When sifting through the vast amount of information available on a specific topic, its hard to figure out why there is such variation in a product - especially alpacas. So many colors, types, looks and opinions on the topic.
When people come to our farm, looking into the alpaca industry, we usually start out by sitting down and talking with them about what interests them in alpacas. Textiles? An ag business? Family project? There are many directions to go into when raising alpacas.
And then we get into the cost variation, ranging from $200 to $14,000 depending on who you want and what you would like to do with them. Many who come to the farm have already researched and this isn't necessarily sticker shock. However, the uncertainty comes in the "why". How can there be such a range? "I do not see any difference in these two alpacas in front of me that we are looking at." After inspecting 10-15 alpacas, the eyes glaze over and they all look the same.
The reason there is such a difference in pricing is the result of a ratio of factors when evaluating one specific alpaca: fiber structure, proven/ unproven, confirmation, color, fineness, coverage, curb appeal, lineage. Many prospective buyers have looked online and found free - or nearly free - alpacas and wonder why mine are priced as they are. The analogy I begin with is that there are many "free" cars out there, but do you really want them? They could be of good quality, needing of rescue or the unfortunate circumstances of divorcees, widow/widower, moving, or some other issues that result in needing to unload their herd. However, those alpacas with quality fiber will have a much higher value than a fiber animal. Free alpacas rarely have any kind of resale value when they get only your farm.
I cannot stress to you enough if you are getting into the alpaca business for profit, purchase quality alpacas. Don't overpay, but know what quality they are. What was once an "A" quality alpaca (male or female) 5 years ago is now a "C" animal and perhaps should no longer be in a breeding program. Because of up breeding, creating higher & better quality animals each and every generation, the alpaca fiber programs nationwide are making huge strides in softer, finer, higher quality alpacas.
If you are purchasing pets or a farm project, but all means, take in rescue or low priced alpaca, love them as your pets and thoroughly enjoy them. If you are looking for great "inventory" for your business, go with the highest quality you can afford - balancing quality with quantity. You will have a more marketable business by positioning yourself as best you can as within your business.
When buyers are looking at alpacas and trying to figure out why they are picking out one alpaca over another, we guide them based on what direction(s) they want to go. The problem is overcoming the fact of feeling like they cannot understand the value of a particular animal. We know that if we mislead them in any way, they may not know today, or tomorrow, but they soon will. And in 6 months or whenever they get a good idea of the alpaca industry, if they feel we betrayed them, our business could be ruined. This is a small community and if we are dishonest in any way, we will easily be called out in the near future. That is why we always let people know - in our opinion - the good, the bad and everything we know about this animal in our experience. We pride ourselves in being honest not only because it is the right thing to do, but the alternative would kill our business almost instantly.
That said, find a mentor that you trust, that you can call on any time, years down the road. Find someone knowledgeable as well as understands what you are looking for. If they are constantly pushing you in a direction that doesn't interest you - showing, textiles, whatever - find someone else to partner with. You are investing way too much to not want to be "married" to that relationship for a very long time.