The breeding of alpacas may be attractive, but it is not for everyone! I wrote this article to give you a little idea of what is waiting for you.
Take the trouble to read it; Too many people started to give up a few years later because it was not for them!
This small 5 minutes could change the next years of your life positively, whether you get into the project... or Not!
The raising of alpacas, although less physically demanding than another type of farming business, requires a minimum of physical work.
If you have limitations, it is always possible to manage if a member of the family or an employee (attention, it is not necessarily easy to find!) can take care of the tasks related to animals. On the other hand, if it is an employee, the project will be much more difficult to make profitable.
You will need to lift weights regularly (e.g., 30-50 lb. of feed bags or small bales of hay). A single woman is usually able to take care of the alpacas on a daily basis anyway. The most redundant work is to collect feces from litters, feed the animals and water them.
For some care, however, it is better or even essential to be two; for vaccines, drenches and shot deworming and nail cutting, for example, where one holds the animal and the other gives care. In this case, a single person must find the necessary help. It is often the spouse, a business partner or a close friend who plays this role. Most of these treatments can usually be expected, but others will need to be done quickly (help for a difficult birth, problem with a cria who has difficulty drinking and whose female does not collaborate).
The energy that requires shearing and the work of fiber...
Shearing and primary work on fiber are another reason to have a good physical shape for rearing alpacas.
Although it is possible to engage a shearer, this reduces profits at the end of the year. In addition, shearing oneself allows you to take care of the animals to our liking, which is not the case with the shearer, who will impose his method and his ways of doing it.
Want to have an extra closeness with alpacas in the year or more time to give care while the animal is attached to the shear carpet? Shearing oneself allows this flexibility... But doing the shearing is also very demanding physically!
Overall You have to get up and squat often (especially if you shear on a rug) and make efforts to immobilize the animal in the first place. The most stressed muscles are lower back muscles, thighs and buttocks.
The sorting of the fiber, after shearing, is done behind a sorting table. This requires staying up for a long time and stretching from one end of the sorting table to the other. The lower back is the most requested in this case.
Basic animal care must be spent at least 30-45 minutes per day, depending on the size of the herd. Here, every daily train requires between 30-40 minutes and is done twice a day, for 25 alpacas.
Periodically, we need to take a little more time to give less frequent care, such as cutting nails (here, about 1h to 2 months for 25 alpacas), giving the vaccines and deworming or shearing (depending on your speed and care made during the shearing, between 5 minutes and 40 minutes per animal).
Depending on your project and your ambitions, you can easily devote much more time to your breeding.
Do you want to continue working full-time? No problem, some do! It is possible to have some care carried out by the veterinarian or shearing by a professional shearer. An employee could allow you to free up overtime. You could even put your alpacas on board!
But be careful; Less time available for your breeding, it also means less chance to have the desired profits at the end of the year and even less chance to achieve profitability. So you should think about your goals before you start. The one who works... picks up the money!
And let's not forget that even if you delegate a lot of the tasks, you're going to have the manager to do and you're going to have to make the decisions regarding the breeding. An employee takes time to manage and some paperwork will ask for your attention. And as specified above, employees are hard to find in agriculture.
As the animal asks for care every day, it is sometimes difficult to leave long without great planning...
The time to transform
Because the breeding of alpaca is closely linked to the transformation of their fibre, it is necessary to count this time in the balance to obtain profitability. It will not be achievable if you want to sell only raw fibre; You'll pay to work and take care of your animals.
The transformation can take different forms depending on the project. If you want to sell the yarn to knit, you have to sort it and send it out (or spin it yourself, but it's exponentially more expensive in time!).
Then, to have a more substantial return, you can decide to make the transformation into products already knitted. In this case, you will have to either count the time to knit (or make!) yourself these products or hire a craftsman to do it for you. But even with a craftsman, you're going to have management to do.
Finally, whether you decide to sell the yarn or the knitting, it will take you some time to put on sale your product.
