My Alpaca Adventure
This is how I went about looking into alpacas in 2003 while I lived in Louisiana and worked full-time as a CPA in Mississippi. There was a lot of expense (both time & money) put into attending conferences, seminars, clinics, shows, farms, etc. This was particularly true in my case because there were very few alpacas in Louisiana or Mississippi. Although there are still only a few, new farms are popping up all the time so I still hold out hope.
There is sooooo much to learn and do! What I did when I decided I just HAD to raise alpacas (after the falling in love and sticker shock phases) was prioritize the different areas of the alpaca industry as I saw it. The goals outlined in my business plan helped tremendously. I had limited funds and time so I grouped goals together and set up projects. With all my projects identified and outlined on paper, I focused on one project at a time rather than trying to do them all. I constantly watched the event postings on AOBA and AlpacaNation and made note of those relative to my current and future projects. I tried to pick events scheduled on weekends and those that I could drive to in less than a day (vs. flying—expensive, the closest airport to me is 2 hours away and I would have to rent a car when I got there to get to the event). This way I had to take very little time off work and could save up my money and vacation days for the “big” guys like the National Conferences. I spent a few months on each project researching it and attending as many events related to it as I could. I was pleased to find that in my travels, even though I stayed focused on the project issues at hand, I was always able to gain additional information on past or future projects along the way.
For me project #1 was the animals (sex, type, age, fleece, etc.). #2 was finding a veterinarian and determining what the farm would need (barns, fencing, equipment, pastures). #3 was herd management, handling and training. #4 was purchasing the alpacas, getting them home and settled in. #5 was showing and marketing both animals and fleece. #6 was breeding and birthing. I figured out in project #1 that I would buy bred females. I was fortunate to get 3 bred females, 1 with a female cria at her side. All my females including the cria were bought with breed backs. My girls were due in early 2005 so I would have some breathing room to learn about breeding and birthing (although I did attend Dr. LaRue Johnson’s neonatal clinic at Nationals in June 2004----Fantastic!). The breed backs that came with my females gave me until 2006 to research genetics, breeding and the industry’s likes and dislikes, as well as my own. By 2006 I would have to pay for stud fees and would hopefully be knowledgeable enough to make sound breeding decisions on my own.
I found that time and money allocation was key to my not experiencing “brain mush” and financial woes. I was very fortunate to find an alpaca ranch in Texas whose full-time owners offer COMPLETE customer care. They know the business and are successful at it. We have become good friends and they know me well. So, whenever I found something I wanted to do or go to that related to my current project but would result in a good chunk of my time or money, I gave them a call to see if they thought “it was worth it.”
This has worked for me (given my circumstances), but maybe it can work for someone else or at least give them some ideas of their own.