Alpacas, or the Vicugna Pacos, are often mistaken for llamas and while they are highly similar, they are also vastly different from each other.
To start, alpacas are of a smaller built compared to towering llamas (scientific name: Lama glama). Alpacas are subjectively a lot more adorable than llamas (sorry Kuzco!), and they come in an array of colors, 22 to be exact, ranging from black to tan and even white.
What you should know about alpacas is that they are not wild creatures. These animals are domesticated versions of their ancestors, the wild vicuñas of South America commonly found high up in the Andes.
Alpacas are quite docile creatures and they are valued as both pets and cattle.
The Costs of Owning an Alpaca
This article will discuss the overall costs of buying and owning an alpaca. This would include the costs of ownership and maintenance which includes food, medical and other costs.
Not only that, one-time expenses will also be featured including transportation and shelter costs. The breakdown of these costs will serve as somewhat of a dessert for interested alpaca buyers after we have finished tackling the main dish: alpaca price.
Alpacas Make Good Pets
When it comes to owning alpacas, many people believe that they don’t make good pets. This is because alpacas are mostly prey creatures and are extremely wary of their surroundings, especially other animals around them.
However, what’s interesting about alpacas is that they are also highly curious animals with a gentle nature. Coupled with their innate social abilities, alpacas can make good pets with enough training.
Profitability of Alpacas
While alpacas can make great pets, most people raise them for their profitable nature. A great big difference between llamas and alpacas is that while the former could serve as pack animals, the latter are raised and groomed for their wool.
Alpaca breeding is deemed as one of the world’s finest livestock businesses because of the fiber these animals produce. Despite the countless of economic downturns the world continues to experience, there seems to be nothing to slow down the great demand for alpacas, particularly the luxurious fiber that they produce.
The fiber made from alpacas is special because it has a rounded edge and is closer to the shaft which gives a less “prickly” feeling that is often a problem associated with sheep’s wool. Furthermore, alpaca wool does not make use of dyes, bleaches, and other chemicals. Alpaca wool, unlike sheep’s wool, doesn’t have lanolin or grease and is ideal for those suffering from allergies.
While the wool produced by alpacas could be used in a number of ways, they are mostly bought by fashion companies all over the world in order to produce high-quality garments. Couple in the animals’ long lifespan, which is about 15 to 20 years, alpaca breeding can become a lucrative business.
One-Time Expenses for Having an Alpaca
Generally, there are two breeds of alpacas for you to choose from: the Huacaya and the Suri. Out of the two, Huacayas are more common. However, they also have the better fleece as it is short-fibered, compact, and crimpy while the Suris have long silky wool.
Now, how much is an alpaca? There are many factors that are at play that affect alpaca pricing but the gender, color, and history affect the prices most.
Alpaca price generally starts at $800 which could go over to several hundred thousands of dollars for the rare and proven champions as well as the ones who produce great quality fleece.
Furthermore, a baby alpaca costs lower than adult male and females as they would still need to be maintained until they reach maturity. However, a baby alpaca (called a cria) would increase in price if it is born from superior breed parents.
The lowest price for alpacas would be somewhere below $100 and this is mostly relevant to the Suri breed or those with no breeding potential.
When buying alpacas, just remember that they are herd animals and that they should not be alone.
- Transport Costs
Unless you plan on taking home a pet alpaca yourself, the cost of transporting alpacas should also be considered. There are numerous buses that go around the US dropping off alpacas all-year-round. Transport usually takes only 10 days and is commonly priced $350 to $500 per alpaca head.
Thankfully, alpacas are easy to transport as they usually sit down once the vehicle starts moving. If you’re worried about the condition of the alpacas during transport, know that the carriers have food, water and air conditioning that would provide comfort to the animals during their travel.
- Registration Costs
Alpacas need to be registered because it ensures pedigree validation and keeps track of bloodlines. The price of registering alpacas tends to vary. However, it is ideal to register alpacas as soon as they are born because the longer you wait, the higher the cost to registering an alpaca.
Registration costs only $55 for alpacas less than one year of age but non-breeders, or “geldings,” cost only $20 to register. Transfer of registration applies to alpacas that are bought and sold. The price for this is $35 for those sold within 180 days and $55 after that period.
- Housing Costs
Alpacas are easy to house because they only need a cool dry place whenever they need to escape the weather, or even some predators. With this being said, housing would have to depend on where you live.
For places where the winter season can be brutal, a three-sided shelter would be enough to keep your alpacas warm. During the summer, you would need to take certain measures to keep the animals cool. Usually, this could be solved by installing a sprinkler system.
General cost for housing alpacas would be $800.
