We’ve made it thru our first year (plus a couple months) of being Alpaca Owners- and I felt it was time to do a cost analysis of what we have gotten ourselves into. This can be considered a guide of sorts as to what you can expect to pay, but by no means is this the case in every situation.
Also, this blog is really only about the costs of acquiring and caring for your herd, not trying to profit off of their fleece, which is a completely different set of costs.
ETA: Here is an updated cost of blog for 2021!
Acquiring your herd – For us this was a cheap enterprise to get into initially… we literally have gotten all 13 of our animals for the cost of transporting them to us. This is not usually the case unless you know where to look. Also, when taking on free animals, you run the risk of bringing in sick or injured animals to your farm. We have been very fortunate to get our animals from farms that were closing for some reason or another. This means we’ve spent about $300 to bring all our beauties home. This is not usual– Most of the time you can count on spending between $250 to anywhere in the thousands for alpacas. The lower range animals tend to be geldings that have been regulated to pet stock. The more expensive ones tend to be for breeding and high fiber quality. We received the papers for 4 of the first seven that we brought home, and they were bought as a “package deal” for $1250 EACH. And these are herd animals- you need to be serious about giving 4 or more a home before getting into this. So depending on what you are considering alpacas for you can start for fairly cheap, or you can be like some farms I’ve spoken to that spent upwards of $15,000 on a single animal. It is also extremely important to accept that these are herd animals that really need to be in packs of no less then 4 to really thrive. Do not think that they are fine living a solitary life or even among other animals.
TOTAL – as little or as much as you want to spend. I’d realistically budget a thousand for pet stock($250 each @ 4 animals) to $5000 or more for fiber quality.
Shelter – Another point in which we were very lucky, the first set of seven we got came with their home, a 10×20 amish built shed with two additions, one enclosed living quarters and one partially enclosed “porch” area. This building cost up $300 to move about a mile, and then about another $300 to hire someone to help us dismantle and reattach the additions. A building this size, with the additions, would normally cost upwards of $6000. And in the north, we need a steady, wind proof shelter to keep our animals safe from the hazards of winter weather. In southern states, a lot of places get away with three sided shelters, but honestly, I don’t recommend them. When you need to gather up your animals for things like general care (ie shearing, shots, general welfare checks) its easier to have a building you can herd them all into, separate if necessary, and close up if need be(which is not often, alpacas HATE being closed in). How big your shelter needs to be depends on how many alpacas you plan on having and if you are going to have boys or girls or both. Because the sexes must be separated. We have 13 in our one building and they all have plenty of room to roam, lay down(or cush), eat and drink.
TOTAL – Same as above- as little or as much as you want to invest. You should budget at least $1500 if you’re buying materials and building yourself or as much as $6000 for a ready built shed.
Feed & Water – We feed our herd pretty well, honestly. And a lot of people will tell you that what we do is almost unnecessary, but I prefer to keep my animals a little plump. We use the body score index for adult alpacas and try to stay in the range of a 3 to 4. 4 IS considered overweight, but we believe that if one were to get sick and have trouble eating, its a little extra weight to lose before things get dire.
- We give them free access to hay, which for 13 alpacas run about a 50lb bale a day. Less in the summer, more In the winter. We buy our hay at a good price because our supplier knows we will be year round customers – $3.50/ bale for $1100/year
- We also give them free access to Stillwater Minerals- I bought a 5 gallon bucket and just popped it open and put it in their house. In the course of a year they’ve eaten about 1/2 of it. $50/ 5 gallons- $25/ year
- Another free choice option is good old Baking Soda. It helps with minor stomach irritations, and they only really touch it once in a while. I bulk buy 13.5 lb bags at BJs wholesale, and give them a couple cups in a large container that just hangs out on the floor near their Stillwater. $6.00/ 13.5lbs – $6/ year
- In the morning, I give them 1/2 cup each of crushed grain mix. One 50lb bag lasts 3 weeks. $15 / 50 lb bag $260/year
- In the evening, we feed them 1/2 cup each of alpaca pellet, a Blue Seal Feeds product. One 50lb bag lasts about 3 weeks. $15/ 50lb bag $260/year.
- If we have one that is on the skinny side we feed it soaked beet shreds or something similar. This is not a normal feed and we’ve really only fed it to Petunia as she is old and thin.
Total- $1650/year to feed 13 adult alpacas. Roughly $138/ month or $11/month/animal
First Aid & Care-taking – I have a first aid kit for every living thing on our farm- We live very far away (45 miles give or take in any random direction) from a store where you can buy real first aid supplies, and shipping can take a couple days. We buy large lug around tool boxes to keep our various kits organized.
My Alpaca kit includes:
- Vet wrap
- Needles and syringes
- Activated charcoal
- Rectal thermometer
- Sterile gauze in several sizes
- Medical tape
And a whole bunch more- I’ll get into that further in a different blog. All and all our Alpaca medical kit cost us $150 for specialty items. A lot of the generic stuff is just good to have on hand in bulk in case of emergency. We live in the boonies, so a well stocked 1st aid kit and knowledge to back it up is important.
Total – $150 for alpaca specific products and toolbox carrying case.
Supplies – Bucket to carry feed, Scoop, rake, wheelbarrow, shovel, measuring cup, scissors, fans, feed troughs, secure totes or trash cans, halters specifically for alpacas, and if you live in the north like we do, heated waterers are worth every cent.
An adult alpaca will drink about a gallon of water a day. We invested in 3 – 5 gallon heated water buckets, for $25 each. Obviously, we don’t need to use them for most of the year, but I am ADAMENT that they have been invaluable during the worst of the winter. I plug them in when temps get down below freezing and leave them plugged in until the nights average 40 or so degrees. Even tho I check our herd three times a day or more, I really don’t fancy lugging water down every time, or having to break ice out of their water. I also believe deeply that one of the most important things you can do for your animals is keep them in water at all times. Dehydration is a killer no matter what time of year. These buckets have an average life of a couple years before the heating element wears out.
Also, as alpacas age, or even just are really young, be prepared to have coats for them.
Education – there is a lot of wonderful information for free online. The alpaca community is notorious for sharing in knowledge and experience. That being said, you should really invest in a couple good books. I suggest Caring For Llamas & Alpacas and Camelid Companion. Both of these are highly recommended among leading alpaca ranchers and veterinarians.
Shearing – this is another pet alpaca thing. When we paid for shearing services the spring of 2017, it cost a total of about $275 for our seven animals to be sheared, nails trimmed, teeth dremmelled, shots administered… you can read more about it here.
Total- around $40/animal
Fiber processing – another huge variable cost. You can do this in so many ways. We chose to have a bunch made into yarn. But that’s only for the firsts and seconds of the blanket. The thirds can be turned into felted anything- ornaments, soap, dryer balls, etc. No matter how you choose to do the processing, it is another cost.
I am not including it tho, because this blog is about the cost of caring for your herd, not the cost of turning a profit from them. I’m still working on learning that myself. If you are only interested in alpacas as pets, this doesn’t apply anyway. You can give it away or sell it raw. Heck some owners compost it.
As you can see, the cost of raising and maintaining a herd of alpacas is hugely variable. However, you should be prepared to spend thousands over the course of many years- Alpacas have lifespans of 20 ish years.
Have a wicked good day!