Rustic Pines Alpaca Farm

The Market for Alpacas

The developing market for alpacas has been restricted by lack of supply. There are approximately 12,000 alpacas in North America and about 15,000 in Australia. Until recently, there has been little aggressive marketing of the animal, very few auctions, and very little national media attention for the alpaca. Yet both North America and Australia have experienced exceptional demand for alpacas at very high prices. Canada has an active alpaca market, and many Canadians have recently purchased animals in the United States.

Supply will continue to be restricted in the near future for a number of reasons:

  • Alpacas reproduce slowly.
  • Many breeders retain their offspring, building their herds.

Import of the animal from South America is very restricted, as well as difficult, risky and expensive. The importer risks losing his entire investment if the animals develop health problems in the quarantine or experience any number of other potential problems.

Mass production of cria, or babies, via embryo transplant is not feasible, since there is no available supply of suitable host females.

The limited size of the national herds in each country outside of South America will restrain growth for some time to come.

Some South American countries have developed export limitations to protect their national herds.

The U.S. Registry has imposed stringent screening criteria for all imported alpacas to the United States.

Demand for alpacas has increased dramatically every year since their introduction outside of South America. The American and Australian breed associations each have over twelve hundred members, while only a few short years ago there were none. Each association publishes a full color Alpacas magazine which is available to its members.

Not only are there more breeders entering the alpaca market each year in established countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S., but there are more countries competing worldwide to establish alpaca herds. Japan, Britain, Israel and France now have alpacas. This growth is sure to continue as the alpaca gains international recognition.

The demand for alpacas is part of a larger appetite for investment in rare breeds. Whole industries have sprung up around ostriches, miniature donkeys and even Tibetan yaks. Investment in rare livestock coincides with people's desire to live in the country, raise their children on a farm, or retire to a rural lifestyle.

Alpacas offer an outstanding choice as a livestock investment. They have long been known as the aristocrat of all farm animals. But most of all, alpacas are easy keepers, they have a charismatic manner, do very well on small acreages and produce a luxury product which is in high demand.

Consumers are drawn to alpaca sweaters with just one touch. Alpaca is several times stronger and much warmer than sheep's wool. The fiber itself is semi-hollow and makes into very light, thermal garments. Alpaca fleece is easy to process and readily spins into both woolen and worsted yarn. Fabrics made from alpaca are sewn into the finest European suits and jackets.

Historically, alpaca production has been concentrated in the high Andes Mountains where there is limited pasture. The worldwide population of alpaca is barely three million animals. As a result, alpaca is considered a specialty fiber with limited available supply. Alpaca fleece is comparable to cashmere in softness and is often mixed with other fibers, such as mohair, to vary the texture of the yarn produced. A future domestic commercial market for large volumes of alpaca fleece is easily envisioned and plans for a national fiber co-op are well under way.

The potential market for an animal with the characteristics of the alpaca is vast. Alpacas are loved by their owners and respected by those who process or wear products made from their fleece. They are truly the world's finest livestock investment.

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