With the registered North American alpaca population currently numbering approximately 180,000 animals, alpacas remain a rare and
valuable commodity. While the quality and value of the alpaca's fiber is the economic underpinning on which the future of the industry is based, the current market remains primarily grounded in the sale of
high end breeding stock.
Female alpacas routinely sell for $5,000 and up (as of late 2010, industry wide averages probably sit somewhere between $5,000 and $8,000 for an average breeding female) depending upon their quality. Those of rare and/or award-winning parentage often sell for
More and more, male alpacas tend to be priced at both extremes of the price spectrum as in other species of livestock. The closer an alpaca male is to the accepted standard - correct conformation, with dense, fine, uniform fiber - the higher the price he will command in the marketplace. Proven, top-flight breeding males, called Herdsires, will still sell routinely for $25,000+. Conversely, non breeding males,
those that have been deemed to fall short of the standard necessary to be used in a breeding herd often sell for just a few hundred dollars each. The bottom line though is that the market for high end breeding
stock, though always somewhat fluid, will remain in perpetuity.
There are many ways to get into owning alpacas: you could ask ten different owners how they got started and you might well get ten completely different stories. Some folks start with just a couple of
females and a non-breeding companion (usually a gelded male), deciding to buy "outside" stud services (many stud fees run around $2000) for several years for their females. Others jump right in with a herd of
several females and a stud male. Still others elect to just own non-breeding fiber animals for the pleasure of working with the alpaca's fleece and the simple joys of keeping a small herd. The great thing
about alpaca ownership is that there really is no wrong way to go, it's just a matter of what one wants to get out of it!