Sunday, December 26, 2010

Alma Park on John Stossel re-airs Dec 26th 8 and 11pm EST

John Stossel blogged about me !!  Ha Ha - I love it !!!  Click here to read what he said!! If you missed the show - watch it tonight at 8pm EST and 11pm EST on Fox News. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alma Park on Fox News with John Stossel - My Take (video link also)

John Stossel interviewed me for his piece on Fox late September of this year.   I was told that the piece would include alpaca farming because it can be "a great investment with lots of tax benefits, as well as just a rewarding thing to do".   A woman boarding here at the time originally had the initial contact with the producer and since she does not have a farm asked me if he could film at mine.  I jumped at the chance, as long as I was interviewed I said.   Our national organization, AOBA, did not want to do the interview, and I was never contacted by them for any assistance or inquiry if they could participate, which of course, I would have been happy to oblige.  I have been an AOBA member since 2002 and am currently on the Fiber Committee for a 2 year term. 

So we spent several hours filming a bunch of stuff.  Interacting with the alpacas, teasing some females with my male, feeding and other general stuff.  They also spent a good deal of time filming me in my yarn store packaging some items and skirting a fleece outside on my skirting table.

John showed up and asked questions about tax benefits, tax shelters, the potential for alpacas as meat and of course the fiber aspect of raising them.  He also asked about Mike Safely's article on "Why Not Have Uncle Sam Help You Buy Your Alpacas". 

The show finally ended up being "Top 10 Politicians' Promises Gone Wrong"

Click here to watch the video - lasts about 3 1/2 minutes into the video.  Mixed up a little with the golf carts can be a little confusing.

The teaser piece was on Fox 12/15/10 and caused a wide variety of dissension in the alpaca world.   Here is the write up on Stossel's blog and the tons of comments from disgruntled breeders calling Stossel anything from misinformed to a racist. 

On the Alpaca chat sites, much more was said, and the insults hurled at me JUST from the teaser piece were erroneous, inflammatory, childish,  and in some cases just plain stupid.  One Suri Alpaca breeder from Pennsylvania actually called my taking the interview "amateurish" and "selfish".   Selfish?  Selfish in what way, that I chose to speak about something I love - alpacas?  Amateurish?  Amateurish in what way, like the way he hurled insults at me ?  Another breeder from California called me "unintelligent" and said I should have focused on the fiber end of the industry.  DUH - that is what I always do . . . I don't have control over editing.  Other said I should have made my lawyer draw up a release.  Oh come on people - are you serious?  

Now that the actual piece has aired, the chat sites are quiet.  No more insults.  Some have come out and said that they thought it was a good piece!  One breeder even said he was going to name his next alpaca "Stossel".  I also received many emails in support of my interview and slamming the people that flamed me.  People are even reporting getting phone calls from people who are interested in alpacas and are interested in "learning more about the tax breaks".  Not everyone agrees with me or my philosophy and that's ok - this IS America folks!

But lets look at the interview this way.  Alpacas in the public eye on a channel that targets people with money!!  I say it's a good thing.  No one complained when Jane Pauley, Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Stanley Steamer, Jay Leno or American Express had alpacas in the news. Even an article in the Tractor Supply Magazine.  In fact people were overjoyed.  This is ONE MORE opportunity to show American that Alpacas are NOT llamas, not long necked sheep etc. 

I find it funny that so many folks deny taking tax benefits from the business as if it is something to be ashamed of?   While tax benefits are far from enticing today in this economy to enter the industry- it was a MAJOR source of marketing years ago and a MAJOR source for many to get into the business.  Today, I believe and I see that most people are getting into the industry for the business opportunity and the fiber end of the business and the love of the animals. 

I lowered my prices on animals several years ago before the economy started to decline.  I have many posts on this blog speaking about the economics of the industry.  I was one of the first to lower prices, of course to the nasty looks and emails of others - but now MANY folks have prices which are more to the "average consumer" .   

Here are a few articles I wrote over the last couple of years: 

Alpaca Market and the Economy - Sept 2008

The Market for Alpacas - Jan 2010
The Market for Alpacas 6 months later - July 2010
The Economics of the Alpaca Industry Oct 2010
Buying on Value rather than Price - Dec 2010

To show how alpacas were marketing in the past - here are some links to our own national breeders organization, AOBA.  Literature produced by AOBA still touts tax benefits as a huge advantage and many of us advertise during the end of the year to "get your year end tax benefits and buy by 12/31". 

