Alpacas are wonderful creatures with so much personality and a very naturally friendly nature, which is just one of the reasons they are so popular! Compared to other types of livestock, including sheep, cows and horses, they are also very low maintenance, and don’t need any expensive feed or housing to be perfectly happy! Alpacas are… Read more »
When you’re first looking at buying alpacas, there are lots of things you’ll want to consider, however one of the big ones is cost! If you’re looking to keep alpacas as pets and nothing more, the costs and returns on alpaca breeding and fleece products probably aren’t too much of a concern! However, many alpaca owners raise and build their herds based on profitability, just like you would with any other kind of livestock. In recent years as interest around alpacas has grown, so has interest in alpaca products and people keeping alpacas for themselves, which represents a massive opportunity for herd owners to get a strong return on their alpaca investment. In this post, we’ll break down some of the main costs that are associated with keeping alpacas, as well as the areas with potential for return.
How much does an alpaca cost?
The first thing you’ll want to take into account is the upfront cost of buying an alpaca! Of course, like any other animal, from a cat, to a dog to a sheep to a horse, the price you pay for the animal will vary massively depending on their genetics, confirmation, age, sex and a whole host of other factors. Award winning alpacas with an excellent bloodline can cost tens of thousands of pounds, or potentially even more! At the other end of the scale, if you’re looking for pet alpacas and aren’t particularly interested in their profitability, prices can be much lower – Geldings (castrated male alpacas), for example, can cost between £300 and £1000, which is much more affordable for the casual alpaca owner. However, on average a healthy breeding female alpaca will cost somewhere in the realm of £3000-£10,000, while a healthy breeding male generally costs between £6000-£50,000.
What care do they need?
Compared to a lot of livestock, (and a lot of domestic animals too!) alpacas are very low-maintenance animals, without any particularly expensive needs or habits. However, there are a few basic needs that alpacas have that simply aren’t negotiable, so you need to be prepared for these costs if you’re looking into alpaca ownership.
Alpacas are outdoor animals and need space outside, usually at least an acre for small herds. They are pretty hardy animals as they come from the Andes originally, where conditions are a bit more volatile than here in the UK! Alpacas can remain outdoors in the summer and winter without much trouble at all, although if conditions are really extreme they will be best off inside. In general though, a three-sided field shelter, a barn or repurposed stables will be perfect for your alpacas, as they offer a dry, secure place to store feed and hay, and also let in plenty of light. This shelter will also help to provide them with shade in the summer, but you should also make sure that there is natural shade for your alpacas to use if they – trees and hedgerows are perfect for this, and help prevent alpacas from getting heat stroke in the hotter months.
An alpaca’s diet is pretty basic – it consists mostly of grass and hay. Alpaca owners will usually supplement their diet with pellets too, but the vast majority of their food will be grass from their field and hay in the barn, so you should make sure you always have enough high-quality hay on hand for your herd, no matter how big or small it is!
One thing that is vitally important to consider when it comes to the costs of buying and keeping alpacas, is that they are herd animals, and should never be bought on their own. If you’re buying your first alpacas, we’d strongly recommend getting a pair, as this will help to reduce anxiety and allow them to bond and live comfortably together. It will also help them to settle in better, which is something that can take a little longer for alpacas than animals like horses or sheep. Being able to keep multiple alpacas at once is probably the most important financial consideration to think about when you’re buying alpacas.
How much space do they need?
If you have around an acre of space (just over 4000 square metres), then you’ll be fine to keep up to about six alpacas! After that, you should increase the space your herd has accordingly to ensure that they always have enough space to roam. As herd animals, alpacas do tend to stick together, but they need to have enough space to roam and graze independently too, particularly in a smaller herd.
How can I make money from my alpacas?
As well as making lovely, friendly companions, alpacas can be exceptionally profitable if you’re willing to put in the work. Showing, breeding, sales and fleece sales are all avenues that can help your alpacas make money, particularly as the breed becomes more popular in the UK!
As we’ve mentioned, alpacas can sell for a considerable amount of money if you have high-quality animals in your herd. Male alpacas tend to be more expensive than female alpacas, due to their potential for stud services, but there is a lot of variation in how much the animal can cost. If you have a quality breeding programme and good care practices, you’ll be able to charge a higher price for alpacas with a lot of positive characteristics and strong bloodlines. Entering shows and awards can also make your herd more valuable in the eyes of other alpaca owners!
Male alpaca stud services can be very valuable, as they allow owners to increase the biodiversity and genetic lines of their herd without having to invest in a male alpaca of their own. Stud services can be carried out on your premises, or you can travel to a client’s premises for stud services, but you should be conscious of biosecurity, to make sure no diseases are passed onto your herd from another. Stud services can be incredibly profitable for alpaca farmers and owners, as they are quick and simple, but give customers an exceptionally valuable service to improve their herd.
Alpaca fleece is growing in popularity all the time as an alternative to sheep’s wool and cashmere for many reasons! It is incredibly soft, smooth and sleek to touch, comes in a variety of colours without the need for dyes (due to the number of natural tones of alpacas!), and doesn’t contain lanolin, which is present in sheep’s wool and can cause an allergic reaction or scratchy feeling for people with more sensitive skin. Like the alpacas themselves, the amount you can make from alpaca fleece varies a lot depending on the quality of the fleece – the finer the hairs, the better. White alpaca fleece and less common fleece colours can also go for more than the most common colours. Prices can range from less than £1/kg for low-quality fibres, such as those that are too short, too thick or difficult for mills to spin, all the way up to £15/kg for high-quality white and light coloured fleece.
One cost to take into account when thinking about the economics of selling alpaca fleece is that of shearing! While some farmers prefer to learn to shear their animals themselves, you can also get someone else to shear the alpacas for you, which is an additional cost. However, most shearers will have all of their own equipment, saving you money here. The cost of hiring someone to shear alpacas can also vary depending on expertise, the distance your shearer has to travel and the number of animals you have.
If you have a strong breeding programme in your herd, there are great opportunities to sell alpacas for a much higher than average price. Descendants of award-winning alpacas, for example, can be significantly more valuable than other alpacas in your herd.
Find out more and get in touch!
To find out more about alpaca care, or for more information on the costs of keeping alpacas, please don’t hesitate to contact us, where Chris or a member of the team will be happy to speak to you about your questions! We’d be delighted to hear from you!