Alpaca farms are becoming more common throughout the country, though not widespread, there are still fifteen farms registered with the Alpaca Association of Ireland (AAI).
Many other farmers have began to dabble and purchase even just the one Alpaca, sheep farmers in particular. But would be a worthwhile venture? Is there money to be made? Keep reading below and find out more!
Believe it or not, there are many benefits to farming Alpacas over other alternatives.
The first which validates a mention, is the fact that they are much easier on ground than sheep or cattle. They have soft pads on their hooves instead of cloven hoofs, meaning they do not leave as much tracks, a handy feature for those of us with wetter, marginal and peaty lands. So suitable are they, that Aplacas actually love standing and sitting in water. Also a flock of sheep would cause up to three times more damage to land than a herd of Alpacas of the same size.
They are very docile in nature and make great pets as well. They are very approachable, even mature males are gentle in nature.
Although originating from the regions of South America, they are more than capable of adapting to our climate. In fact, where they come from in the Peruvian Andes is subjected to far more extreme weather at times.
They are a very low maintenance animal and need less land than other livestock. They are unfussy grazers and eat less than sheep. They even eat rushes, marsh plants and broad leaves, as well as grass. They can be fenced in very easily and it is rare to see one trying to break out. Due to their adaptability and ability to thrive in colder weather, they need little to no houses, providing they have protection from the elements via hedges and trees. They require zero specialist care and are a very easy adjustment for people without previous animal husbandry experience.
They are very hardy and rarely suffer from ailments such as foot rot. They also very rarely succumb to fly strike or are in need of clutching. They also excrete their droppings in specific areas of a field, eating in other parts. This means they rarely get worms and only need worming twice a year.
Alpacas are fantastic with other animals and can live happily side by side by horses, poultry, cattle and a flock of sheep. They are natural guardians and some sheep farmers have begun purchasing an Alpaca to run with their flock as protection from foxes. Many stories have been reported recently of an Alpaca saving sheep or lambs from fox and dog attacks in recent years.
Can they be profitable?
If an alpaca farm is run correctly then yes. They are not used for meat production, with any profits coming from selling their fleeces or young.
Animals have a thick fleece which is shorn annually producing wool which is soft, dense and three times stronger than sheep’s wool. There is great niche demand for Alpaca fleece, in particular in the luxury fashion industry and hoby spinners.
Females produce an average of one cria each year, with birthing usually trouble-free. In the current market, one could buy a young male for as little as €350 online. Registered breeding females with a cria at foot and pregnant, can make even up to and over €3,500. Therefore breeding could be a very profitable option. Registered pregnant females average at €3,000, while stud males can again be worth up to €3,500 in the current markets, according to the AAI.
Females are sexually mature and ready to breed at 14 months and can live for up to twenty years! Females rapidly increase in value once mature, though their gestation period is 11.5 months.
What do I need?
Very little training or know how! Once you get them shorn once a year they should live their lives relatively problem-free.
As mentioned, they can live on even the most marginal of lands or even a larger garden! They are unfussy grazers and can be easily maintained with little effort. They won’t escape, rarely fall ill and can protect themselves!
It might be a valid option for some to consider in 2018 or at least it’s is a nice idea anyway!