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Anybody ever own or breed alpacas?

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  • Anybody ever own or breed alpacas?

    OK, here's the situation: formed a farm LLC when we bought our property last year in order to help with tax write offs and have our small farm listed as general farm ie horse training/boarding and a minature fruit tree business. We have one boarded and our 18 yr old daughter trains several others that live away from the farm, but the farm is paid for her services and yes, she is declared as a professional for competition.

    We had good success before we tried to make it into a business with the mini fruit trees which are kept in pots like house plants, but produce full size fruit, but since we tried to make it a business they are dying like flies. Greenhouse is still in the planning stages so the trees live in the guest room. LOL

    We can't just have the horse business or we will lose our tax status as a general farm. (Horse stables get little to no tax breaks). A friend of my sister has a horse farm and now breeds alpacas which she swears are easy keepers and breed like rabbits (??). She has them shorn once a year and other than that they are happy as clams just to play alpaca games and grow hair. She doesn't put them in the same pens with the horses but I get the feeling they don't need a stall or much of a shelter except a run in.

    I'm just beginning this research but before I got any further I would welcome any feedback or advice from the COTH coommunity.

  • #2
    If you decide to get alpacas, I'll bring my knitting group to visit. Especially if you have fleece or yarn for sale. We LOFF alpacas.

    You'll definitely want to contact the local knitting group as well. I can help you there as it was started by a friend of mine who moved there after starting my knitting group. Plus any spinners in the area. And contact Bella Filati in SP. They may be interested in local fleeces or hook you up with a spinner.

    There is an alpaca farm between me and my boarding barn. You just might want to talk to Deb, so here's a link.

    'Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.'
    - Pablo Picasso


    • Original Poster

      Wow--thanks so much for the info! I'll definitely contact Bella and Deb today. Of course you are WELCOME to come and visit if we decide to do the alpaca thing. (Youngsville is very close to where we used to live--Louisburg. We're a bit further now but not too bad.)


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jasmine
        The bottom is falling out of the alpaca market at the moment. In the last 3 months, I've seen three HUGE herd dispersal sales. Over 100 animals each. There are two ranches in WI that are trying to sell out completely, including one that has over 400 animals. Be careful that you don't get taken for a ride.
        My thoughts exactly. We thought about getting into alpacas. Their value is in breeding, not so much the wool, although it does bring a good price. Have you thought about cattle? Here in Kentucky you only have to have 10 head for LOTS of tax right offs and grants. I would contact your ag agent and see if it's feasible. It's a lot of work (we're right next to an organic black angus farm, and I help out on occasion), but can really get you a lot of write offs. There's also meat goats and sheep (don't know anything about sheep, not too thrilled with goats).

        We've been pretty successful with just boarding, training and sales. Negative cash flow for three years (not really working at it), but we're in the black this year. Hooray. Wish I could get some of those livestock grants, though.


        • #5
          Also, I assume you've talked to your accountant. According to ours, you have three years to start to make a profit. You do have to show that you are a legitimate business, have a business plan, marketing plan, etc. We've done really well just by word of mouth and our website and lots of listings on horse websites (most are free). We are full with full care board and training board and don't have an opening until April and that's just from advertising through the our website and lots of horse websites.

          We've also held several tack sales and rent tables for $5 to $10. The more traffic, the better.


          • #6
            Last week I was at the Aluquerque Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico and a friend of mine has like 5 alpacas and a lama in her garden as pets!
            They are so cute and funny! I don't think she's making any kind of business or profit with them though...



            • Original Poster

              ohhhhhhhh....reality check. Thanks for the feedback ya'll. Looked into what it costs to buy a breeding pair and although they are precious looking, more $ than I realized. Apparently this market isn't recession proof either. Sigh...we're not trying to make a profit per se, just offset the expenses of owning horses and land in a high tax area.

              With fewer than 5 acres we don't have enough land to own cattle so I guess we'll get back to building our greenhouse and trying to get our fruit trees to grow instead of withering and dying. It's so wierd--when we didn't care whether they lived or died, we had several key lime and lemon trees that survived multiple moves across country and happily produced fruit. Now that we're trying to grow some for sale they've suddenly taken on this diva attitude and if their environment isn't perfect, pooof! dead as a doornail.

