Getting Started With Alpacas
So you've decided to look at alpacas and determine if raising them is something you would like to do.
There are many different avenues one can take to reach to the end of the 'Getting Started' phase; this is just one of them. These sets of tasks are for anybody, any region of the United States, or the planet for that matter!
1. Contact Professional Organizations!
1A. Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA) and get on their contact list.
If you look at the web site you will get additional information regarding membership as well. You don't have to own alpacas to join AOA. In addition this also allows other AOA members to send you important information regarding events and sales information.
AOA can be reached via:
Alpaca Owners Association, Inc.
8300 Cody Dr., Suite A
Lincoln, NE 68512
Phone: 402-437-8484, Fax: 402-437-8488
or on the Web at: www.alpacainfo.com
Or e-mail to: Contact UsContact UsContact Us
1B. Contact the Alpaca Breeders of the Rockies (ABR) to join with other regional professional, find out local events and informational opportunities.
Although AOA also has an annual national conference (actually two of them) ABR and other regional affiliates also have regional events, newsletters, etc. Find your local affiliate and get on their mailing list for their newsletter, membership directory, event promotions, seminars and workshops, and other marketing events. Through ABR, you can also get names of breeders in your area.
2. What next? With a list of local alpaca breeders in hand, contact them and schedule a visit. Take a weekend and travel around. You may have to call to get directions. In ABR's directory, you'll find maps (Yes maps!) to the farm members.
You will need: a camera and a couple rolls of film (or digital), pad and pencil or pen and driving instructions. From here, you’re on your own! Ask questions, lots of questions about all those little things that you’ve been anxious to know. Take some camera shots of the fencing, facilities, drinking water devices, feeding areas and, of course, the alpacas. It'll be hard not to get the alpacas in the viewing lens while taking pictures of all the other things.
Write down most everything. If you forget, get the breeders business card so you can call later to fill in the blanks.
You'll find many breeders have many different ways of raising these glorious creatures. Approaches may be related to their available acreage, facilities and surrounding area. From the many breeder visits you'll find out what you are capable of doing, what you have to build (or tear down), what alpacas eat and don't eat, the minerals you'll need for your area, and where to get them and so on.
3. And now? Relax for a week and do number 2 again.
While you’re at it, you can join a group dedicated to alpacas on Facebook. There are several to choose from. Some are closed groups and require permission to join. Breeders you visit with can give you more information on internet sites that might interest you.
Watch your mail for announcements of local alpaca events.
If you're getting serious, contact ABR and AOA and join as an Associate member. With that you'll get the ‘Paca Parade and Alpacas Magazine, both of which are a wealth of information to all breeders and potential owners.
Volunteer to help with the shows, events, etc. The people you meet will help you along your way.
4. Have you been looking at the alpacas too?
There are many ways to start out. First of all, they require the company of their own kind, i.e. you need at least two to begin with.
Of course, you can purchase one alpaca and board it with a herd of other alpacas.
So what do you look at? Two males, two females, a male and a female, pregnant females, breeding males.... or board a single?
If you plan on breeding female(s), eventually you're going to have crias running around and if you have only one pen for them to do that, it may not be wise to have a breeding male in the same pasture. Eventually the male is going to want to breed the cria (assuming your going to have a female cria) and that is not good for the first 14-18 months of her life.
Can you have one male and one female (with cria maybe) in adjoining pastures? Well yes, but it may depend upon the personality of the alpacas too. Ask the breeder.
The ultimate (minimum) adventure is to start out with two pregnant females, both females are unrelated as well as their unborn crias. The long term advantages are obvious.
It's time to start some marketing. Have you been thinking of a farm/ranch name? You need a logo, business cards, maybe stationary too. You may need some other forms from your state to register your business name, tax forms, etc. Contact a local breeder for information about these and other related items, more than likely they have already done this and can help you on your way.
5. Ok, you've got alpacas or they are on their way! When you have something to market, either breedings or sales, join ABR and AOA as a farm member. Get involved!
(Actually it might be better if you join the organizations even if you don't have anything to market. Getting your name and logo out there and visible to the alpaca community will help you later when you do have something to market.)
According to an AOA questionnaire some years ago, it took on the average of two years after folks learned about alpacas before they purchased. That's an average, some may wait for 3 years and yet others purchase a month after they see them.
It is helpful if you learn about the animal before you purchase, on the other hand, you can purchase and board the alpacas and let someone else take care of them while you get educated.
Any way you own these creatures, it's an adventure. It's an adventure in a lifestyle, a profitable business, and an investment in your future.