Tips for Buyers

Pricing

There are many factors that influence the cost of an alpaca. In general you can expect to pay in the thousands of dollars, as opposed to hundreds of dollars, for a good quality alpaca. You can always find lower quality animals that are less expensive, however, you will find that their fibre is not worth much, resale is a problem and the increased potential for costly veterinarian bills may result in eliminating the bargin you thought you were getting. 

The Bitterness of Poor Quality Remains Long After The Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten.

Prices have remained fairly steady for many years and are expected to continue at this level well into the future as the national herd grows to such a size that will support a commercial fibre industry.

Alpaca pricing is directly related to the qualities (fibre , conformation) of the animal and it's individual breeding potential in conjunction with the potential quality of the offspring.

Alpacas with exceptional conformation and presence will command a higher dollar value as will alpacas with dense crimpy, fine fibre and great coverage.

Colour also plays a role in pricing alpacas. Black and shades of grey are more unusual so therefore cost more.

A high quality male with many good progeny on the ground has a very high breeding potential and can be worth many thousands of dollars. He can also command a high income from the stud services he provides. On the other hand, a gelding (castrated male) has no breeding potential and is, therefore, lower priced.

The quality of the herdsire used to service a female plays a role in pricing both the pregnant female and offspring from that male. If a ranch possesses an exceptional herdsire you can expect to pay more for females who have been bred to that male. However, you can also expect to receive more when you sell the offspring especially if the herdsire has been promoted throughout the industry,

When you purchase top-quality alpacas, whether the offspring is male or female isn't so important. These superior bloodlines dictate that a male offspring would be a good prospect for a herdsire and could be sold for a high price.

Female prices are a reflection of quality, age, breeding history and to which stud male she is bred. Income from females is derived from selling the offspring. Although the average gestation is eleven and a half months, a projection of three offspring in four years per mature female is more realistic than expectations of one offspring every year.

A pregnant female costs more than one that is not pregnant as you are actually purchasing two animals with a live birth usually guaranteed. A proven mother often will cost more than a maiden who has yet to have a cria.

When looking at alpacas, be careful to look at each animal as an individual, judge it on it's own merits and choose it because it fits in with your vision for your ranch.

Choosing an Alpaca

NOTE: Over the years, I have read many articles on alpacas, however, this one really stuck a chord with me as I think I would have been wiser had I taken this road rather than the one I did. I strongly suggest you read this article and give it serious consideration if you are new to the alpaca business.

Taking a Road Less Traveled

It takes hours and hours of study and working with alpacas before you will become competent to judge the quality of an alpaca.

There are, however, some things that you can look for to help you eliminate certain alpacas from your list of possible purchases.

First of all lend a critical eye to the ranch operation. If the ranch is clean and well kept this is a pretty good indication that herd health is a priority with the breeder and your alpaca will have received regular maintenance as well as vaccinations and worming.

Take a good look at the ears. They should be spear-shaped and not too large but not too small either. Make sure they do not resemble llama ears which are quite long and banana shaped.

The alpacas legs should be straight, however some animals look knock-kneed because of their fibre, so you need to actually feel the legs.

Check the eye colour, they should appear black or dark brown. The jury is still out on blue eyes as some breeders consider them to be just fine while others look at blue eyes as a fault.

Check the jaw and the teeth to make sure they are aligned properly. Alpacas loose their teeth at about two to four years of age and grow their final set so this could influence the alignment of the lower teeth to the upper dental palate.

If purchasing a male alpaca, check to make sure there are two testicles and ensure that they are of adequate size for the age of the animal.

In females the vulva needs to be examined to ensure it is aligned properly as this can effect breeding and birthing.

If buying a pregnant female ask to view last year's cria. If purchasing a male take a look at the crias he has sired or if purchasing a young animal examine the parents.

Fibre is very important when purchasing alpacas. First decide what colour you like because you are going to be seeing a lot of the animal. Some people don't like white because the animals tend to get dirty but other people just love white because the fibre can be washed and then dyed so many fabulous colours.

Many adult alpacas have had a histogram done so ask to see a copy of it. It will tell you the fibre diameter (micron count), anything below the mid 20s is good. Take a look at the other measurements to make sure that the fibre is reasonably uniform and doesn't have excessive prickle. Look to see if the animal has adequate coverage and try to get the most density possible. Crimp is also very important, however some of our lovely coloured Chileans are a bit shy on crimp but you can add it with a breeding to a good crimpy male.

