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Economic Considerations for your Alpaca Herd
Author: Susan Evon
The downturn in the economy has affected all of us in the alpaca business.
The question is: How Should We Adjust To The Downturn and Come Out on Top When the Economy Improves?
If your business survives this economic downturn, without compromising your herd, you will be way ahead of the game.
Here are some suggestions that you may want to consider as you make decisions about your alpaca farm:
Should I do Outside Breedings?
Should I Breed To My Own
Should I Breed This Year At All?
Breeding and producing quality cria brings in most of the income on an alpaca farm at this time while we are developing a National Alpaca Herd.
So you think, "If I don't breed my females, I won't have cria to sell in 2010."
Well if the economy has improved, you may be right, but if the economy hasn't improved, you will simply have more mouths to feed and let's say 50% of the cria you produce will be males.
An overabundance of males is already a problem on many farms.
My suggestion for breedings is that you breed only your BEST FEMALES TO THE BEST MALES YOU CAN FIND AND AFFORD.
If the males are in your own herd and they will improve on your best females so much the better.
Does it matter if a male or female cria is produced from the breeding?
You must be able to answer "No" to this question when you make your breeding choice. If you are following the auctions at all, you may have noticed that EXCEPTIONAL MALES
are bringing in the best prices.
Not that their prices are where they were before the Economic Downturn, but they are better than most female prices right now.
Very selective breedings must be done in this economy.
This is a good time to Remember: QUALITY SELLS NO MATTER WHAT THE COMMODITY.
Use this time to do only breedings that will bring quality cria to your herd and attempt to sell the alpacas that no longer fit the goals of your breeding program.
Considering the rising costs of grain and hay, Should I Change/Reduce What I Feed My Alpacas?
Only Feed Grain To My Bred and Lactating Females and Their Cria As They Grow?
Should I Feed Grain To My Yearlings? What About My Males?
All of these are questions that directly affect the bottom line of our alpaca business; all are questions that may ultimately affect the overall health of our alpacas.
At Sleeping Monk Farm, we have not changed the grain that we feed, the amount we feed or who we feed it to at this time.
We feed Norm Evans S/G/L formula from Blue Seal to all of our females, our cria and our yearlings.
Our males are all fed the Evans Maintenance formula.
We feed high quality 2nd cut hay, provide free choice minerals and plenty of fresh water, along with pasture.
A very similar diet to what most alpaca farmers feed.
Nutrition directly affects our alpacas and will be the last thing we will look at in our attempts to adjust to the economy.
If we find it necessary to cut back on nutrition, we will start with our non-working males.
We will reduce their grain intake daily until it is cut out completely.
We will then start to reduce the amount of hay they are provided with from free choice to 1 to 2 flakes per day per alpaca, depending upon the pasture conditions at the time.
It is very important to condition score your males frequently as you are changing their diet.
Also watch for any stress this may cause to those alpacas involved.
We hope that we will not have to change the diet of our working males, our bred/lactating females, the cria or the yearlings, but if we do, the next change, if absolutely necessary, would be to our working males.
The changes would be correlated to the number of breedings each male is doing and how close together the breedings are being done.
In other words, "How hard is the male working?".
As you make decisions about what you are feeding your alpacas, their health must be the determining factor.
Don't make decisions that will reduce your grain/hay/mineral expenditures only to increase your Veterinarian Expenses.
A healthy alpaca is much preferred over a wealthy vet.
Should we attend our usual alpaca shows this year?
Should we cut back on the number of alpacas that we bring?
Should we continue as if the economy has not affected our alpaca business?
Although we believe that Alpaca Shows provide the BEST MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES, for our farm and the alpacas that we want to sell, we also feel that we will need to cut back on the number of shows that we will participate in until the economy improves.
When we attend a show we will bring only our very best alpacas in order to cut down on the costs of the show.
We will also only be attending shows that are relatively close to home, thereby spending our money where the people we meet will usually be within driving distance of our farm, and we can follow-up after our initial contact with them.
For us, there needs to be a possibility of a return on our marketing dollars, otherwise we can't justify the costs in this economy. The health of our alpacas comes first.
We would rather reduce show expenditures and be able to continue to feed all of our alpacas well.
What about ads in magazines and other publications? What about mailings? We are doing magazine advertising in the magazines such as NEAOBA that are produced for our area and will reach the majority of our potential clientele.
We will continue to do OPEN FARM/SHOPPE DAYS this Fall and during the HOLIDAY SEASON. We will also encourage school groups to come and learn about our alpacas.
We will continue to develop the presence of Sleeping Monk Farm Alpacas within the Alpaca Community and also within our local community, but all will be done with the current economic limitations in mind.
Sleeping Monk Farm is in the Alpaca Business for the long term.
Our commitment is to the health and well-being of our alpacas.
We believe that concentrating on quality cria production during this time will serve us well when the economy has improved.
This is a great time to buy alpacas if you are just beginning your alpaca business.
As alpaca farms attempt to "get lean", you can buy more quality for lower prices and quality is the key to a successful future.
Sleeping Monk Farm Alpacas, LLC is located in New Ipswich, NH and has been in the alpaca business since November of 1998.
Please contact us if you have questions about this article or concerns we can help you with.
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