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Alpaca Cost and Understanding the True Expense of Care

Summary of Alpaca Acquisition Cost

Everyone who asks us about alpaca farming wants to know about the investment costs and the revenue opportunities. The revenue opportunities vary greatly from farm to farm, however, the initial alpaca cost and the expense of ongoing care are fairly consistent.

The largest variation you’ll find in the cost of alpaca care and ownership is the quality of alpacas you purchase. You have to decide if you want pet quality, hobby farm quality, or show quality animals. This will significantly influence your purchase price, source of alpaca sales, and the criteria by which you’ll select the animals.

While overall alpaca costs can range between $250 – $50,000 per animal, the cost of most alpacas will fall between $3,000 – $10,000 per alpaca. You will find these costs vary based on age, conformation, fiber quality, lineage, facial appearance, and personality. The higher the quality of all of those elements, the higher the demand and the higher the cost of the alpaca.

Supply and Demand Influence

Those alpaca prices can seem very high to those new to the industry, but the cost structure is justified when you consider the uniqueness of birthing and raising alpacas. Supply and demand (basic economic concepts) greatly influence the cost and sale price of alpacas.

The cost of alpaca acquisition is higher than many livestock because they are unlike other farm animals. Here are just a few of the nuances that make the initial cost of alpaca ownership as high as it is:

  • Alpacas were first imported into the United States in 1984, so they have not been in the US all that long. That means the availability is not the same as other livestock.
  • The majority of the world’s alpaca population lives in Peru. The importation of alpacas from Peru is no longer allowed. Local farmers can only import alpacas from Australia and Canada, which greatly reduces the availability of alpacas and this is especially true of high-quality alpacas.
  • The alpaca reproduction cycle is not like most livestock. Their reproductive process is not conducive to artificial insemination, which makes natural alpaca pregnancies the only option.
  • Alpacas are pregnant for almost an entire year and most breeders in the midwest only breed in spring and summer months. This makes the opportunity for breeding more limited than other animals.
  • Alpacas only have one cria per pregnancy. Twins occur occasionally, but it is very difficult to get both crias through a healthy delivery. Therefore one mother can only deliver one cria per year.
  • If one does not have their own herdsire (adult male), they must pay another farm for breedings. Quality breedings will cost between $1,000 – $5,000 per cria.

Note: Suri alpacas have much less supply than Huacaya alpacas, so these will come at a premium price within the United States. The alpaca industry is dominated by Huacaya alpacas, so there is more supply and thus they are not as expensive as Suris.

Alpaca Revenue Opportunities

While I just covered all the negatives to raising alpacas, there are many benefits. And these benefits tie into business plans and the opportunities of obtaining a solid return on investment. These include:

  • Alpacas have multiple revenue streams that include:
    • Raw fiber sales
    • Sale of finished fiber products (yarn or clothing)
    • Sale of actual alpacas
    • Breedings of alpacas
    • Manure sales (the manure is high quality and serves as organic fertilizer)
    • Meat sales
    • Sales of services related to alpacas
  • Alpacas live around 20 years, which means your initial investment has many years to pay itself back
  • Alpacas do not cost a lot to feed
  • Alpacas are low maintenance, which makes them easy to care for
  • Alpacas are eco-friendly and sustainable for the environment
  • One female alpaca can give birth to 10+ cria, which makes her revenue-generating opportunities ten times her purchase price

Now that we’ve broken down the pros and cons of investing in alpacas, let’s chat more about the individual costs associated with the different types of alpacas. I’ll break down the various types of alpacas and then we’ll dig deeper into the startup and ongoing costs associated with raising alpacas.

Alpaca Quality Compared to Purchase Cost

Pet Alpacas

A pet quality alpaca will be just that – purchased for the purpose of love and entertainment. A pet alpaca will be very inexpensive, however, you won’t have a lot of options for breeding, selling the alpaca for profit, or using the alpaca fiber for the production of yarn and products. Pet quality alpacas can be purchased for as little as $250 each and up to $1,500 each, with a general cost of about $500 – $1,000 each.