Your best guarantee is to deal with a breeder that you trust. One that you will feel comfortable going back to with any problems or for help and advice. This is still a small industry and everybody wants to be sure that their clients are totally satisfied with their purchase.

Also, be sure to get a veterinary examination report and a confirmation of pregnancy and don't forget a written sales agreement

With the purchase of your first alpaca you will enter an exciting and rewarding industry.

Your alpaca purchase should be an enjoyable and exciting experience with no surprises.

As a service we offer the following alpaca purchase tips to all new participants:

Ranch Visits

Visit several Alpaca ranches before your first purchase and feel the fibre. Ask lots of questions. The education you will receive from breeders will be invaluable. Only deal with breeders you feel comfortable with.

You are the customer, the breeder is supplying a service, deal where you feel you will get the best "service" that is proportional to your investment.

Negotiations

Negotiate a deal that works for you. Discuss fertility guarantees, re-breeding of females, cria health and live birth guarantees, health records, financing, payments, transport, boarding fee (if alpaca delivery is not immediate after purchase), registration, and get a written contract. Especially for new people to this industry, a written contract is very important. Get all the details in the contract. Going through this process will lead you through a discussion of the important details of the purchase.

The contract should contain:

● Buyer information

● Seller information

● Name of the Alpaca(s), Registration number and Microchip number (the method of permanent identification)

● Price and payment schedule - This should include a lease agreement, if the alpaca is purchased over time.

● Any guarantees and additional services

● Delivery and Transfer of ownership schedule

● Feel comfortable asking for a pre-purchase veterinary health check. It is a common practice when purchasing breeding stock in other livestock industries.

Registration

The Canadian Llama and Alpaca Association (CLAA) is incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act and, as such ,is recognized as the official Alpaca Registry in Canada. The Canadian Livestock Records Corporation (CLRC) is contracted by the CLAA to administer the registry. CLAA registrations and transfers are sent to the CLRC for processing.

Buyers should request and check registration and ownership of the registered Alpacas of interest. Looking at the "Certificate of Registration" is the easiest way, however you can also access the herdbook in the Herdbook/Pedigree section of the CLAA web site. You can search by Alpaca Name, Alpaca Registration Number or Owner Name.

The Transfer of Ownership form is on the reverse side of the Certificate of Registration. The signature of the seller or authorized agent is required for the transfer to be processed. In Canada, the seller is responsible (under the rules of the Animal Pedigree Act) for the transfer of the registration papers to the new owner. This includes completing the transfer form, fee payment and mailing to the CLRC. As such, do not accept a registration certificate as proof of ownership unless your name appears on the certificate as the registered owner.



Business and Investment Potential

Are alpacas an investment or a business? The answer is both.

As a business endeavour alpacas rate very high. They require little infrastructure, are inexpensive to feed and easy care. The cost of increasing your inventory is not only low but also very exciting when the babies start arriving. The return on invested capital it high but best of all alpacas are fun, relaxing and provide a healthy lifestyle for the whole family. They are a huggable investment.

You can enjoy a serene rural lifestyle tending your herd on your own acreage while generating tax deferred wealth for the future. Consultation with your accountant or a tax expert is highly recommended to assess your own personal tax advantages as each situation tends to be unique. Alpacas are zero rated for GST purposes so you can claim back the GST paid on all items related to your herd.

Maybe you are not a farmer at heart but recognize the solid investment that alpacas represent. If so, you may opt for an arms-length investment in this emerging livestock industry by purchasing animals and boarding them (agisting) where someone else provides the care. Your investment is compounding at an amazing rate and the cost of board is tax deductible for income tax purposes.

If, like most people, you fall in love with the animals, and want to spend time around them but their daily care requirements are not suited to your lifestyle, that's also possible. You can own alpacas and visit regularly while boarding them at a nearby ranch. This is called agistment. You are still building tax-deferred wealth and can claim the costs associated with your investment against your income. There are many ways to win from alpaca ownership.

Fibre production is the economic underpinning of the alpaca industry for the future. Alpaca fleece has all the right qualities to be one of the finest fibres in the world but is still quite rare. For every 32 pounds of sheep's wool, less than one ounce of alpaca fibre is produced.

