Giving Alpacas A Shower

When you give them a shower aim from the chest down

When you give them a shower aim from the chest down

Alpacas love water – especially on a hot day. My females will stand in line to get their bellies hosed down. Then they wander off and find a cool place to roll, or lie in the mud, or bucket dance in their water pails.

 This regular ritual allows me to give each one a close inspection. I check for the changes in the udder, birth canal opening, body score and personalities. I also look at their toenails and any possible wounds or lesions. Because I control the flow of water, they let me get real close to them with no fear. If need be, I can catch one easily.

If you are going to give them a shower, keep the stream of water aimed at their feet and lower belly. This will prevent water from collecting in the fleece on their back and possibly generating a highly humid condition that could harm them.

Make sure that they always have shade throughout the day. This is especially important for the fully fleeced females in late term when the weather starts to turn warm. Even if you have just shorn your herd – they need access to shade in order to control their body temperature. And in humid parts of the country fans are a must to cool and circulate the air. (Alpaca Farm Girl from Fairhope Alpacas in Alabama shares some of her tips about keeping her alpacas cool over the summer – check out http://bit.ly/YVexP.)

Oh, remember the males! They love to have their bellies hosed too.

One of my “BIG BOYS” will rear up on his back legs – exposing his belly. When he brings his front feet down he does a “quick-step” and loves to splash me with mud as he rears up again. This dance continues as long as I aim the hose at his legs. I keep my distance with him because he also lunges quickly on those back legs towards the source of the water. (Allow time for changing clothes after this shower ritual … if you have a dancer like mine!)

Until next time.

Alpacas Are Quite Intelligent

As a species alpacas are more like cats than dogs and quite Intelligent.Anzanita 3 hours old

 

When people meet alpacas for the first time – they observe gentle, curious animals with big doe-like eyes looking back at them. An initial question usually turns to their type of personality. My usual answer is that alpacas are more like cats than dogs.

 

Let me explain ten reasons why:

 

  1. An alpaca will stand just outside your reach – until they get to know you.
  2. An alpaca is curious about anything in the immediate surrounding – and will sniff it cautiously.
  3. Alpacas learn their names and will come when you call them – or may not.
  4. Alpacas like treats and can get comfortable eating out of your hand – their tricks are a bit limited.
  5. Alpacas will run away if they get spooked – only to stop and turn around to see what it was that spooked them.
  6. Alpacas are very intelligent and choose to return to the poop pile – usually in the same place – much like a cat uses a litter box. (My dogs have never made a pile and choose to use the whole back yard.)
  7. Alpacas do not play fetch – like a dog. Instead they nibble with their split upper lip on the edges of “things”…
  8. An alpaca female is very protective of her cria the first few days – then lets it explore the surroundings openly – probably glad for the break.
  9. Alpacas take “cat naps” through out the day and night.
  10. Alpacas hum to communicate much like a cat “meows”. It can be very quiet and comforting or…very persistent and annoying.

What are your experiences of “alpaca personality?” I invite you to give me your comments.

Stability of Alpaca Market Values

julie with Coconut CrunchOne of my coaching clients asked a question that I’m sure is on the minds of many other alpaca enthusiasts … and that is all about the stability of alpaca market values.

So here is my personal opinion:

You see, because the most important source of revenue in the alpaca industry is the actual sale of livestock (particularly breeding females), and also because the 2nd most important revenue source (stud fees) are dependent upon the market price of alpaca livestock … the primary risk you take when you enter the alpaca industry is ‘market risk’. 

(Of course there ARE other risks besides market risk, … but the availability of very affordable alpaca livestock insurance eliminates many of these concerns.)

If you’re willing to embrace the alpaca lifestyle and work at it for five to ten years, most people should be able to grow their herds to a size which would be worth five hundred thousand dollars (and often more).  That’s because at today’s market prices, 35 – 40 registered alpacas are worth that much. 