When looking for pet alpacas make sure you consider the look of the alpaca, the friendliness of the alpaca, the quality of the breeder, and overall animal health. Not all alpaca farms, breeders, or animals offer the same quality for “pets”, so look around and visit a number of farms.

Hobby Farm Alpacas (Fiber Alpacas)

A hobby farm alpaca is one that is above pet quality, but not quite to show quality. This type of alpaca will be more expensive ($1,500 – $5,000), but it will come with better conformation and higher quality fiber. Having this level of quality opens up your alpaca farm to revenue. You’ll be able to breed the alpaca, sell the offspring, and produce quality yarn and alpaca products for sale.

Educate yourself on alpaca conformation prior to purchase, as you’ll need to be able to ascertain genetics and the possibility of birth defects. Carefully consider the animal’s age, existing offspring, conformation, and health prior to purchase.

Show Quality Alpacas

Adel Making Herself at Home in the Barn
Adel would be considered intro show quality. She has snowmass genetics and quality fiber.

A show quality alpaca takes you into a whole new level of investment and purchase decisions. Your investment per alpaca will begin at a minimum of $5,000 and will run up to about $20,000 per animal. Some recent sales have been around $50,000 per alpaca with the highest record sales at $675,000. The record high price was for Snowmass Matrix, who was a 20+ champion and first place winner. You’ll see this Matrix’s genetics in many top herdsires including our own Romeo and Captain America.

Conformation, esthetics, color, and fiber quality will be key decision criteria if you wish to show alpacas and win the coveted blue ribbons and banners. Fiber animals need to have strong EPD scores and fiber histograms should be closely reviewed.

Decision criteria within alpaca conformation include:

  • Bite
  • Ears
  • Front and rear legs
  • Body score
  • Tail
  • Body capacity
  • Overall balance and proportion
  • Movement
  • Testicles and Genitalia

Decision criteria within Huacya alpaca fiber quality include:

  • Fineness
  • Density
  • Fleece weight
  • Staple length
  • Uniformity
  • Lack of guard hair
  • Crimp
  • Handle
  • Uniformity

Now that you know what to consider when selecting alpacas for sales, let’s move onto overall cost of ownership.

Breakdown of Alpaca Investments and Costs

When we first started in alpaca farming, we didn’t fully understand the cost of acquiring and raising alpacas. We had a decent grasp on the cost of the actual alpaca purchase, but we didn’t understand the “things” we’d need to purchase along the way. But with the help of books and other alpaca farms, we quickly figured it out and our alpacas live in a nice comfy “diva barn” and they have plenty of space to roam. We’re still working on the roaming part because it appears, alpacas can never have enough grass to snack on.

One-Time Alpaca Purchase Cost

Item and/or ServicePet Quality
Cost of Investment
Hobby Farm Quality
Cost of Investment
Show Quality
Cost of Investment
Purchase Price of Three Alpacas$1,500$6,000$15,000
Alpaca Registration$165Included in AboveIncluded in Above
Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) Test$75$75$75
Fecal Test$105$105$105
Total Cost for Three Alpacas$1,845$6,180$15,180

My husband has done a great job tracking costs, possible revenue streams, and maintaining a business plan for the farm. Knowing your total ongoing cost of ownership is important because you cannot formulate a business plan without it. Keep in mind the ongoing costs do not include breedings. If you are going the show route, you’ll need to purchase breedings from high-quality herdsires.

