Before you even consider the fibre quality of the alpaca to establish a sale price for the animal, it is necessary to go to the obvious; Raising an alpaca costs something. And it is a calculation of this price that I will demonstrate in the next paragraphs.
How much does an alpaca cost or -even give life costs something-...
It is not because birth takes place naturally through the magic of nature that every new animal that lands on the ground enters to the "profit" column of a breeding, far from it!
An alpaca costs every year, according to my calculations, $250 (minimum) in care and food. It is not counting the time that we have spent taking care of him and the veterinary costs, if he needs.
And this $250 is a fairly low figure in the industry and it is very variable depending on the breeding conditions and the regions. Others arrive at numbers like $450/year and this, always without counting the time spent to manage the breeding.
An animal that is sold at the age of 2 years (a respectable age to have a little idea of its quality; the sensible breeder does not want to lose in the transaction!) will have already cost at least $500 to the breeder.
So it's completely insane to resell at this price!
Despite everything, every month, prospective buyers come to me and tell me that they have $500 maximum to put on an alpaca (and some insist to tell me that this is what it's worth and that I "sell expensive"! They know, for sure! * irony *)...
An alpaca or a goat that is born... it's the same thing, right? Not!
The dairy goat (when fed for milk production) costs about $330 per year, so more than we have calculated minimally for an alpaca ($250) but cheaper than for other alpaca breeders ($450).
The goat is ready to reproduce itself more quickly than alpaca (7 months compared to 2 years for an alpaca), gestation is less longer (5 months for the goat compared to 11 months 1/2 for alpaca) and is more likely to have two babies at once (the twins are very very rare in alpaca!).
The goat is easily worth several hundred dollars... The alpaca cannot logically claim the same amount by having a lower and much slower reproductive rate!
To have an alpaca baby: A female must have 2 years of LIFE + a gestation of about 1 year = $750 minimum cost to give birth to a cria. We add 2 years of life to the cria before the sale = $1250
To have a goat kid: the goat must have 7 months of LIFE + 5 months gestation = $465
Already, the goat kid costs about 1/3 of the cost of cria... if the goat has two kids, half the costs can be divided for about $232!
A cria, therefore, is about 3x to 6x the cost of a goat kid !
Sell an alpaca of 2 years at $1250 (putting aside the production of the animal (fiber) as I did with the Goat (milk)), so it is not profitable at all for the breeder!
In this context, I did a simplified calculation. I did not calculate the starting herd investment, the facilities, the number of babies that a female can have in her life (the breeder must be able to keep a succession if he wants to continue, so in this context, he cannot sell all the animals that are born on his farm) and I have not adjusted with the mortality rate of the first year of life of the animals...
The real cost still can be higher !
An alpaca of 2 years cost about $1250 to the breeder... and then?
The alpaca is an animal bred mainly for its fiber which is recognized as one of the most luxurious, warm, comfortable and soft in the world... and it is the quality of the produced fiber that gives most of the value to an alpaca.
This explains why prices vary enormously; Easily from $2 500 to $30 000... and sometimes more! There is even a alpaca herdsire that has already sold... 1/2 million!
The females price is very often higher than males, given the investments that are also found in their belly. Females are generally sold pregnant and their ability to reproduce is obviously appreciated for breeders.
The males price has more variable and extreme values. A very large majority of males have a lesser value than females (the breeders does not need as many males as they are born...). On the other hand, the best herdsire, can easily be worth double or triple the price of a female.
Then, the finesse, the cover, the length, the uniformity of the fleece, the density of the fiber and other qualities of the animal play a decisive role in the price of the alpaca.
Then comes the most subjective part; An animal can be worth more for a breeder and cheaper for another. Nevertheless, the price must be largely explained; A breeder can normally do that.
Sometimes it is the notoriety of the animal (and the breeder) that will dictate some of the value, but it is rarely only that...
The majority of our own females are on sale from $6 000 and our males from $3 000. And if we have established these prices, it is that we know that we can clear this value with our animals without even selling them...
Buy a "cheap Alpaca"...
A "cheap Alpaca", (you know the one we dig up at $500 even $250!) it's either...
1. A low-end alpaca.
When I say "low-end", I refer mainly to the quality of the fiber on the animal which usually is practically nothing... but the physical structure of the animal can also be problematic. It is a "company" farm animal and often at this price, sold by an individual.
The low-end alpaca does not have the quality to be reproductive; To start a breeding with alpacas of poor quality is to shoot in the foot royally (I talk about that in this article about the profitability of the alpaca).
For those who wish to buy an alpaca of this quality in order to knit its fibre, I do not recommend it either... A poor quality of the animal's fibre will have a real impact on the softness and comfort of knits to the point where some people will not be able to wear them! It is not to mention that the quality of the fiber of the animal will be degrade with the years...
Even at this price, it's more profitable to buy the already spun alpaca that you need to knit...
If it's only to have alpacas to look at when you put your nose out, then it's a different context and it's more supposed to buy low-end alpacas in this case.
But think that despite the low price paid, you will have to pay several hundred dollars each year to feed and care for each of your animals.
2. An alpaca which must be liquidated at this price for any reason other than the quality of the animal.
Honestly, it is rather rare that the price is not connected at all to the quality of the animals and nobody likes to lose money: The animals of better quality are going to be on sale more expensive than this famous-$500-even in super super liquidation.
And if they are of quality, they will find takers quickly despite their highest price.
It is the dream of the buyer looking for an inexpensive animal to find a beautiful pearl for a mouthful of bread... but dreams, you know... So, an alpaca less than $1200, even in super liquidation, personally, I ask very serious questions about its quality and its health!
3. An animal that the serious breeder really wants to see disappear from his home.
At $500? It is often a castrated male who no longer has a good quality of fiber or an alpaca problematic at the behavioral level that the breeder does not wish to have slaughtered for one reason or another.
And if it's a young animal, it's likely that the breeder never made a calculation! Buy it, but be certain that the one who sold it will not (or more) long breeder... because he does not know how to count!!!
How much should I pay for an alpaca then?
It depends on your project. A real breeder will guide you to an alpaca adapted to your needs.
If you want to be able to simply transform the fibre of the alpaca, the animal should ideally be young enough to make its finesse still there and have good genetics for better fibre for more years; So it's interesting to pay a little more. And if you want to get your money, buy a female (even if they are more expensive than the males). So, when the quality of its fiber will leave to be desired, your female will be able to give birth to a cria (or more!) that will give a regain of finesse to your knits... and a progeny to your female. An average alpaca range between $2 500-5 000 could do the trick.
Do you want to compete, reproduce (true!) or have elite alpacas to have exceptional fibre quality? Be prepared to put around 6 000$ to 15 000$ for a female. Yes, it's more expensive, but they'll give it back to you by the crias quality (and fiber!) that you will have in return! With an animal with a better fiber density, you will also have more fibre per animal, so alpacas that can reach more easily profitability. It will also be easier for you to sell animals.
Notes that alpaca is a herding animal; They must be at least 3 together. It is therefore necessary to expect to pay for several animals at the same time. Most breeders give a discount on the purchase of several animals at home although it may be interesting to buy on several farms to enjoy a larger pool of quality and better choose its animals.