The beginnings of breeding in Quebec
Alpaca production in Canada began only in 1992, during the first large imports, although there have been alpacas in the country since the late 80.
For Quebec, breeding does not date much further than the years 2000.
In 2017, there were approximately 70 owners of alpaca herds in Quebec. The majority does not necessarily make them their livelihood.
Quebec breeders keep on average only a dozen of alpacas per farm according to statistics of 2015. Some herds have more than 100 animals.
According to the CLAA that deals with Canadian recordings, there were just over 1000 alpacas registered in Quebec at the end of 2015.
The quality of alpacas has improved rapidly since the first imports!
Since the quality of the fibre has great impacts (more than the number of animals) on the profitability of a farm and on the future of the industry, this quality should be recognized at the outset when it comes to this animal.
Several alpacas judgments are made every year across Canada to reward the best specimens of the breed. The comments of judges from around the world are also a positive aspect of these large gatherings.
Alpaca and fiber that is not afraid of the cold
A highly sought fiber
The alpaca is very well adapted to our climate and its fiber, more and more sought. Alpaca socks are also very popular for the comfort and warmth they provide. The majority of people will hear for the first time about the alpaca, thanks to this item!
The possibilities are very large for this quality natural fiber; Whether it's for winter accessories, clothes, home accessories... or spring Knits! With such a versatile fiber in hand, the possibilities are more numerous than what is currently being done.
Limited by the quantity of quality animals, the time or technology currently available to breeders, there are several reasons why there is still much to do for new alpaca products.
This unfilled commercial space makes it all very interesting for the creative and the people who crave uncleared avenues. Likewise for those who want to innovate by offering a unique product that is not necessarily dress.
The animal and its hardiness
The animal is quite rustic and has little tendency to be sick. When most farm animals are indoors in the winter, alpaca easily comes out with unheated shelters. This causes less expense for the breeder, but also less environmental costs!
Not only is the animal not too affected by the cold or the disease, but it also has excellent digestion and eats less than many other animals.
Smaller than other types of livestock, they eat equivalent of 2% of their weight daily in hay! It's tiny !
These positive aspects make these animals less expensive to raise on a daily basis than others.
Less investment and democratization
One of the advantages of this type of farming; It allows flexibility and less investment on the part of entrepreneurs.
Alpacas farms are generally family-scale. It facilitates the management of the herd and the sudden change of direction of the company.
Anyone can decide to get into this kind of breeding; No alpaca training is yet given in Quebec's agricultural schools. It put all on equal footing at the start. They must therefore rely on private training, personal research and mentoring assistance from a skilled breeder to advance.
Not currently subject to regulations on marketing in Quebec, it is easy for the farmer and breeder to take an unusual path. He can produce, publicize and promote his final product like he want.
The decrease in investment required to start makes it interesting even for those who do not have family in agriculture since there is no need to have a lot of buildings or large farmland to start and succeed in this type breeding. There are no quotas.
The shelters necessary to raise these animals are not very elaborate, it is easy for the new breeders to build everything or to use old existing buildings.
As the animals are the biggest investment of this type of farm, the farmer decides how much he wants to invest in his company by buying his animals and the few accessories really needed to start.
Alpaca is a nice animal to take care of; It is not aggressive and it is less dangerous than other larger animals. He is also quite silent and his manure smells very little; So the whole thing causes little neighborhood problems.
Although it is necessary to establish an agricultural zone in accordance with the regulations in place, alpaca does not request any additional permits for its production.
Options for Alpaca in Quebec
Since there is still little alpaca in Canada, the improvement of genetics and the sale of animals still occupy a place. Nevertheless, this is not the main farm income currently in 2017.
In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of alpacas sold compared to the last decade; The sale of animals was then much stronger. Many Western Canadian breeders who focused solely on the resale of animals have closed in the last few years.
Mainly and ultimately, alpacas are raised to collect its precious fibre every year by shearing. It is used to make wool (it must be said alpaca, alpaca fiber of alpaca thread) and by-products of this fiber (felt, batts).
This is a growing market in Quebec although the products made here are unfortunately often presented alongside many imported products of lesser quality and cheaper. This inevitably slows down the progression of the development of this fibre industry in Quebec.
Alpaca meat has also begun to make its place even if there is a certain taboo. Nevertheless, about 50% of farmers say that they are interested by alpaca meat, either out of curiosity or to genuinely market the meat in order to refine their herd.
Other marketing options are possible. The compost or manure is also appreciated by amateur gardeners and some breeders have started to sell it.