Ongoing Cost of Alpaca Farming

We have removed sawdust and hay from our ongoing usage and costs. This drops the estimated annual cost to $312 per alpaca. After further cost-cutting, our actual annual costs per alpaca end up being about $250.
Item and/or ServiceSingle Alpaca
Annual Maintenance Cost
Three Alpacas
Annual Maintenance Cost
Shearing$35$105
Vaccinations$20$60
Food - Hay$100$300
Food - Grain$120$360
Straw for Bedding$22$66
Sawdust for Interior Litter Box$35$105
Onsite Health Check with Licensed Vet$37$37
Total Annual Cost Per Alpaca$369$1,107

The startup costs were another area where we went astray. We understood the barn and fencing, but we lost track of vaccines and vitamins. We also didn’t account for Dolly’s ultra-dense fiber that would need to be touched up between shearings. All in all, we were not that far off and I’d say our total alpaca startup costs have been close to what we expected.

Startup Costs for an Alpaca Farm

Item to PurchaseStartup Investment Cost
Fencing for 600 Feet of Coverage$2,500
Heated Water Buckets - Qty 2$45
Hair Clippers$37
Nail Clippers$25
Stall Mats for 192 Feet - Used for Cement Floors$252
Halter and Lead$30
Vaccines - Clostridium Perfringes Types C&D (CD&T)$15
Ivomec or Dectomax Dewormer$68
A&D Injectable Vitamins$19
Bo-Se Injectible Selenium and Vitamin E$30
Needles for Injections - 100 Count$20
Total Startup Costs Per Alpaca Farm$3,041

If you are just starting up an alpaca farm you want to do as much research as possible. You can find a lot of good information from the Alpaca Owners Association, books specific to alpacas, and from the farms you visit. Most alpaca farms will welcome visitors and they’ll be happy to spend time answering your questions.

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35 thoughts on “Alpaca Cost and Understanding the True Expense of Care”

    1. Mariam, it is my pleasure. I know it’s hard to find information about the alpaca industry online, so I’m trying my best to share information as I learn it.

  1. Donna Rhodes Beaman

    Rebecca, I’ve just spent a leisurely hour or more this Saturday morning reading over all your wonderful information. I’m so impressed! We love Traverse City and are from Fort Wayne. We now live in Georgetown SC, and there are few of ‘your types ‘ in this area. I’m just an alpaca yarn lover knitter and crocheter and hobby farm wanna-be. Thanks for all your hard work!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting Donna! I love Northern Michigan and the entire Grand Traverse area. I may have lived in the suburbs for most of my adult life, but the north was where my heart and soul were truly at. I feel very blessed to be able to move back north, start the farm, and be surrounded by alpacas.

    1. Thanks for the nice words! My husband and I are really trying to share information on all the things we stumbled on in the beginning. Alpaca farming is an adventure and one I encourage others to take. I fell in love quickly and I honestly fall further in love with them each day.

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks so much for this information! My husband and I are heavily considering starting an alpaca farm. We just love animals, and feel it would be a wonderful way to simplify her life and get back to basics! We would be moving from California, and we’re considering Texas or Tennessee. What are your thoughts on that type of climate? If we get closer in this thought process, would love the possibility of perhaps chatting with you! In the meantime thanks for sharing your love for alpacas, it’s heartwarming for sure!

    Kindly,
    Crystal

    1. Crystal I can’t speak to the climates in states outside of Michigan, because I don’t have personal experience with raising alpacas in those states. That said, I would encourage you to reach out to the alpaca associations in those states. Here is a list for you to visit:

      Tennessee – http://www.tnalpaca.org
      Texas – http://www.txolan.org

      An alpaca association’s goal is to support both existing and new farms. Someone at the association will be happy to speak with you directly and answer your questions.

      My alpacas have been my saving grace these last few weeks. I work from home and I’ve self-isolated myself early from COVID-19 because I’m at high risk for complications. If I didn’t have the alpacas to love me and get me back to a normal level of life, my mental state would be in a much different state right now. As this goes on, my love for my alpaca herd grows exponentially.

