How To Start an Alpaca Ranch
Running an alpaca ranch can be very rewarding, both financially and emotionally. There are some procedures that will help ensure your alpacas have a healthy environment to live and will help you be happy and successful while running your ranch.
Talk to a knowledgable accountant, with experience in livestock tax advantages, about how to make the most of your alpaca tax benefits and what deductions you can claim. Obtain a "DBA" (doing business as) certificate from your county clerk's office and a business license from your state if you plan on selling the alpaca fleece or end products.
Check your funding to make sure you have adequate start-up money to launch and support your ranch. It currently costs between $200 to $750 each for fiber animals and $2500 to $15,000 to purchase each breeding alpaca. You may choose to apply for a USDA loan or small business loan. At Silken Suri, ask us about privately financing your purchase of our animals.
If you're still looking for your ranch, talk to a real estate agent to find out what is available in your area. You can manage 7 to 10 alpacas on an acre if you can employ rotational grazing, but make sure you leave room for future alpacas from breeding. Be sure your new property is zoned for livestock with a well that is permitted to water animals. In the meantime, Silken Suri is happy to board your new alpacas on our sprawling 40 acres, with access to our brand new 3200 sf barn!!
Be sure that your pastures are free of plants that are toxic to the alpacas, such as acorns, buckwheat, poppies, the bracken fern, fireweed, oleander, and some azaleas. In common with similar livestock, others include: African rue, agave, amaryllis, autumn crocus, bear grass, broom snakeweed, ragweed, buttercups, calla lily, orange tree foliage, carnations, castor beans, and many others.
Design a barn for the alpacas to protect them from the elements and predators. At Silken Suri, we recommend a 4-sided shelter that gives you the option to close them in agains winter cold and night time predators. Their warm fleece can protect them in the winter during decent temperatures, but they need shade in extreme heat, breaks from the wind, snow, ice and extreme cold in the winter. Alpacas must also receive full-body shearing once a year in late spring, after the last snowfall and before it gets too hot.
Enclose your property for the alpacas with a secure fence. It should be at least five feet tall to discourage predators. The fencing woven wire or boards should be no more than 4 inches apart so their heads don't get caught in the fence. No-climb 2"x4" woven wire fencing combined with some degree of electric wire on the outside top and bottom of the fencing works best to keep out predators and keep your alpacas safe. We also recommend a team of guardian dogs to discourage coyotes or bug cats from trying to climb the fence. We adopted all of our guardian dogs from www.pyrescue.org.
Find a veterinarian near you who knows about alpacas for emergencies, checkups or routine shots and other treatments you may not be able to take care of doing yourself. Most people learn how to administer most preventative care themselves with practice after instruction by an experienced mentor or veterinarian. Get to know your vet BEFORE an emergency happens.
Set up your ranch by stocking up on medical supplies such as cria kits, OB lube, kaopectate, mineral oil, oral syringes, surgical gloves, antibiotics, frozen goat colostrum & milk, baby bottles, cria coats for winter, halters, leads, probiotics, vita-charge paste, and banamine. It's always a good idea to practice a healthy degree of bio-security on any ranch with livestock, so we recommend designing a quarantine area for new animals or show stock.
Purchase or grow hay for the alpacas to eat year-round. The hay should not smell musty or moldy and it should not look bleached or be dusty. Hay should look green and healthy. Alpacas do well on orchard grass or mixed grass with no more than 13% protein and no more than 20% alfalfa. Alpacas need free choice minerals to make up for nutrients not readily found in the U.S. forage as well as fresh water to drink at all times.
Consider obtaining insurance for your alpaca business, especially mortality coverage for your most valuable breeding animals, and farm insurance for equipment and buildings.
You are now ready to purchase your alpacas and start your ranch!
Call us to schedule your ranch visit.