Making the decision to raise alpacas should not be undertaken without research and planning. Here’s some food for thought before you purchase your first alpacas:
- Determine why you are interested in alpacas. Do you want to go into the business of breeding and selling alpacas? Do you want to purchase nonbreeding alpacas and focus on the fiber-producing aspect of the business? Do you want to raise a few alpacas for a hobby and not be tied to the demands of a business?
- Visit as many alpaca farms as possible. Ask a lot of questions and handle a lot of alpacas. Each farm is a little different. Each breeding program is a little different. Each barn and pasture arrangement is different. Each business philosophy and marketing strategy is different. Find out what works for each farm and why. Focus on those strategies that you think might best fit your philosophy, your property and your budget.
- Learn how to evaluate the conformation of an alpaca. Visit farms after alpacas have been shorn; ask breeders to point out conformational strengths and weaknesses of different alpacas. Attend alpaca shows and listen to the judges’ comments. Ask to see and touch winning alpacas after their time in the ring.
- Learn about alpaca fiber. Consistent, high quality fiber is the future of our industry. Visit farms when alpacas are in full fleece. Learn which fiber characteristics are important and why. Attend fleece shows and read the judge’s comments about each fleece.
- Research the thriftiness and reproductive soundness of any alpacas that you are interested in purchasing. Discuss with the owners the medical and reproductive histories of the alpacas and their parents and siblings.
- Volunteer to help out at an alpaca farm. Learn how to manage routine husbandry chores like toenail trimming, injections and shearing. Learn what is involved in caring for alpacas before you decide to purchase.