Article 1  "can offer the rancher some very attractive tax advantages" Nothing speaks of profiting from fiber except as it relates to income from the "sale of crops". 

Article 2 "Tax-deferred wealth building is another "alpaca advantage". As your herd grows, you postpone paying income tax on its increasing value until such time as you begin selling the offspring."

Article 3

While these "advantages" are for all ag businesses and/or small businesses - we TOUT it as the main reason to buy and invest.

And again let's not forget Mike's Article

I have used these tax advantages for marketing in the past and still use them today depending on who my customer is and their economic status.  Even the folks who are NOT looking for tax benefits are still plenty interested on how this will positively impact their taxes.  I have read and used many of Mike Safley's tax items and even send people to his site on the tax benefits, section 179 etc etc.  Anyone not taking advantage of the tax benefits should get a NEW Accountant!!  
I am also a fan of Fox news and my favorite show is Bulls and Bears on Saturday morning.  Being in this business over 8 years, I have seen my share of turmoil and controversy and sometimes have been right in the middle of it !!  I also have been building a fiber business for about 6 years and have been very successful.  A  reason why many folks come to me for advice or animals or yarn designs etc.  Turning this from a tax shelter to a business took years and it continues to evolve, but let me tell you that I will take advantage of any tax benefit the government has in place.  That is what all small businesses do!  That is what all agricultural businesses do !!  

As far as subsidies - we are NOT talking subsidies.  We are talking write offs. So those folks talking subsidies and hand outs have an incorrect impression of this industry, any ag industry or small business.  Subsidies and grants are  out there - but take grant writing application and specifics that are not as easy as a simple tax write off.  See this article for some grant websites. 

Many folks still work full time and have this as a secondary business.  It is in most cases a labor of love or a passion for the fiber or the animals or both.  

I think John did a great thing by allowing alpacas to be center stage again and if asked - would I do the interview again?  I say ABSOLUTELY!!!  Did I mention the film crew purchased approx $500 in alpaca products from my store before leaving? 

A quote I leave you with today (I hope I do this with my writing and my actions): 
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." --John Quincy Adams

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alma Park on Fox News with John Stossel

The alpaca segment John interviewed me for will air at 9pm this Friday (December 17th) on Fox News.  Here is a blog post John just posted about the segment.

Now while I do usually find John to be spot on - I don't think that tax breaks made alpacas "explode", but as I have been saying for months if not years - prices need to come down to a "reasonable" level in order to support their true purpose  . . . . FIBER!!!!!  

Before people comment and bash John Stossel --- I think some posters on his blog and the alpaca chat sites are missing the point of the article. He is NOT  bashing the alpaca industry.  He is pointing out that tax breaks may help the serious farmer or business person etc, they also invite people to use them as a tax shelter which artificially inflates prices and creates a bubble.  People who simply board their animals and are completely hands off for example.   When the bubble bursts, all get hurt.  I lowered prices years ago - but there are still people out there on the precipice of the bubble waiting for the economy to recover and the huge prices come back.  I am not waiting!  I lowered prices and I am selling, and selling alot!  Economics 101 - "an item is worth what others are willing to pay for it".   I also have a thriving fiber business which is the commodity that MAKES alpacas viable livestock - FIBER.  

A brief description of the whole show is below (Alpacas fall into #6):

Please tune in to the FOX NEWS CHANNEL this FRIDAY at 9 PM ET to see Politicians’ Top 10 Promises GONE WRONG with John Stossel

Politicians make promises, and brag about the results of their work, the “seen” benefits, but they ignore the unintended consequences—the “unseen” harm-- of their laws. Politicians PROMISED that…

10… CASH FOR CLUNKERS would save the auto industry.  Instead, it increased the costs of USED cars (the ones that poor people buy), decreased charitable donations, and just moved auto sales from other months into July and August.

9… increasing the MINIMUM WAGE would guarantee everyone better pay, but it ended up killing jobs.

8…TITLE IX would end discrimination against women in sports, but instead it has taken sports away from both men AND women.

7… Big projects like STADIUMS, ARENAS, and CONFERENCE CENTERS will create jobs.  Instead, they steal money from the local grocery store.

6… Politicians manipulate the TAX CODE to “save small farmers,” and “save the environment,” but instead create an explosion of ALPACAS, give rich people like Stossel free GOLF CARTS.

