Getting started in the business..things to consider

Suri or Huacaya

Alpacas come in two kinds, twenty-two colors, many quality levels, young & old, and are priced from inexpensive to expensive.  There is an alpaca for everyone, no matter what their dream or their budget.  

One of the most critical decisions an aspiring alpaca breeder can make is what kind of alpacas do you want to raise.  Your options: suris  (rhymes with jury)or huacaya (wha-ki'-ya) or both?  If you want to breed both, you must realize that eventually you will need twice as many herdsires (males). Both breeds tend to cost about the same price. The main difference between these 2 breeds, is the type of fleece they have.

We personally prefer the huacaya, so we  only raise this breed. We like their fiber and their temperament much more than that of the suri. But, that's just us!

Whatever alpaca breed you decide to venture into, go with what captures your heart!

Herd Animals

You will need more than one alpaca...which is not a hard burden  to deal with.

They are social herd animals that live in family groups consisting of a dominant male, females and their young. They are hardy, intelligent and social animals that are extremely protective of each other.  
The alpaca has excellent eyesight and is generally very alert to any approaching animal. If they sense that there is a potential danger, the alpaca can emit a piercing alarm scream alerting their herd. Alpacas are normally gentle toward humans and other animals with the exception of dogs. Alpacas usually chase them away but have also been known to stamp at or on the predator with their front feet, rising off the ground onto their back legs if necessary before bringing their front legs down with considerable speed and force.   

Alpacas will generally bond with other herding animals, like sheep and goats and will become protective of them as well. Because of this the alpaca has become an important animal to sheep and goat farmers.
Not all alpacas spit, but all are capable of doing so. The spit mostly contains saliva. However, acidic stomach contents are sometimes included as well. Spitting is mostly reserved for other alpacas, but an alpaca will occasionally spit at a human.

Boarding & Agisting

One successful way to get started and establish your alpaca herd, especially if you do not have a farm or are not ready to have animals, is through agistment (boarding). Agistment can be either for an indefinite period of time or until you are ready to take your alpacas home.   

Benefits:
1. Boarding allows you time to set up your farm and learn about the day to day care and handling of alpacas before taking them home; spend as little or as much time with your animals as you would like and always have the comfort of knowing that they are receiving experienced care in a safe environment at Grazing Hills.   
2. We have attended many health and herd management seminars, a neonatal clinic and have many years of livestock experience so you can be at ease knowing your alpacas are in good hands.  
3. We have an experience camelid vet at the WSU  College of Veterinary Medicine close by if emergency care is needed.  
4. Boarding allows you to still take advantage of all the tax and investment benefits of owning alpacas, while we provide all the daily care and maintenance for you.  
5. All animals are handled as if our own, receiving the same daily interaction and loving care our alpacas receive.

Terms of Service:
* Veterinary care passed on at cost to owner as well as annual shearing fee.  * Boarding fees for cria begin at 6 months of age.  *Vet check, fecal and proof of negative BVDV required on all alpacas prior to boarding.  * Multiple animal discounts available.  * 6 months FREE boarding for alpacas purchased from our farm.  * Also ask about breeding fee discounts to our herdsires for your females that are boarding with us! 

Shelter & Fencing

Shelters do not need to be elaborate. Depending on the climate, a three sided shed can be adequate. Colder climates may need more protection. Primary concerns with shelter is that it provides enough protection from the sun, snow, and wind. Keeping alpacas warm and dry in the winter, and cool in the summer are your main objectives.  

"NO CLIMB"  Fence is the best to use with alpacas, especially if you plan on breeding and birthing on-site and have known predators around. (This is 2 inch by 4 inch woven wire). We do not recommend high tensile fencing, with or without electric current.  Alpacas and llamas can get their legs tangled in it, and crias can roll under it very easily.  Alpacas do not "test" a fence like cows or horses do. The only cases of fence-challenging we have seen, is when we have had an open female and a herdsire next to each other.  

Since alpacas and llamas are very herd oriented, if one were to get out of the fencing by accident, more than likely it will remain right there with the herd.

If you already have board fence, then add wire fencing to it or between the boards to keep young alpacas in and dogs or other predators out.  The main purpose of fencing is to protect your herd and keep unwanted or dangerous critters out.   

Medical Care

Veterinary Care:  Alpacas are basically healthy animals and there is no disease that is specific to them. They are, however, subject to some diseases carried by other animals, so they require deworming. Most alpaca breeders also vaccinate for rabies and CDT.

Any care should always be done in conjunction with the advice of a licensed veterinarian. Fortunately, most common procedures and first aide can be done by the alpaca owner. It is very important that the owner know their herd, since even serious problems can develop quickly, with only subtle signs showing at first. When in doubt, contact your vet. Vaccinations, worming and annual health checks are generally all that is required for maintaining an alpaca herd. However, when medical problems do develop they can be serious, and they can develop quickly. An experienced alpaca vet is a valuable friend. Treat them well!

In our barn, we have a "vet room" where we keep tools, medicine, first-aid and other medical supplies.  A basic supply of first-aid essentials can even be kept in a tool or tackle box. We love having a room where animals can be evaluated and seperated/treated away from the rest of the herd. 

