Getting Started in the Alpaca Business
By Mike Safley
Becoming involved in the alpaca business can be a life changing
experience. It often begins by falling in love, maybe not in the romantic
sense, but almost. When people see their first alpaca or maybe just an
alpaca image on TV or in a magazine, something clicks. They are intrigued.
They begin to inquire, search the internet, travel to a nearby alpaca
farm, and slowly, but surely, their life changes.
Soon they are dreaming of a farmhouse in the country or of renovating
that unused barn on the five acres behind the house. A young mother with
children begins to wonder, can I really become self employed in the alpaca
business? An older couple might ask, can this be what we are going to do
when we retire? A professional man says to himself, can we really make a
living in the alpaca business?
I have been raising alpacas for seventeen years and I think I have some
answers to these questions. Alpacas.com is meant to be a resource for
people who seek educated answers to the questions above. We offer help
with alpaca business plans and farm plans. We help our clients use science
and classic genetic breeding theory to increase their profit potential. We
teach people how to select superior stock and how to market their
production. Hopefully, in the end, people who become involved in the
Northwest Alpacas Network will become successful alpaca ranchers.
The first step down the path to discovering whether raising alpacas
might be a part of your future is to educate yourself. I would recommend
that anyone entering the alpaca business read my book Alpacas: Synthesis of a Miracle,
where you will find a contemporary history of alpacas, beginning in their
South American homeland, and information on how to select and breed
superior animals. There is also an excellent bibliography in the back of
the book. Another excellent text is Maggie Krieger's Secrets of the
Andean Alpaca. You can find many articles about alpacas in Northwest
Alpacas library by
simply clicking your mouse. There are also a wide number of alpaca
orientated websites on the internet.
If you would like to have an actual hands-on alpaca experience, call us
at 503-628-3110 and schedule an appointment to visit the ranch. Once you
get here we will spend as much time as you would like answering your
questions, showing you what qualities to look for, and how to care for
One of the best ways to learn about alpacas is to attend our seminar How to Buy, Breed, and
Succeed in the Alpaca Business. The seminar is presented by myself and
Steve Johnson, Northwest Alpacas manager for the past 10 years
The seminar is based on the concept that alpacas are a business and, if
managed correctly, can be very profitable. After spending a weekend at our
seminar you will be prepared to draft a viable business plan and farm
Alpaca Business Plan
An alpaca business plan should answer the following questions and
contain the following elements:
- Which alpaca breed do you intend to own, huacaya or suri, or both?
- The identification of your market niche.
- When do you require income from the herd?
- How much income does your family require from the enterprise?
- A breeding plan.
- A farm expense budget.
- Will you pay cash or buy on terms?
- The tax
benefits of alpaca ownership.
- A marketing strategy.
Creating a Farm Plan
Designing a safe, well-organized plan for adding barns, fences, and
accessory buildings is crucial to your success in the alpaca business. At
Northwest Alpacas we have helped hundreds of people get started right.
We can give you practical advice on selecting the ideal location, the
type of fences you will need, the size of gates, which type of pasture to
plant, how to build effective shelter, where to place water troughs, how
to select hay, layout your barn, protect against predators, and dispose of
manure. About the only thing we won't do is scoop the poop. So call or
email Steve (firstname.lastname@example.org) today
and find out how we can help you get off on the right foot.
One of the most critical decisions you will make involves selecting
your breeding stock. If you learn nothing else from this article or our
website, please learn how to select stock before you spend the money you
have budgeted for animal acquisition.
New breeders have a unique opportunity to position themselves at the
forefront of the industry by selecting animals that have superior traits.
Knowledge of these traits and how to select them is often the difference
betweens success and failure in the alpaca business. Our seminar and the books we have recommended will go
a long way toward helping you make good decisions.
For instance most new purchasers come to our ranch knowing what breed
and what color of animal they want to select but few are looking at
several, even more important issues:
- What pedigree they would like to have in their purchase
- To whom is the animal they are buying bred
- Who will they be bred to in the future
- To whom the alpacas will their purchase offspring be bred.
The answers to the above questions can be even more important than
whether or not the alpacas exhibit good fleece
and conformation traits. At Northwest Alpacas, Steve and myself spend a
lot of time educating our clients as to what they should look for in their
breeding stock. You can call us anytime and start the conversation about
what kind of stock will best suit your plans for the alpaca business, or
check out our for Alpacas for
Whatever you do, take a little time to educate yourself before you
spend your money. Remember you're going to be in the alpaca business for a
At Northwest Alpacas we believe that marketing is one of the most
crucial elements necessary for the success of any alpaca breeder. I can
tell you with 100% certainty that if you do not let people know that you
have alpacas for sale, you will not sell any.
The first step to understanding how to market alpacas is to learn: 1)
who buys alpacas in the first place; 2) how buyers find out about alpacas
and where they go to buy them; and 3) what sales strategies work in
today's marketplace. For an in-depth discussion of this topic, you can
visit our library and
read one of the many articles on marketing alpacas.
Northwest Alpacas Network
Another question you should ask any breeder that you buy stock from is:
what are you going to do to help me after I buy these alpacas from you? At
Northwest Alpacas we have an answer to that question. Everyone who buys
stock from us becomes part of our network. This means we offer
comprehensive after sale resources. For a detailed discussion of what it
means to be part of the Northwest Alpacas Network, please visit our library.
If you have read this far, I hope we have added value to your alpaca
journey. A friend of mine once told me that he had figured out why he
loved raising alpacas so much. When I asked why he replied that he thought
"God had intended all of us to be 'shepherds.'" Another answer to the
riddle of why so many people are deciding to be alpaca farmers might lie
in the observation made by a famous medical doctor who developed the
highly profitable "Beefmaster" brand of beef. When he was asked why he
decided to be a cowboy, he replied "I have known a lot of doctors that
wanted to be cowboys, but I have never known a cowboy that wanted to be a