An alpaca purchase at the right price can be easy or complicated. A diligent buyer often asks the question: “What am I buying?” Any owner will agree that he or she considers several factors when purchasing alpaca. From conformation to show records and bloodlines to temperament, the number of aspects a potential alpaca owner evaluates can be endless. Everything you read and hear tells you to plan your business – it is one of the most important components to the process. Whether you plan your plan before or after purchase and tweak it along the way, there are methods, value added benefits and considerations when you purchase that I want to explore.
Make the Buying Decision on Your Own or With Help
First you need to determine if you have the knowledge to buy on your own or if you need help. Both options work for different people or situations and both have benefits worth considering. One important consideration is whether you need the advantage of experience and learning of others and how you will attain that. One of the most worthwhile occasions is hands on learning. If you purchase on your own or with help, you want to evaluate how you will get that opportunity. Information about alpaca ownership in your area of the county and considering your business plan is also a plus. Finding someone who can serve as a mentor is invaluable, but in the event that you have not found a mentor, a broker (agent), who is paid a commission to buy and sell alpacas, will offer advice and recommend alpacas that meet your budget.
Know How to Buy Alpaca
There are various options in how you can go about purchasing alpaca. You may buy alpaca at auction, either live, online or through a private purchase. There are advantages (and disadvantages) to purchasing in either venue. Aside from the animal itself, requirements to finalize the decision to purchase from anyone may include additional considerations such as transport, veterinary inspection, financing terms, or services that are offered.
- In auctions, alpacas are described through a catalog – either hard copy or online – and verbally. Information about the alpaca including registry number, date of birth, show winnings and a summary is available to allow your own evaluation of the animal prior to the auction. Depending on the venue (e.g., live or online), you can view the alpacas and speak with current owners in person prior to an auction. Auction purchases might not be from owners in a nearby region, so transport and the ability of the alpacas to acclimate can be a consideration.
- Private purchase is a personal way to buy alpaca. Alpacas are sold directly from the owners and you will know more about the alpaca’s environment and how they have been raised and handled as well as their personalities. Private purchase might be from owners who can answer questions or teach if they are in close proximity.You can benefit by attending classes or participatingin hands on learning.
Choose Your Accommodations and Know the Needs
You will need a place to house your alpaca. Unless you own a farm or a large piece of land, choose a location to agist, also known as boarding, that is right for your needs. Fees can range per month and based mostly upon what you expect to be done for you. Often that covers the expenses for feed and hay, labor, and general husbandry needs. Additional work such as halter training, preparation for showing, prenatal and postnatal care, and transport might be additional expenses. If you purchase and agist, you have the benefit of having someone care for their needs. If you do not agist a few considerations might be:
- Do you have help if you want to leave town?
- Do you have a plan for your purpose in raising (i.e., show, production) and considered needs to meet that plan including breeding or transport?
- Do you understand how to trim nails, teeth, and halter train?
- If they need veterinary care that can’t be provided on site, do you have the access to a trailer or method to transport in an urgent situation?
Decide Whether You Want to Own Alpaca Outright or Share an Interest in One With a Partnership
Partnerships often exist for breeding males and may or may not be a choice to explore. It is less common for females because of decisions about breeding choices and ownership of offspring.
Register Your Alpaca with the Alpaca Registry
This is important if you intend to own registered alpaca, but not a requirement. Ownership will be transferred at the time of final payment. These papers include the alpaca’s name, pedigree, date of birth, and owners at time of birth.
The most common question (aside from ‘do they spit’?) is ‘how much do you pay for an alpaca?’ That answer is not easy because in the industry there are many new challenges and opportunities for growth, and owners have forged forth to make their business grow in numerous ways. It also requires that a person understand the qualities of alpaca and the reasons why two alpaca that appear very similar (live or on paper) might not be equally priced. A reputable owner can explain why they might see an alpaca priced at $10,500.00 when you can go online and find alpaca for $2,500.00 or even less. A lower price might seem attractive, but quality, available breedings, services and mentoring come with a price and you need to determine whether there are value added benefits. After a recent auction, I heard someone talking about the great price they got for a bred female at auction from someone going out of business. They continued, saying how angry they are because they had a request of the owner and couldn’t get a return call. Although I believe that there are many people in this business who are wonderful and helpful, don’t assume that just because they own(ed) alpaca that the purchase includes their availability. That “great deal” might not be a “great deal” if you have different expectations. Learn the qualities to seek when purchasing and decide if those qualities complement your needs and your business plan. Consider services you expect to come with a price and explore options to have the expectations met. Once you learn more about alpaca as livestock and a business, it makes more sense why the price is right for an alpaca worth owning!