So, as far as I can tell, the only truly significant risk we take when we decide to get into alpacas, is whether 35 to 40 alpacas will still be worth a half million dollars when we’re ready to get out. 

The good news is that the average alpaca costs between 10,000 – $20,000 now – the same price it cost during the introduction of the species in the U.S. 25 years ago. Although this market value is subject to fluctuation like any other market, the value has stayed nearly the same because demand has been keeping pace nicely with supply.  (The US herd is still pretty small.)

One of the reasons the Alpaca herd stays small is because the registry of imports is formally closed (here in the USA, we’re not allowed to bring in any more from outside the country) and because females can only have one “cria” (the term for an alpaca baby) each year (the gestation period is 11.5 months!) 

Breeders in the business for a decade or more will usually say they’ve seen the low-end prices for alpacas drop and the prices for the top animals increase. This is also an indication of the stability of the value in the market overall. (And a good reason to embrace the lifestyle fully if you’re going to do this, so that you really can learn how to develop high end animals.)

One of the first females we bought had a 4 month old female cria at side. I named her Coconut Crunch, CC for short. (See her 11 month picture above.) That was in August of 2004. Well, just this week, June 7, 2009, CC delivered her third baby girl! In addition to that, her first cria, Sedona, is pregnant and due in the fall. From that initial purchase of CC and her dam, our herd has grown by 6 (all females) with several more years of production ahead. We’re not ready to sell CC or her offspring yet … even though we’ve had offers from people to buy her.

These are some of my thoughts … what are yours?

Alpacas ROI – The Bottom Line

alpaca_headToday I’d like to give you a quick summary of my take on the “Bottom Line” when it comes to investing in alpacas (ROI).

1. It’s not like winning the lottery. However, more like growing your investment exponentially and in the long term profit appears very likely, if you’re willing and able to fully embrace the lifestyle for 5 to 10 years. 

 2. Although there are five main “revenue streams” in the Alpaca industry (livestock sale, stud fees, boarding fees fiber sales, and product sales) … by far the majority of the income will come from sale of livestock. 

3. Because the income comes largely from livestock sale, you’ll need to reach a critical mass in your herd (about 20 -30 Alpacas) before you can generate a substantial income.

Prior to reaching this level, it’s usually not a good idea to sell too many offspring because it interferes with your ‘production capacity’.

(Generating income requires that you sell your females … and if you sell too many before your herd is large enough, you won’t be able to increase in size as fast by breeding)

4. There are a number of significant tax benefits and write offs, which vary from state to state. You’ll need to consult with a certified accountant to advise you in particular, however, the government usually provides incentives to make it easier to get started, as long as you treat your Alpacas as a BUSINESS. (See the Post: Let Uncle Sam Buy Your Alpacas For You)

5. Although there are a variety of ways to reach critical mass, how much you invest in a quantity of livestock to start with, and how avidly you engage in the lifestyle are the two most important factors.

Theoretically, it’s possible to buy your way to critical mass right off the bat … however, this might also overwhelm the inexperienced Alpaca investor.

6. You don’t necessarily have to have the land or the money in the bank to get started.  Options for boarding (“agisting”) and financing your initial Alpacas are available from most breeders.  (More on this in a future post.)

7. You can (and probably should) insure your Alpaca investment at an approximate cost of 3% of the value of your herd, per year. (At the time of this writing.)

8. Generating a 6 figure income each year is realistic if you’re willing to grow your herd to 35 to 40 Alpacas.  Some farms do a lot more than this, and 7 figures is not impossible. (Even in a down economy.)

9. Losing your initial investment is probably less common in the alpaca industry because proven females should multiply their values by producing 7 or more offspring over the course of their lifetime.

10. If you’re only in it for the money … you might be better off doing something else.  But if you love and passionately embrace the lifestyle, the money should follow.

This is just a quick summary on the “Bottom Line” return on alpaca investing. What are your thoughts? Please comment below.