  3. I’m wanting to get about three alpacas. Do they need a Snimal per acre like cattle requires? Also how do they get along with burrows? We have coyote and need protection for them. Thank you

    1. Faye those are great questions and I’m very happy to see you doing lots of research before you bring anyone home.

      One acre can technically house 2-8 alpacas. We recommend giving alpacas plenty of space to roam, which will lead to less stress, arguments, and fighting. You’ll find alpacas will tend to group together for protection, but when one needs space, they really want space. Princess is an alpaca that we have who is super sweet and has the most relaxed personality. But even with her, there are days where she just wants to chill out by herself and she’ll go far away from everyone else for a while. Allowing enough space for this to happen is important.

      Our farm grew much faster than we had originally planned, so we are in the process of building more grazing areas for our girls. As soon as our new (second) barn is done this summer, we’ll have a whole new set of fencing around that for everyone so we expand even further.

      Fencing is really important. Keep in mind, you use fencing to keep predators out and not to keep alpacas in. We’re in northern Michigan and coyotes are a problem here, so we have special no-climb fencing to keep the coyotes out. My husband had to drive over an hour away to get the fencing and it was more money, but it is totally worth it. The piece of mind that comes along with it is priceless. There are nights when I can hear the coyotes outside and knowing my boys and girls are safe makes me feel so much better.

      One other thing to check is local zoning. Alpacas are technically livestock. You should check with the local zoning board to make sure you are zoned in an area that supports small scale livestock herds.

  4. Once again, wonderful and VERY helpful information. Thank you! BTW, you have a great writing style.

  5. Dear Rebecca,

    Thank you so much for your informative insight. I started watching YouTube video clips only recently of llamas and alpacas for emotional support. Turns out, I enjoy watching alpacas more than talking to many of my human counterparts! I just moved to the midwest from a gigantic NE city and the cost of living is much much better; I think I may be seriously considering raising one or two as a pet.

    Thank you and I also love the fact that you and your husband are from Michigan! Some of the best friends I had originated from there.

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting Kai!

      One thing to keep in mind is alpaca are herd animals and they need a minimum of three animals to be mentally and physically healthy. You mentioned purchase one or two above as pets, however, that will not be enough to provide an environment for them to feel comfortable in. Reorient that thinking to a minimum of three alpacas. Since you want pet quality, you could obtain three for about $1,500 to get you started.

  6. Rory Jamieson

    Thanks Rebecca! Across the pond from you in Ireland & busy with my research & preparing for the purchase of our starter herd. Very informative, invaluable info. Many thanks! Rory

  7. I’ve just started looking into raising alpacas. I would think that hay and grain demands are relative to how much grass is available for grazing. Is that accurate? If so, can you shed soem light ont he subject?

    BTW – nice information. Some of the most useful I have found.

    1. Brent on our farm we feed hay or allow grazing. We always provide daily feed, but not all farms do.

      We also offer free-choice minerals regardless of grazing or hay usage. The alpacas only eat the minerals if they haven’t received sufficient minerals through natural grazing or feed.

  8. Hi Rebbeca,

    Thanks for sharing. I want to start an Alpaca farm in Colombia, south america. Can you tell me any information you have regarding suppliers from Perú, Bolivia or wherever I can buy and get advice. Thank you very much.

      1. Hai Rebecca
        I am from India. My children are crazy about the idea of raising three alpacas. Can we import them to India? Can someone from us visit your farm… Hope you reply

        1. Alpacas can be exported from the United States, although I do not know what regulations India has in place for livestock imports. I would suggest you start first with your home country to validate the applicable rules. Then once you know this, you can look at exportation from the United States, Canada, or Australia.

  9. Hi Rebecca

    I came across your blog and have been reading all I can! My husband and I and our kids are in the midst of trying to sell everything and leave suburban life for alpaca farming, so when I read that about you I was ?.
    We have 2 pregnant alpaca currently and will have 6 when we set up an actual farm. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience! It is very encouraging and helpful!!
    Katie

  10. Rich Barschdorf

    You’re website is amazing, full of information about alpacas. I know that takes time and energy every day, just working on websites and answering emails.
    Plus caring for all the animals that’s a daily job too. Great job.
    Thank you for all the information.
    Rich in Pahrump.