The herds outside of South America are not generally large enough to support industrial processing, however fibre co-operatives are available that offer a ready market for breeders. Alpaca is also coveted by cottage industries and some breeders have arrangements with local spinners and weavers who purchase their fleece.

Some people invest in alpacas just for a secure source of fibre for their own cottage industry. However you choose to dispose of your fibre, the price that you receive usually more than covers the cost of caring for your animals.

Some alpaca businesses incorporate a ranch store as part of their business plan while others may offer an alpaca training service, breeding services or agistment [Boarding animals].

Women make up a high percentage of alpaca owners and often play a pivotal role in the family decision to "get into alpacas." The ease of handling alpacas is attractive to women, however it's their sense of fashion and appreciation for the alpaca fibre which often figures prominently in the decision to become an alpaca owner.

Alpacas may well be the oldest domesticated livestock on the planet. Llamas and alpacas have been a source of food, warmth and transportation for humans for thousands of years. They still seem exotic to us because they haven't been resident in North America for very long ; about 20 years.

The market will never be flooded with alpacas as they reproduce slowly ; one baby per year and many breeders retain their offspring to build their own herds.

Less than three million alpacas exist worldwide. The registration of new foundation stock imported from South American has been terminated in both Canada and the U.S. However, there is a reciprocal agreement between Canada and the U.S. so alpacas can move quite easily across the border. For anyone just entering the industry all alpaca purchases, in both the U.S. and Canada, will have to come from the herds of existing breeders.

Demand for alpacas has been increasing steadily since their introduction outside of South America and we have barely scratched the surface in North America for potential owners.

Industry associations are nearly doubling their membership each year as more and more city-stressed people look for an alternative lifestyle with a source of income to support the change. Alpacas offer both.

Alpacas are hardy and adaptable and thrive in all climates. They are gentle, very safe around small children and easy to handle.

The alpaca industry is booming in Australia because of the earth- friendly nature of these animals. Alpacas have padded feet that won't destroy delicate terrain and they clip the pasture grass rather than uprooting it as some other species do.

Alpacas are easy-keepers. They eat between 1.3 and 1.6% of their body weight per day or in dry measure about 650 to 800 grams of forage. Five to seven alpacas can be kept on one acre of land.

Alpacas share a common dung pile, making clean-up easier and lessening the chance of disease as they don't eat around their dung pile. Alpacas do not require any elaborate housing; just a three-sided shelter and some good fencing to keep out predators

Alpacas offer an average 30 to 35% return year after year and an alpaca investment is fully insurable.

Costs associated with an alpaca investment are tax deductible (including boarding costs). Cost of stock purchase can be written off against earned alpaca income once you start selling.

A very attractive aspect of an alpaca investment is "alpaca compounding. Every year while your female gives you a new baby, your investment grows but it does not attract any tax until you start to sell your animals. An investment of $50,000, being two pregnant females, can be turned into 84 alpacas valued at more than $1,000,000 in just 10 years.

No matter how you cut the deck, fibre is still the underpinning of the alpaca industry. Although sales of breeding stock is where the money is right now in alpacas, the goal down the road is for our own textile mill. It will take an estimated 50,000 alpacas to keep a mill working full time, so we still have a long way to go.

The demand for alpaca fibre is insatiable. Peru, the main exporter of alpaca, cannot supply enough alpaca fibre to fill the orders that come in from around the world. The qualities of alpaca are already recognized world-wide so there is no need to educate the consumer to a new product.

For anyone wishing to raise alpacas mainly for the fiber, single-registered alpacas or fibre males are a more cost effective way to go.

An important part of alpaca ownership which is often overlooked is the aesthetic and psychological value of alpacas. These curious creatures are beautiful to look and a joy to watch. It makes you feel good just watching the babies frolicking in the field. Alpacas are also intelligent and can be taught to halter and lead. A real biggie for me is that alpacas do not need to be "killed" in order to realize their value.

Is it any wonder that alpacas are referred to as "the World's finest livestock investment"


David Wood
Woody Acres Alpacas
Saskatoon, Sk., Canada

Tel: 306 373-4949   Fax: 306 477-2214
Email: dlwood2001@hotmail.com

Hours: 9:00 AM to 9: 00 PM (CST), Every day
Member of:   CLAA (Canadian Llama and Alpaca Association), AC ( Alpaca Canada), AOA   (Alpaca Owners Association, US)
SABN (Saskatchewan Alpaca Breeders Network)
This page was last updated: March 27, 2015
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