This is where it can get costly. Fencing is needed to keep predators away and prevent alpacas from wandering too far. Fencing costs depend on the type of fence you would like to install and the materials needed to build it. While prices may vary, fencing may cost you at the very least $1000 and could go as high as several thousand dollars depending on the size of your property and labor costs.
- Other Costs
You also need to get the necessary equipment to sustain alpacas such as feeding troughs, water troughs, cleaning equipment and a first aid kit which may cost you $670.
Recurring Costs of Owning Alpacas
Alpacas are not difficult to maintain and recurring costs are mostly kept at a minimum due to the animals’ own lifestyle, needs, and habits.
- Food Costs
The cost of feeding alpacas is fairly cheap because these animals would spend most of their time grazing on pasture. Alpacas would feast on grasses and almost anything they could find on a pasture as they have highly efficient digestive systems.
While their diet mostly consists of grazing on grass, you can also choose to supplement it with grains or commercial feeds. During winter or cold seasons, it would be best to add hay to their diet.
Feeding costs per month may amount to $100 depending on the number of alpacas you have.
- Shearing Costs
Alpacas need to be sheared at least once a year. With this being said, you can keep the costs down if you do the shearing yourself. This would require you to purchase good shearing equipment which may cost about $100.
But if you decide to have your alpacas sheared by professional services, it may cost you about $35 per animal.
- Health Costs
Alpacas are resilient creatures and do not need extreme medical costs. In fact, all you need to keep your alpacas in good health is a monthly deworming, a few vitamins, some vaccinations and an occasional check-up with the vet.
Deworming may cost as little as $8.99 while vitamins cost about $7 to $40. Rabies vaccine prices range from $30 to $100. Thankfully, vets charge per visit and not per head which make veterinary costs cheaper than having a dog or cat since alpacas need only to be checked twice a year.
Factors Affecting Alpaca Price
One of the biggest drivers for alpaca prices would have to be the color. Most breeders gravitate towards an alpaca with a desirable color. However, it all depends on a breeder’s taste.
Right now, it would seem that gray is the most desirable for alpaca breeders. A lot of breeders prefer natural colors but many others also put a high value on white-color alpacas since the wool produced could be dyed to a wide variety of colors and shades.
Naturally, breeders would want a younger alpaca as there will be more time to profit from it. What makes age an important factor is because the older an alpaca gets, the lower the quality of its fleece becomes.
Furthermore, breeding is also affected by an alpaca’s age. Females are typically procreative from 10 to 16 years beginning at the age of 18 months. This means that for every year that passes, a female alpaca loses some of its value.
The quality and quantity of an alpaca’s fleece can greatly affect its price. Alpacas are prized for the unique fiber that could be produced from their fleece. With this, it is only right that an alpaca with more high quality fleece is bound to be of higher worth.
- Body Structure
Most people don’t think about body structure when it comes to buying alpacas. However, if you’re going to buy an alpaca, it would be ideal to buy one that is of great body conformation as there is a high possibility that it will produce superior quality offspring.
This means that an alpaca should have good teeth structure and bone density. Its legs should also be spread apart.
A female alpaca for sale would be priced higher than a male. Furthermore, female alpacas could be classified as “proven,” or “unproven.” When an alpaca is deemed “proven,” this means that it has already produced an offspring (cria) without issues. A female alpaca with an “unproven” classification does not mean it won’t be able to reproduce. It just means that it has yet to produce a cria of its own.
Female alpacas that are unable to reproduce will be sold either as pet or for fiber purposes. An alpaca that has no breeding capability would naturally cost significantly less than those that are used for procreation.
When buying alpacas, it would be a great idea to check their bloodlines. Alpacas coming from a bloodline with desirable qualities will be worth more than those that do not. The more direct the relation of an alpaca to a bloodline, the higher its price would be.
Alpacas coming from champion bloodline are often the most expensive.
What to Consider When Buying Alpacas
- To start, it is important that before you buy an alpaca, you have already decided what it will be used for. Alpacas could either be bought for breeding, for fiber or as a pet.
- You should also ensure that you have sufficient fenced land for the alpacas. Ideally, you should have at least an acre to accommodate 10 alpacas. The fences should be 5 feet tall at the very least with openings that are no more than 4 inches apart.
- Determine how your alpacas would be able to get their water. You can try searching for natural water sources but they are harder to come by. A good option is to build a man-made stream as you can make sure that the animals are getting sufficient water. However, a basic water trough will also work but you would need to fill it up twice a day with water.
- Lastly, choose where you want to buy your alpaca. You can always find alpacas online, through newspaper ads, and through an alpaca agent or broker. However, the best way to buy an alpaca is by directly visiting an alpaca breeder farm.