In this section I want to try to give you some advice that will make your move into alpaca ownership as easy and successful as possible. I’m assuming you've already read our introduction to alpacas (see here), and our arguments in favour of alpaca ownership (see here). You have probably also decided whether your alpaca venture is for pleasure or for profit, and have an idea of roughly how many alpacas your land will support (see here). Good preparation and planning will ensure you get the best from your new venture. Some of the following may not apply to you but these, in general, are the things that you should consider.
Costs of ownership
Whilst Alpacas are expensive to buy they are fortunately very economical to keep. Nonetheless you should budget for the following costs.
- Feed. The following are over-winter rates for an average pregnant female. Non-working males and empty females will need less, if any, supplementary feeding. During summer months most of the herd will thrive on grass alone.
- Supplementary feed: around £5 per head per month
- Hay: about one small bale at around £1.50 per head per month
- Routine worming and prophylaxis. Less than £5 per head per year assuming you do it yourself, add about £20 per head per year if you wish your vet to do this.
- Shearing and teeth work: say £15 per head per year.
- Insurance. In time you may become comfortable with operating without mortality and theft insurance - indeed probably most breeders carry very little livestock insurance. For a start-up herd however I highly recommend insuring at least your most valuable alpacas, this should be available at an annual premium of around three to four per cent of value.
- Routine maintenance of your pastures. Whilst this is not a major cost, some allowance should be made for fertilisation, cleaning, reseeding, etc..
- Mating fees (breeding herds only). Fees vary depending on the stud male’s quality and the number of services bought. Typical fees range between £200 and £1000 per mating.
- Non-routine veterinary care. Emergency visits from the vet are thankfully rare. However you should have sufficient in the bank to be able to afford an occasional vet bill of say £100.
Resources for your business.
If you are planning an alpaca business, the most important resources you will bring to it are your own time, interest, imagination, and enthusiasm. The most successful breeders in terms of show results are always those who are very careful about their breeding decisions and invest wisely in their use of stud males. Having a good product for sale is not sufficient to make good profits however. You will need to become visible in the marketplace, and develop imaginative and useful strategies for marketing and promotion. If these sorts of demands appeal to you, or play to your existing strengths, you will do very well in this young industry.
Other than the initial purchase of your Alpacas, capital requirement is low. At some stage you may need to consider buying a trailer for transporting your alpacas (to mating for example, or to new owners), though in the early days you will likely find your way around this by either borrowing, renting, or sharing a trailer with others (note: if this is a subject you are not familiar with, you would be well advised to discuss the suitability of your car for towing with a professional before investing in a trailer). The tools of your new trade (foot shears, needles, syringes, cleansing spray, drench gun, etc.) will cost around £50, and you would be well advised to invest in one or two of the excellent introductory books to alpaca ownership and husbandry (see Resources). If you don't have any shelter you'll have to make provision for field shelters (see Resources).
Financial considerations for a start-up business
- A business plan is essential. We can help you with many aspects of your business plan (see Our Services), however there is no substitute for impartial and professional business advice from an agricultural specialist. This is particularly important if you will be seeking a loan to launch your business.
- Grants. There are numerous grant schemes that potentially cover start-up or diversification into an alpaca breeding business. Applications are understandably competitive and can be long-winded. However the potential exists for considerable grant-aided support and this should not be overlooked in your business planning.
- Tax relief. If you have another income the possibilities for tax relief are sizeable. Unless you are already a specialist in this area you will need the services of an agriculturally-specialist accountant. We can put you in touch with one who also understands the alpaca business.
Great! That’s the financial part out of the way, now on to the much more exciting business of finding your Alpacas!
First, come and talk to us about alpacas: this is
always great fun. We'll talk to you about your plans, making suggestions where
appropriate, answer any questions you have and, of course, introduce you to some
alpacas! We'll discuss the ins-and-outs of conformation and fibre (fleece), and
show you what you need to be looking at when selecting the right alpacas for
There are many factors that affect price. In absolute terms an alpaca that exhibits good qualities (e.g. high-density, consistency, and fine fleece) will command a higher price than one that doesn’t. An alpaca whose blood lines or progeny all exhibit similar qualities is worth much more as this indicates genetic stability in these areas. Proven alpacas (i.e. those with existing progeny) are worth more than those who have yet to produce. Younger females will be more expensive than older as they have a longer breeding future. It is probably fair to say that the largest breeders are able to charge a premium for their animals thus savings can be made by buying from small breeders – though this will have to be offset against what will inevitably be a narrower range from which to choose.
Savings can be made by buying unproven young alpacas (less than 18 months old). But remember this has its risks. Quality is difficult to assess: young fleeces tend to be the finest in the alpaca’s lifetime so the fleece may well ‘blow out’ with the passing years. And, worse, the alpaca might not be capable of breeding. Auctions can be opportunities to pick up the occasional bargain but are strictly for those with the experience to know what they are bidding on: don’t go down this route unless you secure the services of an experienced advisor (see Our Services). In general it’s wise when starting out to take as few risks as possible: buy alpacas with an established breeding history from a reputable breeder.
The best way to save money is to buy a group of
alpacas: have a look at our Starter Herds (Sales)
all of which qualify for a 25% discount (only available if you haven't owned
Avoid buying alpacas that are not registered with the BAS. Alpacas registered with the BAS have proven bloodlines and all imported animals will have been screened for genetic defects. All BAS-registered alpacas are microchipped and will come with proof of ownership and pedigree. There is currently no evidence of alpaca theft being a problem in the UK, nonetheless if you are offered alpacas with no proof of ownership you should report the circumstances to the BAS immediately.