9 Steps to Start and Run the Alpaca Farm?
What are Alpacas?
First, for those who haven’t been around an alpaca yet, I’d like to describe the animal for you. The Alpacas are domesticated South American species of animal that closely resembles a miniature form of camel or llama in appearance and belonging to the biological family of Camelidae. A full-grown alpaca can weigh about 100 to 185 pounds and are 2.5 to 5 feet tall, which makes them slightly
Alpacas are truly unique animals in many ways. Even though they originated from South American continent, and they usually graze in herds on the level height grasses of the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador and northern Chile at an altitude of 16,000 ft above the sea level, they can be easily raised in any state in the United States, from California to Maine and from Florida to Minnesota due to their ability to adapt to virtually any climate.
Types of Alpacas:
There are two types of alpacas:
- The Huacaya
- The Suri
Haucaya alpacas are fluffy with teddy bear-like fibers on them and because of their cuddly look, they have a more universal appeal. They are also hardy animals so they are a bit easier to keep and raise on a farm. Their fiber is also easily processed, silky and strong.
Suri alpacas have long shiny locks with very soft curly hair. They are much more expensive and rare. Fiber from Suri alpacas goes for a higher price on the international market.
Why Start an Alpaca Farm?
- Alpacas produce fibers that are valuable around the world.
- Alpaca fibers can be used for making clothing, toys such as teddy bears, and today.
- They are also being used for making insulation for homes.
- Because of their bone structure, they are less popular as a producer of meat but some have found success in this market.
- Many people also raise alpacas as a hobby because they find it emotionally rewarding to raise alpacas as pets due to their warmth, friendliness, and trainability.
- Alpacas eat very little, so the acreage per animal is also small. They can be kept with minimal veterinary costs, and they have the enduring quality of strength and toughness.
- Raising alpacas for their fiber and breeding alpacas commercially for selling can be profitable and generate a steady income once you have a farm started and know how to raise animals professionally.
Steps to start an Alpacas Farm
Every business requires planning and proper procedures to be successful. You also need to ensure that your alpacas have a healthy environment to live in. Below are some steps are given to help you get started with your alpacas’ farm.
Step 1: Licensing and Planning:
The first thing you need to do to start your own farm is to obtain a license from the clerk’s office to the country that you reside in. For commercial farms, you will also need to name your business license from your state, if you plan on selling the alpacas and their fleece or end products made from the luxurious fiber. You may need to consult a business attorney to help you set up your business and help you with the paperwork and permits that you’ll need to define the nature of your business and get a business plan done. You’ll also need a feasibility report to define your goals, requirements, and overheads. You will need these to get financial support and tax breaks from the state.
Step 2: Gather Funds:
Make sure that you have enough funds to run your farm successfully. There are initial costs associated with buying land, transportation, hiring staff, and buying into the other steps. Purchasing alpacas land and supplies can be expensive, but don’t let a shortage of funds discourage you from starting your business. There are government subsidies and grants available for alpacas farmers. You may also try to obtain a loan from a bank.
Step 3: Choosing a suitable Location for your Alpaca Farming Business:
Starting an alpaca farming business comes with its own challenges; it is a business that cannot be started in any location of your choice. As a matter of fact, you will not be allowed to start an alpaca farming business in a residential estate in the United State of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The only location you can be allowed to start an alpaca farm is farmland designated for cattle rearing and it is usually in the outskirts of town- the countryside.
It cannot be overemphasized that the location you choose to construct your cattle ranch is key to the success of the business, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location where the demography consists of people with the required purchasing power, and a location that has minimal predators and the right climatic condition for the types of alpacas you intend raising.
Step 4 Purchase Land:
If you haven’t got a land yet for farming, consult a realtor for purchasing land, suitable for alpaca farming. You can raise 7-10 alpacas on an acre of land. Alpacas do well on orchard grass or mixed grass flat fields or rolling hills or even terrain. Make sure you have enough room for grazing and storing your alpacas and also have room for expansion in case you want to increase the number of animals in the future. If you already own farmland, move to the next step.
Step 5: Ensure Safety for Alpacas:
Make sure that your alpacas safely on the grasslands and pastures that you own. Check for plants that can be toxic or poisonous to the alpacas, such as acorns, buckwheat, and poppies.
