With the increased popularity of alpacas, has come the increased number of inexpensive alpacas for sale. As in any industry, cheaper is not typically better.
For instance, I have come across more than one ad for “A starter herd” of over 20 alpacas and all of the equipment the owners had (shearing table, fence, etc.) where they are asking for less than $20,000. While it may be tempting to purchase this herd because it is such a great “deal”, there are some things you should consider before doing so.
Most people who are dispersing their herd will not be available to help you should you have any questions and, as any alpaca owner will tell you, you will. No matter how much you research alpacas, when you bring home your first alpacas, you will go through a learning curve. If you don’t currently have any alpacas, as the ad is suggesting, the learning curve will be overwhelming.
Another thing to consider is the quality of the animals. What kind of fiber and conformation do they have. The quality of fiber is important if you want to sell it. Even if you are not planning to show your animals, conformation is important for their health.
If you are planning to show the animals, or the offspring of the animals, they must be registered. The registry in Canada (CLAA) requires the parents of all alpacas to be registered with the CLAA in order to register the offspring. CLAA confirms parentage by DNA. For instance, if you purchase an alpaca (Cutie Pie) that is not registered, in order to register the offspring (Darling), Cutie Pie’s sire and dam must be registered and Darling’s sire must also be registered. You would also need to register Cutie Pie before you can register Darling.
In order to register Cutie Pie, you would need to get the signature of her dam and sire’s owner at the time of conception and, if different, time of birth. You also need to know the date of birth and date the microchip was implanted. If there is no microchip, you will need to implant one. While this can be done, we have heard many horror stories of people not being able to get the required signatures, after they have paid for, and taken possession of the alpaca. The same steps would have to be taken to register Darling. The cost of registering an alpaca goes up as it ages. And depending on how many alpacas need registering, the inexpensive herd can quickly become expensive.
Now, if you go to a reputable breeder, the story will be very different. A good breeder will be very willing to offer advice and help you through the learning curve, have animals that are registered with the CLAA , and is responsible for the cost of transferring the ownership, can tell you the approximate grade the fiber is, and will be up front about any conformation issues.
Updated February 29, 2012