Alpaca is a type of livestock that does not require large sums of money compared to others. When it is difficult for someone to have a dairy farm today in Quebec without having someone in the family who holds quotas, alpaca is possible for the majority of people.
That said, you still have to do your homework and be prepared to put a minimum amount to have interesting animals to work with. A breeder who starts with alpacas that do not meet today's fiber quality standards will not have much chance to get to their ends.
So I would say that down to $15 000-$ 20 000, which represents 2-3 good females and a little bit of basic material, it is probably better to wait to save more before getting started. It is not counting the facilities where to put the animals and the fences.
The Taste of Adventure
Although alpaca is increasingly known in Quebec, expertise remains rare and somewhat deficient. In this sense, you must have a certain taste of risk and adventure because the paths are not all beaten in front of you, as for a more conventional breeding.
Besides, you're going to have a lot of work to do to market your product, being a new industry. You'll also need a good dose of resilience because things don't always go the way you want, especially when you're working with animals.
To get answers to your questions, you're going to have to do a lot more research; On the other hand, your achievements and victories will be proportionately unique!
To avoid repeating mistakes, the support and mentoring of an already established and experienced breeder is a very valuable asset...
Interest in learning and curiosity
If you're curious and like to learn, you're at the right door!
Since the alpaca farm is a small business, you have to get your hands on the dough and develop diversified skills, both in office, in marketing and in animal care.
If you find the monotonous days behind an office, the breeding will be for you liberator!
There are a variety of ways to learn, but the fastest part is mentoring, once again.
Some courses are available in French, but the majority are in English. Same thing for books and references.
If you know English, it will be much easier for you to learn new things; Whether by doing research or by contacting specialists around the world.
Raising Alpacas: Leading your company
The breeding or reproduction of alpacas is a business like any other; You have to learn to conduct your business well to succeed and progress in your project.
If you are not sure if you have the entrepreneurial flame, you should surround yourself well for your project. People of experience will be able to help you progress and it will lead you more easily to success!
Being an entrepreneur is learning even if certain qualities, skills and attitudes can greatly help you succeed. You will be able to develop your entrepreneurial skills by reading on the subject as well as by consulting the many resources available.
Are there steps you can take to become an entrepreneur? A manual? Not really!
Some courses are being developed in local development centres to help acquire some of the basics of entrepreneurship. On the other hand, there are, as in all things, several ways of getting from point A to point B; Your journey will inevitably be unique. Your insight into learning how others have done to succeed is going to be a great inspiration!
And in any case, you'll discover yourself on the way and will have no choice but to invest on your person and who you are to become a better version of yourself. It's hard to succeed in business when you don't know ourself. We need to know our strengths, our weaknesses and sometimes experiment on other ways of looking at things in order to achieve our goals.
One imagines the business owner alone in his big office and the alpaca breeder alone in a large meadow to walk between his animals... But the reality is quite different!
The solitude in agriculture is to have no one who understands exactly what you live... point!
The alpaca, above all, attracts the eyes. Even farms that do not open their doors to the public regularly have people who stop to take pictures or come to see the alpacas more closely. If you have a shop or you are doing agro-tourism, you will certainly see hundreds of people coming ashore every year, mostly in the summer. Sometimes unexpectedly also and outside of business hours. Sometimes it will be large groups. If you don't like talking with people, you might feel very quickly invaded!
And I don't count, of course, the phones you're going to receive; A lot to try to sell you an advertisement, a service or ask you for a cause. Others to ask you questions about the alpaca, about the fiber, about your products, about your hours of opening... and I pass!
As an entrepreneur, you will probably want to get closer to other entrepreneurs to grow your business, publicize your products and services or obtain the services of another. Entrepreneurial life is very social one ! If you do your little business quietly in your corner, you might lose opportunities to better succeed and keep you from seeing the walk evolve...
Being an alpaca breeder, it is adventure that requires time, physical strength and many opening features on the world and on oneself. It's certainly not always easy (I myself had very dark periods!). Do you think you have the skills to start and become an alpaca breeder?