              Those alpaca are adorable though. It still might be worthwhile to go visit a farm sometime just for fun and research.

              Yes, we've worked closely with our accountant and set up the LLC through Legal Zoom so we're trying to make sure we do things by the books. We've got two years to show a profit which I am hoping we can do through the trees but the economy isn't helping. The business brings in only about $12K-$13k a year with the boarding and training but our plans to sell my daughter's dressage horse last year to pay for the greenhouse ended in failure. He went lame for the first time in 5 yrs the DAY he was to go on trial and didn't get sound until the market had completely fallen apart. Perfectly sound and happy since then...but we couldn't get a third of his original price now so we've decided just to keep him.
              Last edited by MediaMD; Oct. 20, 2009, 01:12 PM. Reason: response to later post


              • #8
                I've read a bit about farming . . . (I have one too)

                Niche crops apparently do well -- like your miniature fruit trees. What about herbs? Or berries? Can you sell direct to the public? Chickens? Free range eggs? (my neighbor, on 4 acres sells probably $5,000 + worth of free range eggs). Cashmere goats? (but don't think you'd really make money there). Salad greens? Also, value added products -- so jam made from your berries makes more $ than just selling the berries.

                Good luck!
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                • #9
                  The farm adjacent to us (and good friends) is a large breeder. I can tell you they are 4-5 yrs into it and have yet to sell 1 single animal. This year I believe they had 9 crea. The breeding is much easier as the male stimulates them to ovulate, so no waiting for them to cycle in. Once they spit off 3 times they are considered pregnant.

                  What they tell me, if you want any value for their fiber, you must regulate the protein levels or it blows out the fiber. They cannot do Timothy, they feed Orchard grass. She has had good luck selling the raw fiber and spun yarn at the farmers market.

                  They do not colic, but can bloat similar to a dog. They had to have a tap on one that started to blow up like a balloon when put on a new pasture. They can also be quite fragile - I know they have sent 1 for hip surgery after slipping on some ice (re-freeze of snow melt) and 1 broke a leg that had to have surgery
                  Epona Farm
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                  • #10
                    We have 21.

                    If you have the money to support them over the next few years, now is the time to buy. You can get some VERY nice girls for really good prices. And you want to add the best quality animals you can afford. There will always be a market for quality animals.

                    The place the market's really fallen out of is with the lower quality geldings & older girls. Its a little off with some of the higher quality girls, but no that much. And there's not much of a change in the prices of the super high quality studs.

                    Most of the people I know of that have had to sell is due to job loss.

                    They do pretty well in the cold, as long as they're healthy & have grown enough fiber, and you do have to keep them in if its icy. The thing they have a real problem with is high heat & humidity. They MUST be shorn at least once a year, and need access to shade & fans during the summer. It also helps if you hose them down a couple times a day. And they need electrolyte water.

                    There are also a couple different ways you can get into alpacas. You can breed, so with that you'll have animals & fiber to sell, or you can get some nice geldings & fiber girls and sell fiber. And if you have a nice boy with good bloodlines & a good show record, you could stand him at stud.

                    Then there are 2 different types of alpacas. Huacayas are really fluffy and more common. Suris kind of have dreadlocks and are a bit more rare, and can have a harder time during really cold winters.

                    I could probably write a book about this, and we've only had them for a little over a year. Feel free to PM me if you want more information.


                    • #11
                      What about sheep, goats, or rabbits? I also second the suggestion about cattle, especially smaller breeds or younger animals like Dexters or dairy heifers (sell a month before calving to avoid having to milk the buggers). Just some thoughts. Or if you want to get really creative; elk, beefalo, deer, emu, ostrich, guinea pigs (yes I have a friend who has about 100 of them), fish, etc. Good luck!
                      "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
                      you have a right to be here." ~ Desiderata by Max Ehrmann


                      • #12
                        Our neighbor has alpacas. There is a line of spruce trees between our fence lines, and you would never know they were over there. I never hear them make any noise. The babies are adorable, she has two right now, cute I am pretty sure she just sells the wool as her heard is expanding.
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                        • #13
                          Something eaiser than alpacas and yet still a "product" would be meat goats. They are a very strong market right now.


