Alpaca Values

An alpaca rancher with a small herd on a small acreage should expect to harvest his animals’ fleeces and sell their offspring profitably. The value of alpaca fleece and finished products made from that fleece is the economic foundation of the future market for alpacas. Breeders in North America are beginning to utilize fiber co-ops for the commercial processing of the fleece. Typically white fleeces tend to be favored by the co-ops as the yarn can be dyed into a range of colors. Darker colored fiber is often sold to cottage industries that revolve around hand spinning and weaving. Each animal will produce around three to ten pounds of fleece a year. Alpaca ranchers sell their fleece in a variety of ways including raw fiber, washed and carded fiber, yarns, and finished products, with lucrative margins. Profits or fiber production vary based on each farm’s model for fiber sales.
The current alpaca industry is based on the sale of quality breeding stock, which commands premium prices, and is moving toward a fiber supported industry as well. Female alpacas usually begin breeding at around 18 to 24 months of age, while most males can successfully impregnate (or “settle”) a female at about 3 years. The females produce one baby per year (twins are uncommon) during a reproductive life of about 10-12 years.

Factors that influence individual alpaca prices include color, conformation, fleece quality and quantity, age, and gender. Females typically sell for more money on average than males, but herd sire quality males have historically commanded the highest individual prices. Breeders often prefer one alpaca color to another; however the parents’ color does not necessarily guarantee a cria (baby) of the same color. There are many accepted theories regarding alpaca color heritability, and more research is needed to further our understanding of this issue. Of more importance to most breeders is the overall physical soundness, or “conformation” of the animal. In addition to color, fleece, density, uniformity, fineness, brightness and staple length will also affect value. Well-conformed alpacas with superior fleece characteristics sell for higher prices.
The range of value for females has adjusted to current economic conditions and has remained fairly consistent during the two years. Females with unique attributes have been known to sell for more. Proven, top-quality herd sires can be purchased as reasonable prices while the highest quality males with unique characteristics or exceptional offspring have sold in excess of $150,000.

Many breeders have started with several breeding age females and perhaps one male. Other new breeders may elect to start with several young animals or a breeding pair. There is an approach suitable for your level of interest and financial position. Alpacas are much like diamonds. The market pays a premium for the finest examples of the breed, and beauty is also in the eye of the beholder.