are looking to see over 10 lbs. of fiber here if you want to get your herd producing like the best of them.

As the years go by, you want to make sure that they keep producing a large amount of fiber. As we mentioned earlier, they aren’t a good Alpaca herdsire if they produce a quarter of what they are producing now in a Few years. Keep track of this information so that you can showcase the herdsire as a stud to other Alpaca farms that are looking to create their own head Alpacas.

 

The Difference Between Proven and Unproven Alpaca

Breeding Alpaca is essentialThe difference between proven and unproven Alpaca is whether they have carried a baby Alpaca, or a Cria, full term. This is a term is typically how sellers will classify a female Alpaca they are selling. If they can say that she has successfully birthed a young Cria, it will allow the seller to be comfortable that they can breed her.

This is important because some Alpaca have trouble with birthing. Classifying a female as proven or unproven stops breeders from selling a female Alpaca that failed to reproduce and say “you never asked”. Most reliable breeders will give you a guarantee of live birth to ensure you that they are confident in the animal you are buying.

It is important to remember that an unproven Alpaca does not mean that they cannot reproduce, it means they have never been bred. If a female Alpaca has failed to reproduce then they will be considered a “pet” or “fiber” Alpaca. Successfully carrying a Cria full term means that they are consider a “proven Alpaca”.

If you are looking to be a proven Alpaca then you should always ask more questions on the topic. They are considered proven as long as they have a single live birth. That does not mean that they didn’t leave the new Cria in the barn and hoped never to see it again.

Remember that an Alpaca is not considered unproven if the Cria passes away the next day because the mother did not produce any milk. Make sure that you ask about how she did with milk and how were her mothering skills. It doesn’t help to have a proven Alpaca if they do not survive!

How It Affects The Price Of An Alpaca

The Difference Between Proven and Unproven AlpacaPeople that are looking to begin their own Alpaca farm will want to purchase females that they can breed to expand their herd. They are looking for the best female proven Alpaca that they can find so that they produce the best offspring. If the females they purchase cannot reproduce, that is a huge blow to how many Alpaca they will be able to reproduce.

As we mentioned before, most new breeders look for “live birth” clauses in writing when purchasing a proven Alpaca. This is essentially a warrantee saying that the new female will have a live birth and produce a live Cria. If they do not, the selling will buy back the Alpaca or allow for another stud from any male Alpaca free of charge.

If an Alpaca is proven, then it is worth more money because you can say they it will produce more Alpaca. This allows you to charge a higher price for the Alpaca than you could on an unproven Alpaca.

An Unproven Alpaca has not produced a Cria yet, but they have also not tried. This does not mean that the breeder doesn’t believe that they can. Typically it means that the farm they live in is short on space and they are not actively breeding every animal possible.

They are worth less because they cannot be sold with the guarantee that they will reproduce successfully. That makes them less desirable to someone who is looking to start their own breeding program.

Conclusion

If you are looking to start your own Alpaca farm that includes breeding then you will want to pay the extra for a proven Alpaca. There is no promise that an unproven Alpaca is going be able to help you expand like you plan. You will be rolling the dice on them and chancing that they cannot reproduce. The extra cost is almost always better than taking the risk.

 

The Benefits Of Owning An Alpaca Farm

Breeding Alpaca is essentialMany people have never heard of Alpaca’s and just assume they are a type of Llama. While they are similar in some ways, you aren’t likely to find a llama on an Alpaca farm. Alpaca’s are considerably smaller and are not used as “beasts of burden”, or animals that are meant to carry heavy loads.

Llamas tend to be a few hundred pounds heavier than Alpaca’s, and up to 2 feet taller. They also have ears that are shaped like a banana, while Alpaca’s have straight ears.

Alpaca’s are breed and kept for the fiber that they produce which can be spun and turned into yarn, much like a sheep. That yarn is then knitted into hats, gloves, blankets, scares, sweaters, dolls, and a variety of other high quality products.

In their native country of Peru, there are 52 natural Alpaca colors recognized. Her in The United States, we only recognize 16 of those colors.

While Alpaca’s are fairly new to The United States, they have actually been domesticated for thousands of years. The Moche, of northern Peru, have been breeding Alpaca for as far back as we can tell. Alpaca can be seen in art from all periods in which the Moche are known to exist.

Some Alpacas are friendlier than othersThere are no Alpaca known to live in the wild, strictly reserved for living on an Alpaca farm. The closest known relative of the Alpaca is the wild Vicuna. The Vicuna is also native to South America and is well known for producing soft fiber. Both Alpaca and Vicuna are members are classified as camelids, in the same ground as camels.

Alpacas are also social heard animals and cannot be expect to live alone. They are considered pray animals and they will always run from a fight if they can. If they need to defend themselves, they can kick and spit. While an Alpaca kick is not as deadly as a kick from hooves animals, because they have two soft padded toes, it will still leave a good bruise.

Breeding Your Alpaca

There is a lot to look at when you are breeding an Alpaca, but keep in mind that it is not an exact science. We have included a few considerations that you should think about

Herd Size

The Benefits Of Owning An Alpaca FarmYou don’t want to be put in a position where you have more Alpaca’s than you have room for on your Alpaca Farm. If you purchase 4 pregnant female Alpaca’s, then keep in mind that you are really purchasing 8 Alpaca’s that you will need room for. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you only need room for 4.

Another thing to consider when looking at the herd size on your Alpaca farm is bloodlines. You can’t breed two animals from the same bloodline. This is important if you purchase a package of Alpaca from another farm to expand from. If they are all related and you breed them from three related males at another farm, you will end up with a bunch of Alpaca’s that are all distance relatives and can’t breed.

Color

Some farms look to end up with all of the same color or few designated colors. It can be difficult to keep to specific colors with breeding, but it helps to look at the family lineage. It will be near impossible to know what color you are going to get, but you may be able to narrow it down a little.

If you discover that neither the dam nor the sire have ever produced a silver baby, than you are safe to bet that the result is not going to be gray. Some Alpaca’s have also been known to produce certain colors more often than other colors depending on the sires color. We once knew of a brown dam that would produce the same silver as the sire without fail.

Characteristics

This a very friendly AlpacaThere are several desirable characteristics found in Alpaca that can be desirable. You want to keep an eye on all of them and breed with animals that have something that yours don’t. That is the way to improve the quality of the animals in your herd.

Fleece characteristics are a good example of something that you will want to pay attention to. If both parents exhibit good coverage, density, crimp, and fineness, then you are likely to have offspring that have the same. If every Alpaca on your Alpaca farm has great characteristics, then you will be able to keep the quality of your fleece very high.

Other characteristics that you can look for have to do with showing your animal. These can include size, stature, and bight. Your Alpaca can produce the best fleece on earth but it won’t matter if they are the smallest Alpaca on earth as well.