Step 6: Design a barn:
The next step in starting an alpaca farm is to construct a barn that will act as a shelter for the alpacas. The barn will create a shelter that will keep them cool and away from the direct sunlight, which can be uncomfortable for them. It will also keep them dry during the rain. They do not like getting wet, and it can ruin the fleece if it stays moist for a long period of time. Heat is not necessary, because they have built-in winter jackets!
Your barn can be as extravagant or as cheap as you would like it to be. As long are you are giving them a roof that they all can fit under, they will be happy. My only other advice is to avoid using metal roofing or siding because it heats up quickly.
Step 7: Get your Farm Ready for Alpacas:
Make sure that you have adequate tools and supplies for your farm. You need to purchase protective clothing, boots, and gloves for yourself.
You will also need to ensure that you have secured your land with the right fence. The alpacas will behave like any other animal, whereby, they would walk out of the secluded zone if there is nothing to stop them. For that, you will need to erect a fence around the land.
The fence should be between 4 and a half to 5 feet tall. You can either use boards or woven wire. Which should be no more than 4 inches apart. This will prevent the possibility of having their head stuck in between the boards. You can use the no-climb fence, along with an electric wire that is placed on the outside, bottom and top, for the sake of keeping intruders and predators away.
Most alpacas will not challenge a fence. Therefore, it is more important to ensure that threats can’t get into the pen. That means that they should be able to get over or under whatever it is that you close to use.
Step 8: Contact a Vet:
You must get help from qualified experienced vets and mentors in case a health issue or emergency arises. Once you get experienced and knowledgeable about your farm, you will be able to manage most health issues and pathogens yourself, with instructions form a vet. Parasites are the number one killer of alpacas in the United States, so it will be important to have fecal testing done periodically and to treat against worms and parasites on a regular basis. You will also want to get insurance for your alpacas.
Typically, alpacas tend to be tolerant animals. This means that they can bear many health conditions or discomforts for a long time, without you even realizing it. This implies that if they have any disease, they will endure it and it can be too late once you notice symptoms. For that reason, it is highly advised to always perform routine checkups on the alpacas, to ensure that their health is good.
In order to do routine checkups, your animals need to be accustomed to being handled. This can only be done by working with them an ensuring that handling isn’t always a bad thing. We start this when they are young, by weighing them every day. It helps us keep an eye on their overall growth while getting them used to being handled.
Step 9: Get the Feed:
Alpacas originate from the South American continent and so they require free-choice minerals to make up for nutrients not readily found in the U.S. forage. Therefore you will have to provide them with high-quality nutrition filled grasses. You may also purchase hay to feed them, which may be a more expensive choice. Make sure that the hay you purchase does not smell musty or moldy and it should not look bleached or be dusty. Hay should look green and healthy.
Possible Threats and Challenges you will face when Starting an Alpaca Farming Business:
If you decide to start your own alpaca farming business today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well-established alpaca farms who raise alpacas and other livestock for fiber and wool in your target market location. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market; concentrate on cottage industries or fiber/fleece from alpaca farms on a regular basis.
Some other threats and challenges that you are likely going to face when you start your own alpaca farming business are global economic downturn that can impact negatively household spending, bad weather cum natural disasters, unfavorable government policies and the arrival of a competitor within the same location. There is hardly anything you can do as regards these threats and challenges other than to be optimistic that things will continue to work for your good.
Strategies to Boost your Alpaca Farm brand Awareness and create your Corporate Identity:
If your intention of starting an alpaca farming business is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand by opening chains of alpaca farms and franchising, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.
Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand awareness and create a corporate identity for your alpaca farming business;
- Place adverts on both print(newspapers and agriculture and fashion magazines) and electronic media platforms
- Sponsor relevant community- based events
- Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+ et al to promote your products.
- Install your billboards in strategic locations all around your city or state.
- Engage in road-shows from time to time in target neighborhoods to create awareness of your alpaca farm
- Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
- Contact fiber mills and textile and fashion companies and related business in the United State informing them about your business and the products you sell
- List your alpaca farming business in local directories/yellow pages.
- Advertise your alpaca farming business on your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site.