The cost of maintaining alpacas

How much does it cost to maintain alpacas?

This is a question that many people who think about starting their own farm / breeding or buying a few animals as a hobby ask themselves. Of course, the cost of maintaining an alpaca depends on many factors, first of all what facilities we have at the very beginning, how many animals we plan to buy, whether we will breed them in the future. It is also worth asking yourself whether we plan to obtain some profits from our herd, or just keep them for ourselves. This article introduces you to the costs of maintaining alpacas.

Costs related to the maintenance can be divided into direct costs related to the animal (e.g. feeding, veterinary care, grooming treatments) and indirect costs (e.g. maintenance of pasture, buildings, operating personnel, costs of courses / specialist advice).

The beginnings

We wrote about the beginnings of buying alpacas in our article "How you can make money with alpacas". In short, it is from a few to several thousand zlotys for an alpaca, depending on its quality and origin. Here, however, several aspects related to the preparation for alpacas will be discussed. The two basic things necessary to own alpacas are the building in which they will be kept and the pasture. If you already have farm buildings, you can adapt them, which is much lower cost than building new ones. The adaptation consists mainly in dividing the interior of the building into boxes: for females, males, weaners (if we plan to breed) and an additional box for at least one isolation room. When only a few animals (3-4) are planned, one box (if they are of the same sex) is enough. Alpacas can stay in the building with other animals (but in a separate box). Then you have to consider the health of the animals and learn about the diseases that can be transmitted between them. Pasture is essential for alpacas and it must not be wasteland. Before introducing animals, it is best to undergo agrotechnical treatments and sow grass (there are special mixtures for alpacas or a mixture for horses). The pasture must be fenced and preferably divided into quarters (even if we have one group of animals). With a sufficiently large pasture, part of it can be used for swaths, thanks to which at least some of the costs of buying hay are eliminated. Then we can be sure what quality this fodder is and from which plants.

Depending on what facilities you have at the beginning, the costs of preparing for alpacas can range from several hundred (if we buy few animals, have buildings and a prepared pasture and you only need to prepare a box) to several hundred thousand zlotys (when we build an alpaca house for a large herd from the beginning) along with the preparation of the pasture).

Direct costs

Of course, the most important cost will be feeding the animals. For alpacas as ruminants, the basis of nutrition is roughage (pasture and hay), additionally alpacas are given mineral and vitamin supplements, granulated fodder, beet pulp, wheat bran, and carrots.

Per year for one individual

Hay - about PLN 100 (depending on the quality of hay and prices in a given year)

Granulated feed - about 350 - 500 PLN (depending on the type of feed)

Mineral and vitamin additives - about PLN 300 (sometimes they are included in granulated feed, but a lot depends on the season and the physiological condition of the animal)

You can also provide:

Unmolassed beet pulp - about 100 - 150 PLN

Wheat bran - 50 - 75 PLN

Carrots (fodder) - PLN 20

Not all feeds need to be fed, it depends on the diet. Nutrition based on ready-made (granulated) feeds will always be more expensive, but better balanced.

The costs of maintaining alpacas are strongly influenced by the veterinary costs. Prevention is always better than cure, and it is also cheaper overall.

Per one alpaca per year:

Vaccinations - about PLN 100

Regular veterinary control - about PLN 200

However, it should be remembered that the prices of veterinary services vary greatly depending on the services we use and the size of the herd (the doctor will certainly charge us less for a flock of 30 individuals than when he will have to come to 4 - calculated per individual).

Some vaccines pay for the entire bottle, no matter how many alpacas are vaccinated. With a small number of animals, it is worth making an appointment with the owners nearby and vaccinating them together (then the costs will be shared by everyone). This is the case, for example, with Covexin 10.

In cases of disease, where it is necessary to administer drugs, conduct tests, sometimes even take the alpaca to a clinic or perform a procedure - the costs increase dramatically. Depending on the scale of the problem - even several hundred, or in extreme cases several thousand zlotys.

Some insurance companies also insure animals, with very valuable alpacas, you can consider this option and see what specific companies offer under the insurance.

