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Alpaca Breeding


***The alpaca buying and breeding tips on this page should be viewed as personal opinion, based on our personal experiences. We are not veterinarians, just conscientious and concerned alpaca breeders.



We were once alpaca breeders like you, and know how hard it is to buy the right alpacas to start your alpaca farm.

This page is about buying bred female alpacas to start your alpaca breeding business. To find more general alpaca information take a look at our site map.
Most alpaca breeders start their farms by buying bred female alpacas. This initial investment can consist of anywhere from one bred female to 10 or even 20 bred females, depending on the funds available for the initial purchase of breeding stock. Here are some things to consider when starting your own alpaca breeding business:

  1. Buy at least two alpacas to start. Alpacas cannot tolerate being alone. If you only have enough money for one bred female, buy or ask the alpaca breeder you buy from to throw in a gelded "pet quality" male alpaca to keep your female company. Some new buyers feel that a goat, horse or other livestock animal will be sufficient company for a lone female alpaca. We don't agree that this solution is a good one. Alpacas need other alpacas for company to feel happy and be healthy and you should not take the chance that your investment will contract an illness or parasite from a companion animal.


  2. Before you buy a "bargain" alpaca to start your herd, consider whether this will yield you the desired resale value in the offspring of your bred female alpaca. The average price for a bred female Huacaya alpaca is $5,000 to $10,000. For this price, you should be getting a female who has a correct and strong body, a good bite, good fleece, good color genetics, good mothering instincts, ability to produce adequate milk for her cria and good reproductive soundness. Go to our alpaca conformation page for more information on this topic and our alpaca fleece page for more information about alpaca fleece quality.


  3. Consider carefully the quality of the stud that your female alpaca is bred to. We call these breeding males "herdsires." You are not only buying this female alpaca, but her un-born offspring as well. You want the quality of this baby alpaca or "cria" to be as high as possible, because this cria will be an important part of your future alpaca breeding stock. Ask as many questions about the herdsire your female is bred to as you do about your female alpaca herself. Get a photograph of the herdsire and ask to see photos of any alpacas already produced by past breedings from this male alpaca.  If this herdsire has won ribbons in shows or his offspring have, get the specifics in writing for your own, future marketing information.  Don't forget to find out how many alpacas were in the show class! A blue ribbon in a class of one is not proof of anything.


  4. Make sure your sales contract gives specific guarantees about the bred female alpaca you buy including a guarantee of "live birth." This live birth guarantee is standard in the alpaca breeding industry and should offer you a free re-breeding to the herdsire of your choice if your female alpaca does not produce a live offspring for you. You may not get this type of guarantee if you buy a bred female alpaca at an alpaca auction. Most births work out fine but it is important to consider what your options will be if your female alpaca has a miscarriage or re-absorption. Breedings are expensivem so you must consider this in deciding if you are getting a "bargain" alpaca without any guarantee or follow-up service from the other breeder. 


  5. Younger alpacas, including "maiden" (females who have not produced offspring yet) females are almost always "cuter" than older alpacas. Think carefully about whether you would do better to buy a female alpaca that has already produced one or more crias. If you do buy an older female, you will know that she is fertile and can see a sample of the baby alpaca or alpacas that she has produced. Often this older female will have an easier time giving birth and nursing as well, because she has experience. If you just have to have that cute, young alpaca, try to make sure her dam and other females in her bloodline have good reproductive records.



 

 

  1. As in any animal breeding business, genetic diversity is important. If you buy an alpaca that is related to the alpacas on many of the farms around you, you will find it more difficult to select an un-related male to breed your female alpaca to when you have to re-breed her. It is a very good idea to buy some of your alpacas locally so that you will have other breeders to support you when you need help, and have the necessary business contacts to help you make a place for yourself in the alpaca breeding industry, but try to strike a balance between unusual genetics and local farm relationships.  Buy some of your alpacas far away.


  2. I once had someone accuse me very angrily of trying to scare people into buying from me instead of alpaca breeders in the western states because I had a warning (maybe even more like "venting" - I can admit it!) about buying alpacas that will be transported across the country, especially when they are pregnant females. Maybe I did not word this last point in my buying tips very carefully. I was frustrated by the continual experience of having alpacas brought to our farm when they were clearly sick, and the owners want them bred or sheared - usually sheared. By sick I mean that they are underweight, have signs of recent diarrhea on their backsides or down their legs, fleece looks very bad and sometimes contains patchy bald spots or scabs and the alpacas are sometimes very lethargic and/or dull-eyed as if in pain.

    I did not mean to imply that these alpacas were sold to their buyers already sick.  I meant that some transporters are much safer than others and also that some alpacas travel better than others. Some alpacas stop eating due to stress when transported - see Alpacas Magazine's article on rumen transfer for more about this because I am not a veterinarian and can't explain it. My "critic" told me that I should recommend transporters that are good, but we have never sold an alpaca that we did not transport ourselves, often inside the air-conditioned van with us and our children.

    I don't want or need to talk anyone out of buying from a western farm, just consider the risks of transporting and try to mitigate them whenever possible.

    alpaca transported inside van
    our boy Campion being transported "in style" by us


  3. A couple of years ago, we sponsored a Bio-Security in the Alpacas Industry lecture along with our partners from the Alpaca Heritage Group.  I think we all need to start thinking about the transfer of diseases and parasites from our farms to other farms, from shearing, shows, breeding visits, etc. Make sure that the alpaca farm you buy from is one where alpacas are not taken from farms all over the country and thrown in together for boarding or breeding.  Make sure that the alpaca farm you buy from has taken proper care to minimize bio-security risks.  Make sure you get a comprehensive record of all worming treatments, test results and vaccinations.  That last point is crucial.  If you accidentally buy an alpaca that is positive for a contagious disease, your entire business could be over before it's really started.

  4. Having warned you about what not to do, here's something you should do: Have fun with your alpacas and take the time to get to know and love them.  We loved being in the alpaca business and wouldn't have traded our years doing it for anything!

 

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