  11. My name is Ella Pylman and I am doing a brochure on alpacas for my school. I have two alpacas myself but would love your input on my brochure so far. I am also halter training my alpaca and would love any tips you have. Thanks! Please email me

  12. Joshua W Davis

    Thanks for all the info. Me and my family are from and still live in michigan, so this was a great help

  13. Charissa Melnick

    Thank you for the great information. I am just looking into getting started and absorbing all the information I can.
    If room allows it is ok to keep males and females on the same farm just not together?
    What would it be like if you had a few hobby Alpacas and show Alpacas on the same farm? I don’t know which way I wish to pursue yet. I do know I will need to generate an income

    1. If room allows, you can have both males and females, as well as, show and hobby quality. Our 4-H, fiber, and show quality alpacas are all mixed in together without issue.

      We have our males and females separated and have ample space between the two paddock areas. Then we break up both the male and female areas by age and personality.

      The important thing is that you don’t have more aggressive alpacas with weaker ones and that males and females are far enough apart to keep the males from getting worked up. When the ladies are ready to breed, they will flirt at the fence line and then that can get everything in a mess for the boys.

  14. Hi ,it was great source of information about alpacas, I was looking for how to pet alpacas for kids , but now I think It’s nice income source as well.
    I am in Canada thinking to start farming.

  15. What is the best climate for alpacas, please? Will they do well in Texas (San Antonio/Hill Country area)? Please advise. Thank you.

    1. Gilda alpacas live in all types of weather conditions. There are many farms in Texas that are able to manage the stress of the summer heat. I would encourage you to find a farm in your area and visit them to see firsthand how they manage it. You can find farms at https://www.alpacainfo.com/search/farms.

  16. Thank you for the great information! We hobby farm sheep, cows, chickens and ducks and are considering adding alpacas. You information is well-presented and helpful!

  17. Steve Siemborski

    Hi folks,
    Our new neighbors are requesting a zoning variance to have 6 alpacas. We are in a solely residential village in Northeast OH. As they have 10 acres, we’d be Ok with their plan to have this be a hobby ( say 6 alpacas) as long as it is safe and clean. What type of fence would be needed to keep out coyotes? Are fox predators to alpacas? Will the alpacas need a barn/paddock for bad weather? And what size facility would that be for 6 alpacas?
    Thank you.
    Steve

  18. Steve here are my responses to your questions:

    Minimum acres – Alpacas are super efficient grazers and you can have multiple alpacas per acre. Having six alpacas on ten acres is plenty.

    Fencing – We recommend a five-foot, no climb fence. That will keep coyotes away for sure. We have lots of coyotes and none have bothered our herd. Electronic fences should not be used, so please don’t consider that for the safety of the alpacas.

    Barn – They absolutely need a shelter to use under extreme conditions. For the midwest they’ll use the barn in heat (hopefully a fan is there), high winds, rain, and extreme cold. They should have access to go in and out of the barn at all times. The standard quote for this in the Recommended Practices Llamas & Alpacas is “Provide natural or man-made shelter with sufficient ventilation and space to allow each llama and alpaca to find relief from environmental conditions (e.g., extreme cold, heat, humidity, precipitation, wind chill, waterlogged ground/standing water during periods of wet weather).” You’ll also need to be able to keep water unfrozen in the midwest winters.

    Barn Size – The Alpaca Owners Association recommends “a minimum of 8 square feet per animal and llamas a minimum of 10 square feet per alpaca.” Keep in mind providing them with oodles of space encourages pooping and peeing in the shelter. It’s a balance.

    Other important things to consider is quality second cutting hay, feed pellets as needed, free range minerals, sound poop clean up, and monthly Ivermectin shots to prevent m-worm from white tail deer.

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