I recently took a drive up to Hartford, Wisconsin to Kettle Hills Farm and was able to escape the glow of the computer screen to be enlightened by a family running an alpaca farm. Previous to heading to this farm I had never seen an alpaca but knew they were very similar to llama's. Sesame Street brainwashed me to love llama's at a young age with it's pre-MTV music video to the song "Me And My Llama" but I was not sure how I would feel about alpaca's. Upon encountering the alpaca's for the first time I easily found a place for them in my heart just the same.
The mere size and temperament of the alpacas was unlike other livestock I had ever seen. They were very curious yet predictable animals. They appeared to me to be very tame and easy to manage in comparison to cattle or horses. For example, the farm I visited only used a simple three rung fence and the alpacas were not trying to escape. While my experiences with other animals from small beagles to a cattle had taught me that a three rung fence is not usually adequate in keeping an animal on your property. Furthermore, fully grown male alpacas only weigh at the maximum of around two hundred pounds which is light in comparison to hogs, cattle, and horses so I find their size appealing for safety and injury prevention reasons.
While on the farm I saw a day old alpaca (shown to the left) with it's mother. Also I learned that alpacas can handle pretty much any climate but in the
summer they do get warm due to their heavy coats so they like to be cooled off a bit. So I was able to play sprinkler and water the alpacas with a hose. Finally, I also got to see the breeder of the farm in action with a couple of aplacas but I decided not to take photos. I figured it was pretty self explanatory.
Before departing I inquired about the alpaca business and it turns out it is often referred to as the "world's finest livestock business". This is due in part to supply and demand. The demand for alpacas is high and the supply is relatively low. I did some web searches and found the Alpacas Owners and Breeders website to be extremely helpful. According to the site supply will continue to be limited in the near future for the following reasons:
- Alpacas reproduce slowly. A female generally breeds for the first time between 18-24 months of age, is pregnant for 11-12 months, and almost always only has one cria per year.
- Many breeders retain their offspring to build their herds.
- The limited size of the national herds in each country outside of South America will restrain growth to a small degree.
- The U.S. alpaca registry is closed to further importation to protect our national herd, which will further moderate U.S. herd growth.
Additionally, alpacas provide three to ten pounds of fleece a year and can be sold to designers across the globe. So there are excellent profit possibilities and tax advantages for alpaca breeders which makes them admirable investments.
So if I ever decide I want to invest in livestock, I think I would have go with alpacas. They offer excellent investment potential, appeared to be easy to manage and were intriguing and beautiful animals.