USDA Loans Can Help Alpaca Farmers

A couple of months ago I was approached by a helpful guy at the USDA who wondered how they could be helpful to alpaca farmers. I wanted my readers to hear some of the good 411 he had to share. Here is a guest post by Kevin Pearia from the USDA.

Government-backed home loans grow more popular each year.  Low-income families and individuals see programs like the USDA home loan as a way to make home ownership a reality.  People wanting to save some cash and live outside city limits should look into the USDA loan.


The Department of Agriculture secures the USDA loan, which is specifically for farmers and low-income families. The goal of this program is to strengthen economies in rural areas across the nation. People moving into rural and suburb areas is the solution. The USDA also wants to give persons the chance to buy a home or property affordably.

The loan boasts a rare perk in the world of home loans—$0 down. Saving up for a down payment is usually the biggest burden for homebuyers. Take that out of the equation and most people could start the exciting process of homeownership.

The loan also gives homebuyers extra financing for renovations of a home or farm.

Applicants should work to repair credit to a good standing and meet debt-to-income ratio standards.


To be eligible, applicants must determine whether the location of their property is within USDA approved locales.  Applicants will also need to fall within a certain income bracket.

If you or anyone you know is looking to move to a rural area, go ahead and take the time to find  out more info about USDA loans today!

Fast Money – Alpacas Fleecing The Govt?

This is a really FAST video that TRIES to explore the fact that people get tax advantages from raising alpacas. I think it comes off a bit confusing.

But the way I see it – any publicity is good publicity.

What did you think about this video? Leave us a comment and tell us your thoughts.

Cottage Industry Alpaca Breeders Association

alpacas in field with thatched roof in background

The Straw that Broke the Camelid’s Back by Val Newell of The Green Alpaca

It was a rather simple day, daily chores, and a visit to a friend’s alpaca farm, all carefully planned.  On the ride to the farm, in the quietness, I thought about the emails I had been receiving in my inbox… with a heavy heart.

One of the emails said, “Alpaca Herd for sale, all offers considered.” The email went on to explain that the owners had a small herd of alpacas that were deeply loved, but they were losing their house due to being laid off. They were desperately seeking a loving home for their charge. It was truly heart breaking.  I have received many emails that sound very familiar.  I thought about another email I had received where in the proud new owners of an alpaca selling for over $600,000 were boasting of their new herdsire.  I thought to myself, there is something wrong here, and I felt unsettled, and rather agitated.

As I got to my friends farm, we had a great visit, talked a little about the future of the industry and then I was told, that there is a restaurant in Somewhere USA that is featuring “alpaca” on the menu.  My heart sank, cementing my deep resentment that something just wasn’t right with this industry.  Later that night, a person called me about an alpaca who was in a dog pen alone, and humming constantly. Apparently a single male alpaca had been sold as a “pet”… and banished to a solitary life in a 6×8 chain link dog pen. That, my friend was the final straw, the straw that broke the Camelid’s back.

At that point I started searching the internet for new ideas, something that would turn the alpaca industry around, a “cottage” type industry to honor, and value, so that our alpacas would not be left to these sad fates.

I researched about starting a new industry. I actually went and registered the domain name CIABA.ORG. aka Cottage Industry Alpaca Breeders Association.   At this point I didn’t have a clue how to actually let people know of the organization, but I had a plan, and more passion for change than you can hold in one earth!

In my searches I met a wonderful woman with true vision for the future of alpacas and the industry. She was inspiring, and gave me even more strength for change.

I knew I needed help to get the Cottage Industry Alpaca Breeders Association going, so I started writing on all the alpaca  forums about change, about honoring all alpacas, about another choice … The most amazing thing is that there were so many other people out there thinking along the same line! All across the country and even the world, one visionary after another chimed in, another offered to compile ideas, and then another took the ball and started the whole thing rolling! We formed an open communication forum calling it Brainstorming, and we built our website. Many talented and forward thinking people have added to a wonderful grassroots organization!  We are proud to announce,  CIABA as the national Cottage Industry Alpaca Breeders Association. We will also be establishing an alpaca rescue organization within the fold. This organization is filled with enthusiasm and positive momentum for change!

alpaca cria and mom

Our Mission Statement:

To honor and promote those North American alpacas that do not fit the typical show ring criteria.  Silky, fine uniform fiber or fiber that is variegated or unique.  To educate the public about areas of fiber, fiber arts, end products and animal husbandry.