The basic care treatment in alpaca rearing is shearing, which takes place once a year. Additionally, nails are trimmed during this time (sometimes you have to do it more than once a year) and, if necessary, the incisors are rasp.

This treatment costs about PLN 75 - 100 / alpaca

Indirect costs

Indirect costs are related to the provision of appropriate breeding conditions for alpacas. A house for alpacas does not require special heating in winter, but must be well ventilated, especially in summer. Alpacas use straw as bedding material, in summer it is a small amount, and slightly more in winter, especially in severe frosts. The building must of course have access to water and electricity. Monitoring is recommended but not essential.

For one alpaca, the price of straw is about PLN 100 / year.

Straw can be bought in bales, but if you don't have the right equipment, it's easier to use the cubes. Electricity costs depend on the amount of electricity you use. Alpacas do not need artificial light, although sometimes some people light them up in winter afternoons, when it gets dark early. Usually, artificial light is needed by man to perform activities with alpacas. Energy will also be consumed by ventilation (if it is mechanical), monitoring, alarm systems, etc. The demand for alpaca water with a weight of about 75 kg is about 3-8 l / day. It strongly depends on the physiological state - lactating females need the most water and air temperature. With a larger herd, it is worth investing in a zootechnical scale, which costs 1000 - 1500 PLN.

The maintenance of the pasture is mainly related to its annual fertilization (sometimes it is done less than a year). Taking care of the pasture ensures its high quality, reduces the amount of weeds, ensures good growth, and strengthens the sward. Regular liming is important and fertilization with nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus preparations. It should be remembered that excessive fertilization and the deficiency of minerals in the soil are unfavorable. The amount of fertilizer per hectare depends on the type of soil (e.g. mineral, organic). The amount of nitrogen supplied to the soil is also regulated by law. Not having the right equipment, it is sometimes worth asking a neighboring farmer for help. Due to these factors, it is very difficult to estimate the cost of maintaining a pasture. It can be roughly assumed that it will be about several dozen to several hundred zlotys per hectare. When carrying out treatments, the costs decrease, but the quality of the pasture also decreases, more and more weeds appear, and the ratio of the desired to the undesirable plants becomes unfavorable.

The issue of employing people to service the herd concerns large farms, where the owner is not able to take care of everything. It is also associated with the need to start a business, so it applies to farms earning money on alpacas. These costs also depend on whether it is a full-time or part-time job. As it is not an easy job (manual work consisting in cleaning, feeding, carrying out small current works, helping with animal handling), the remuneration should be adequate to the level of its difficulty.

If you want to expand and improve your knowledge in the field of care, breeding or use of alpacas, you can take advantage of courses organized by experienced breeders. The prices of such training courses vary and range from several hundred to 2-3 thousand zlotys. Often these are costs incurred just before buying alpacas or right after, when the inexperienced owner wants to expand his knowledge.

The last issue will be small equipment, useful in every farm, where you can distinguish:

- a handy pharmacy kit (including a thermometer, bandages, some medications, disinfectant) - about PLN 100 - 200

- delivery kit (e.g. towel, dryer, umbilical cord disinfectant, bottle) - about PLN 200-300

- training set (including halter, tethers, lines) - depending on the number of halter and tethers - from 150 PLN / set


The annual cost of maintaining an alpaca depends on many factors. As always, the more animals we keep, the higher the total costs are, but when calculated per animal - they decrease (when buying larger amounts of fodder, hay or straw, the prices can be negotiated). On the other hand, having a large herd usually generates income (selling animals, alpaca products, recreation), therefore it should at least compensate for the costs incurred.

To sum up the total running costs for an alpaca in a year, it ranges from PLN 1395 - PLN 1645. It is worth adding 10-15% of the cost of depreciation of the building, water, energy (PLN 140-250).

The initial contribution for basic equipment is about PLN 2,000 + about PLN 2,000 / training

The contribution for the purchase of animals and the preparation of buildings and pastures is from several hundred to even several hundred thousand zlotys, therefore it is not possible to estimate it more precisely.

The author of the text: mgr inż. Joanna Kapustka, Department of Animal Ethology and Hunting, University of Life Sciences in Lublin

Written on 7/21/2022

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