Reproduction & Development

Male alpacas reach sexual maturity atabout two and a half years of age. Females are first bred at 16 to 20 months of age, or when they have reached 100 pounds. Alpacas are induced ovulators, meaning it takes the physical act of breeding to cause ovulation to occur, making artificial insemination unfeasible. However, this also means that they can breed any time of the year. If you expose a mature female to a male and she is not already pregnant, she will usually ovulate within days. If she is already pregnant, she will refuse to breed with the male and "spit him off".  Responsible breeders consider the weather and pasture conditions very carefully when planning their birthing schedules. We prefer late spring babies, personally. An average gestation of 335 days (or about 11.5 months) produces a single baby (cria), which is usually delivered from a standing position during daylight hours. Alpacas are burdened with the fact that their crias are unusually large for the size of the mother. Fortunately, they usually just have one.

Alpaca mothers average between 120 and 140 pounds,and  often give birth to babies weighing 16 to 22 pounds. Not only are the babies big, they grow rapidly, so mothers need plenty of good nutrition in order to transfer enough to a growing. Crias are generally weaned at around six months of age.

Farm & Ranch Operations

 We have 6 children. We are firm believers in making this adventure something that the whole family can partake in. But, you don't need 6 kids to make an alpaca farm a success! But, they make great little farm hands, for sure! Bringing children up while alpaca ranching is an outstanding experience. Alpacas are gentle creatures and have an innate understanding of the fragility of children. Children growing up with alpacas learn respect and responsibility for other creatures, and are exposed to reproduction and cycles of the seasons helping them see how life grows and changes. Alpacas also provide a great 4-H project.

Many new alpaca breeders are discovering that there are unique joys in raising alpacas and that alpacas represent an investment in a lifestyle. That lifestyle, which includes outdoor time in a country setting, makes a welcome change of pace for some, or a return to the country for others.   

Raising alpacas opens the door to country living better than most agricultural endeavors.  The animals are robust enough that it is easy for someone to start raising them with little prior animal husbandry experience. Watching alpacas graze outside your home is one of the most peaceful, soothing experiences imaginable. Alpacas go well with a wide variety of lifestyles or living situations.

Owning a small herd of alpacas is compatible with a career. There is always the option of boarding your animals with another breeder (agistment), but even the hands-on rancher can easily manage with another career. Daily feeding and care can take as little as 30 minutes a day, and looking after the animals makes a pleasant change from the office routine.  

Retiring to the country is a dream for many. Alpacas may allow this dream to come true. Alpacas can adapt to almost any property as long as they have shade and shelter. Their small size, trainability and easygoing temperament allow them to be managed by almost anyone - young and old, male or female.

Personally, we don't tend to go on many vacations as we own and operate 2 business, plus have 6 children.... But, for most alpaca farmers, there is no need to give up your vacation or travel plans just because you own alpacas. Alpaca care is easily delegated as it takes so little time and the animals are so hardy; nothing like the twice-a-day milking routine of the dairy farmer! Alpaca events, shows and conferences provide an opportunity to travel together and have fun on alpaca business!

Many people wonder how their neighbors will react. We haven't heard of neighbors who didn't welcome these clean, quiet, gentle and graceful creatures into their neighborhood. You will be sharing the joys of alpaca raising with other breeders, fiber artists, country folk and those who wish they could be country folk!

Poop!

Alpacas use a communal dung pile. There may be several per pen. We scoop these piles about 3x a week in order to avoid parasite problems.

Although lower in organic matter than other traditional manures, alpaca manure has a lot of value in the garden. In fact, many gardeners find this type of manure to be an excellent source of nutrients for optimal soil and plant health. Using alpaca manure as fertilizer is beneficial. Even with its lower organic content, their manure is considered a rich soil conditioner. It also improves the soil quality and its ability to retain water. Also good for plants, the manure provides a fair amount of nitrogen and potassium and about average levels of phosphorus.

Since alpaca manure is mostly found in pellet form and doesn' have the same components as other livestock feeders (like cows and horses), it doesn't need to be aged or composted before use! You can spread it directly onto garden plants without burning them. Best of all, it doesn't contain any weed seeds, so there's no worry about plucking sprouts from the garden following application.

We sell it by the bag and local gardeners and farmers love it!  

Financial Benefits

If you are considering entering the alpaca industry, you should find an accountant for advice. A very helpful IRS publication is #225, entitled The Farmer's Tax Guide. This provides some helpful information to discuss with your accountant about all financial benefits of being an alpaca owner.  


Raising alpacas at your own farm can offer you some very attractive tax advantages. If alpacas are actively raised for profit, all the expenses attributable to the business can be written off against your income. Expenses typically include: feed, fertilizer, veterinarian care, etc., but also the depreciation of such tangible property as breeding stock, barns, and fences.   The "less hands-on owner", known as a passive owner, is one using the agisted ownership approach. If this is your status, you may not get to enjoy all of the tax benefits. However, many still do apply. For instance, the passive alpaca owner can depreciate breeding stock and expense the direct cost of maintaining the animals. The main difference between a hands-on alpaca owner and a passive one, involves the passive owner's ability to deduct losses against other income. 


Alpaca breeding allows for tax-deferred wealth building. You can purchase several alpacas and then allow the herd to grow over time without paying income tax on its increased size and value (until that animal sells). To qualify for the most favorable tax treatment as an alpaca breeder, you must establish that you are in business to make a profit and you are actively involved in your business. A farming operation is presumed to be for-profit if it has reported a profit in three of the last five tax years, including the current year.  


Feel free to call us and talk more about this! 

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Grazing Hills Alpaca Ranch

1042 Four Mile Rd, Viola, ID 83872, US

(208) 882-8307