To promote the growth of the alpaca fiber industry and to educate the consumer about why alpaca fiber is unique and was once called “Fiber of the Gods.”  To promote the industry as a viable and sustainable fiber and farming industry for all economic levels and to have all who hold to these high standards prosper.

Our Code of Ethics:

1 – To honor both the North American commercial and cottage markets of alpacas and alpaca products

2 – To treat alpacas with respect and care for them in a manner that is happy, healthy and stress free

3 – To utilize alpacas only for fiber or breeding stock – but not for an end product of meat

4 – To treat any other breeding, regardless of size, breeding direction, commercial or cottage with respect and honor and a sense of community

5 – To respect other Alpaca International, National and Local affiliates for the commercial industry even if only breeding on the cottage side

6 – To cooperate with other breeders on knowledge, health care, fiber knowledge and events for the betterment of all alpacas

We believe that by honoring all alpacas, our industry will continue to flourish; we invite you to consider joining CIABA…

Alpaca Farmgirl’s comments:

This sounds like a much needed organization. There is not much money to be made in a commercial fiber market when compared to a cottage fiber market, and we already have a cottage industry. Why not organize it, and capitalize on the animals we already have? Love it, Val! You’re my hero!

What do the rest of you think? Please leave us your comments below.

Secrets That Sell Alpacas #6

Signs Are An Essential Part of Marketing Your Business

I’m a huge believer in having signs on your vehicle to market your alpaca business. While you are driving around town people see you. They stop at red lights. They get bored. They look around.

Most people have never heard of an alpaca. They’ve never seen one. If your sign is good, if it intrigues them,…maybe they will look up your website later. They might give you a call. (Be sure to have a call to action on your sign.) They might even buy an alpaca from you. Stranger things have happened.

Signs just make good common sense so I’m not going to beat you over the head with this one. If people don’t know about you they can’t do business with you. So let them know you are there with SIGNS!

As a practical matter, you should at least have signs on your farm truck and your trailer. Consider having signs on the vehicle you drive the most frequently as well. Because I’m a mother of four children, I drive a van everywhere so I had signs made for my van. I started out with magnetic signs on the sides of the van. My oldest child complained that people at stoplights stared at us (“So embarrassing MOM!“), so instead I had signage put on the back of the van (above). This helped because the people behind us at lights read the sign and people in parking lots read it.

But how well does it really work? Let me share this story with you.

A man was driving home from work. He was frustrated with his job, sick of the rat race. Just the night before he had joked to his lady friend, “I’m thinking about chucking it all and raising alpacas.”  He had seen a commercial about the cute little creatures and thought they seemed like a lot more fun than his stressful job. He looked up at the next stoplight.

My van was in front of him.

“You are kidding me,” he thought. “Alpacas in Fairhope?” He called me the next day to make an appointment to visit the farm. And within a couple of months he had purchased two female alpacas from me. True story of serious business from a sign that had cost me less than $150.

So, what are you waiting for? Go put those signs on your car!

Read the Other Secrets The Sell Alpacas:

Secrets That Sell Alpacas #1 Participate in the FRG

Secrets That Sell Alpacas #2 Have an Internet Presence

Secrets That Sell Alpacas #3 Get your business card OUT there.

Secrets That Sell Alpacas #4 Don’t forget your Veterinarian.

Secrets That Sell Alpacas #5 Be Enthusiastic!

Do you have a marketing tip to share? Leave a comment. We’d love to hear it!

It’s A Green Christmas for Alpacas

Photo and Artwork by Valerie Newell of The Green Alpaca

Photo and Artwork by Valerie Newell of The Green Alpaca

The Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) is giving alpaca breeders something to celebrate this holiday season!