                          • #14
                            I don't know what its like where you live but I agree with the other poster who said get into some of the niche produce. I know out here in CA people pay out the nose for the unique organic produce that cannot be found in regular chain grocery stores. A lot of restaurants also focus on using local produce on their menu and would kill for a supplier who could provide them with this stuff as well. So if you do have a green thumb, its definitely something to think about!


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks for the great feedback both pro and con for the alpacas. I confess the information about their care has me a wee bit concerned as I wouldn't want any bloating or hip displaced animals because of my ignorance, and we only have a 3 stall barn so that would limit their fan time. I never did 4-H because of my inability to sell anything I had raised for meat so any table-destined animals would die of old age on my dime so that's out.

                              I'm intrigued about the niche gardening though. Looks like we will definitely have to get the greenhouse built and functioning since our guest room can only accomodate so many plants and it can get awkward if the guests can't reach the bed for all the pots. LOL!

                              I will definitely follow up with the suggestions about organic produce for local sale. Those plus the mini fruit trees might just be the ticket to staying out of IRS prison for failure to qualify as a "general farm", as well as doing something worthwhile for the community of organic/locally grown foodies.


                              • #16
                                Call the Extension service in your county if you haven't already done so. There are some great agents in your area and they could help you get in touch with some of the alternative ag specialists with NCSU. One of the agents that works in Chatham Co (Siler City) has one of the best sustainable ag programs around and would be a good resource also.
                                "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." --Dwight D Eisenhower

                                Boston Terrier Rescue of NC - www.btrnc.org - Adopt for Life!


                                • #17
                                  Look into the cut flower market. The book The Flower Farmer, an organic growers guide to raising and selling cut flowers by Lynn Byczynski is a good book. "Small scale commercial cut-flower production can generated $25,000-30,000 an acre, if the flowers are grown and marketed well. Once the farm is mature and fully capitalized, the net income ranges from 30-60% of gross". Not bad for a side-line business!


                                  • #18
                                    I'm in sheep so I don't have alpacas but run into alpaca people in the wool circles. A lot of knitters really love the wool. But lemme tell you, its hard to make money off fiber animals-especially if you are a tiny herd. Our farm is tiny and just getting off the ground and I'm putting up flyers and going to fairs and talking to people left and right. Its not very lucrative. But I love my sheep and the tax break helps. And sheep are just awesome....
                                    Slave at the insane aslyum known as Hillyard Farms....


                                    • #19
                                      One problem about the 'organic' farm designation is that I understand it takes a long time to make sure there's no non-organic elements in the soil and planting areas. I think it's a matter of years, but I'm sure the extension service can tell you. How about vegetables (should grow well with your ready fertilizer supply) for a pick-your-own farm? They are very profitable, and the vegetables or berries are very popular with consumers. Or how about a pumpkin patch? City people love to go to these, and you can get school groups also. A wonderful farmer in Colorado Springs (Mr. Ventucci) had a free pumpkin patch for school groups for years-after he passed on they were raising money for a statue of him.
                                      You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Yes, you are correct about the organic designation. Easy to fail on a minor violation. Don't laugh, but we are actually considering turning our 20 meter wide round pen into a niche vegetable garden. We live way off the road on a bumpy dirt path so we probably wouldn't be a good school kid destination or pick your own but I'm hoping we can sell enough to turn a tiny profit through word of mouth and the internet.

                                        We have plenty of organic fertilizer with the composted manure heap, and although it will take several months to really get the soil prepared with humus (sp?) so we can overcome the sand and clay we had in there, it is already safe from the horses since it's fenced, it has full sun and our 4 rescued felines will protect it from any interloping rabbits.We hope by next spring to have it prepared for planting.

                                        We have begun attending some of the local AG meetings and seminars given in our area and a friend of mine has her master's in soil science so she is going to advise us about what we can grow that will be the most profitable for our small land area.

                                        Not nearly as cute or friendly as alpacas but if our vegetables succumb to the elements, it won't be as traumatic either.