Through AOBA’s public relations efforts, a press release was distributed to the media highlighting alpacas as a green business. As a result, Alpacas are being featured as the perfect green livestock on a syndicated television special called “It’s a Green Christmas.” This is one of the largest exposures of alpacas to the general public to date.  Being shown in over 120 television markets, this segment is worth over $200,000 in television air time.

The one hour show features a variety of ecologically beneficial businesses and products.  Alpacas are highlighted for over 3 minutes as an all around environmentally friendly livestock.  Alpacas are discussed as being easy on the land and efficient users of food with highly desired manure.

Showcasing the alpaca industry is video footage from AOBA’s National Conferences including models wearing beautiful alpaca fashions on the runway, fleece competition judging, individuals spinning alpaca fiber and consumers shopping for alpaca garments.  The show also includes a visit to Alpacas at Windy Hill in Somis, California where Cindy Harris was interviewed while holding a 3-day old cria.  Cindy did a terrific job of educating viewers about alpacas in general as well as the different types of alpaca fiber and the variety of end products.

“It’s a Green Christmas” is airing from November 21, 2009 through January 4, 2010 across the United States. For a list of airing times and stations, visit  More markets continue to be added to the schedule.

The above was sent to AOBA members through email.

Note from Alpaca Farmgirl: Is AOBA back? Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come! Alpaca Farmgirl encourages you to sign up or renew your AOBA membership, and to participate in the AOBA Farm & Ranch Guide. AOBA works for us. Let’s support our organization and we will all benefit!

Why Santa’s Marketing Works Better Than Yours!

Santa Claus and Coca-Cola: Experts on Branding

Santa Claus and Coca-Cola: Experts on Branding

Santa Claus Inc. is well and profitable, right through recessions, depressions and just about any economic scenario. The reason why his marketing strategies work better than yours, is because he uses solid, dyed-in-the-wool psychology. He knows he doesn’t have to use new fangled techniques, when his simple marketing has stood the test of time.

If you don’t believe in Santa, you’d better change your mind, because the fat man from the north pole rocks on and you too can do the same if you stick to the basics. Find out if your product or service matches up by reading the article below.

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All the Way…
If you go to the heart of Santa’s marketing, the one word you come away with is ‘consistency’. Generation after generation have been exposed to one brand, one message, and the same powerful imagery.

Just like Mercedes own the term ‘luxury’ and Volvo owns the term ’safety’, Santa owns the word ‘hope’. Every kid worth his Nintendo, hopes he’s got enough points on the goodness scale to justify a mountain of gifts.

Yet, most companies get tired of their own brand. They chop, change and pour thousands (if not millions) of dollars into a bottomless pit of mindless change. Take a look at McDonald’s advertising, for instance. McDonald’s own the word family outing yet their ads have been straying down the teenager path.
More »

Customer Service – The 80%-20% Rule

This post contributed by Monica Klein from A Suri Farm.

I have a brother (actually, I have four brothers) who has this goofy hypothesis he calls the “80:20 Rule.”  I’m beginning to learn that my brother, John, may not be so far off base in his thinking.  His rule says that in the world of customer service 80% of the time, you get a moron (his word, not mine) and 20% of the time, you actually get someone who knows what they’re doing.

I think we all can cite examples that would prove John’s theory to be true even if the numbers don’t fall exactly at 80 and 20.  You know what I mean, I’m sure of it.  Remember the last time you were in the checkout line at a store and after the cashier had rung in your purchase and then typed in the $10 you handed him… you found that penny in the bottom of your pocket so you’d get a quarter back instead of twenty-four cents?  You know what I’m about to say… the deer-caught-in-headlights stare…the oh-my-God-I’ve-already-hit-the-cash-tendered-button-now-what-do-I-do look.  That is a prime example of the 80% group.  I don’t want to be one of them. More »

Ian Watt Talks Alpaca Fleece – Part 2

Mariann Marsh, Founder of Alpaca Social interviews alpaca expert Ian Watt, of Alpaca Consulting Services USA, former President of the Australian Alpaca Association.

Listen to this audio/video to hear Ian’s secrets for breeding for exceptional alpaca fleece. In this interview he talks about how you can tell if a young male  has herdsire potential. He also gives you some details on skin biopsies. When should you do them? And what will they tell you?

This is a must-see video for any serious alpaca breeder. Ian usually charges a lot of money for speaking engagements where he shares this very information. You can get it for FREE here!

Ian Watt Talks Alpaca Fleece – Part 1

Mariann Marsh, Founder of Alpaca Social interviews alpaca expert Ian Watt, of Alpaca Consulting Services USA, former President of the Australian Alpaca Association.

Listen to this audio/video to hear Ian’s secrets for breeding for exceptional alpaca fleece. In this interview he shares how to feed your male alpacas for less $, how many years you can expect usable fleece from your alpacas, and how you can find out your alpacas’ stress level.

This is a must-see video for any serious alpaca breeder! Bear with it during the slow spots. The valuable nuggets of alpaca info that Ian shares is truly worth it.

Tips from Successful Alpaca Breeders #3


Tip # 3 – Proven Herdsires Give You A Leg Up

Experienced breeders will most likely read the title of this article and instantly assume that proven is the better option here. I will lay-out the pros and cons of both arguments here, and come to the conclusion that proven males are in fact, the way to go for new prospective buyers.

Young and Sexy…

So a breeder friend calls you up and begins to boast about their new jr. herdsire / show prospect. With curiosity knocking on the door, you set-up for a time to visit. The upcoming weekend you drive down and your friend halters up the much heralded male. At six months old his fleece is a spinners dream and coverage that will demand the presence of any onlooker. All of a sudden a dazzling slideshow of the future flashes in your brain- images of breeders applauding you winning a Championship at AOBA Nationals, and going on to sell his offspring for six figures… And, he’s only $15,000 with all this potential! SOLD.

Three months later you are at the first show of the spring season, and your highly touted new jr. herdsire doesn’t look as impressive anymore next to the “Big Guns”. Nonetheless, you gladly took 2nd Place. By summer you and your future star have won two blue ribbons and a couple 2nd or 3rds- a successful season by many standards. The next year his fleece doesn’t come back quite as fine, and you decide this boy’s show career is over.

This is a common situation among all breeders. The idea of being in early on a future Champion producing stud is very persuading. Sometimes you pick em’, but more often you won’t, and the worst is still possible- buying an infertile male without a reproduction guarantee in his contract.

Pros Cons

- Purchase before animal’s peak value - Might lose value if not shown well

- Name recognition in marketing and shows – Could be infertile or produce poor quality

- Lag time until able to breed

They know the drill…

So you recently received an auction catalogue for the upcoming sale next month. One male in particular catches your eye who appears to be big and robust in his photo, is backed by quality genetics, and recently became proven with cria on the ground. At the sale you find the male and take a look at his fleece bag– fine and crimpy at almost four years old?! No show record though…You decide he’s the one though, and end up buying him for $15,000- completely under the radar.

From here the “bargain” could fulfill itself and the herdsire produce quality offspring and sell some breedings. The chances of this happening are more in your favor, the better the genetics are backing your male. Or, your $15k investment might not return due to poor production quality.

Pros Cons

- Ready to breed immediately - More difficult to find these “diamonds in the rough” at later ages

- Could be “under the radar” if never shown – Could be more difficult to promote

Nonetheless, the odds for long-term success are much more in your favor with example #2 Proven vs. #1 Unproven. Certainly going the latter route can be more frustrating as it can take longer finding the quality you want. However, for newer breeders especially, purchasing an already proven male offers you better production security, a “brand” to build, and well frankly, a herdsire who already knows what to do when he sees a maiden…

To go about either of these processes I suggest consulting an experienced breeder(s). If unbiased, they should send you in the right direction and even provide a list of promising bloodlines to invest in.

This tip contributed by Cooper Smith, Editor at the Alpaca Guy blog.

Tips From Successful Breeders Series:

Tip 1:Don’t Forget the Old Girls

Tip 2: Define Your Success

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