5…CREDIT CARD REFORM would save us from horrible bank fees, but “reform” led to higher credit card interest rates and less credit for the poor, which drove them to worse forms of credit.

4…the HEALTHCARE bill would give us cheaper more comprehensive healthcare, but instead it’s causing insurance companies to stop offering health insurance altogether.

3…ETHANOL would relieve our dependence on foreign oil AND save the environment, but instead it’s increased the cost of food, done MORE damage to the environment, and to taxpayers.

2… Politicians said more HOME OWNERSHIP was good for America, but their subsidies created a bubble that made life worse.

And tune in for the #1 PROMISE GONE WRONG.  

The Mr. Frost Book is FINALLY a Reality

After a long journey - the book is finally ready.  Mr. Frost is now 3 years old!!!  He was raised in our home with bottles and has thrived. 

Want to order a copy of the book?  Click HERE

Want to see a slide show of pics of the REAL Mr. Frost click HERE or click below

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Buying on Value rather than Price

For new or prospective buyers out there – how do you decide on low price versus value in today’s alpaca market?

Today’s alpaca market presents a variety of unique opportunities and pitfalls.  The new breeder has to be able to navigate the waters and decide if alpaca that are low in price are “cheap” or are simply the result of an economy trying to stay afloat.  Some people have discounted alpacas considerably in order to reduce expenses of care or to disperse their herd.  Others (like us), have decided that the prices were inflated and we need to come to a more reasonable level.  Economics 101 – something is worth only what someone else is willing to pay for it.

At Alma Park, we lowered our prices years ago, ran specials and tried to attract new breeders into the industry.  Along the way, we have had some prospective buyers think that are animals were of lesser quality or value because they were below the inflated market prices seen all over the Internet.   Pricing is a critical aspect of any business.  Not all buyers shop on price and maybe Wal-Mart type items is sold on price alone, in an industry such as alpacas, most folks are looking for value, mentorship and a solid underlying business plan with profit motive. 

I have been told by many new folks who came for a farm visit that we were the only farm/breeder they visited that actually does something with their fiber.  That we are the only ones that can answer the question “can you make money from the fiber?”.  I find that disheartening but not surprising. 

Remember, you are not just buying an alpaca, you are buying access to the breeder.  You are buying that breeders knowledge and you are buying "business assets" or "inventory" for your business.  You want the breeder to be able to give you "value" for your purchase, not just in terms of a great animal, but also on what they can offer you in terms of knowledge!!  If you simply want to purchase an alpaca, there are a lot of "cheap" ones out there that will be dumped at your doorstep with no support or future knowledge transfer.

Because most new folks coming into the industry do not know exactly what they are looking for in an alpaca (other than maybe color), there has to be a certain degree of trust in the first person they purchase from and they have to feel that there is "value added" services that go along with their purchases.  My first purchase had none of those services and I felt quite alone with my new purchase of my animals.  My husband and I vowed that this would not happen to our clients.  Of course we try to help each new person and give them as much info as they want and they can handle, sometimes, people are resistant to our advice, feel they can do it better etc, and those are folks that I typically do not forge a long lasting relationship with.  While this is a rare occurrence, it does happen and the old adage is "you can't please everyone", and for my sanity, I have stopped trying to !!

My advice to new breeders out there or people who are looking to enter into the alpaca market is simple.  You must ask these questions or observe these value added items for yourself:
1 – Is the farm you are visiting doing ANYTHING with their fiber?
If they aren't, you have to wonder why not and what they are actually breeding the animals for !

2 – If they are – do they readily have products available from their own animals or from a co-op that they can show and sell to you?
Unless they are sending all their fiber to a co-op and do not want any products back to sell (this is rare), I find it hard to believe that they have nothing to show you IF they are processing their fiber. Also - having products SHOWS what these animals are bred for! Having no example product, to me shows no faith in the future of a sustainable industry.  They should at least have on a pair of socks, a scarf etc!! If the weather is hot, then can they show you a rug, blanket or other items they might use in their home, that perhaps they do not sell? Do they have ANY yarn from their animals ?

3 – Are the products in the farm store North American Made or are they all Peruvian imported?
If all the products they sell are imported from Peru, and they have nothing from the 3 main co-ops in the US or their own yarn etc, I again find it hard to believe that they are doing anything with their fiber.  While many people sell Peruvian products in addition to NA products, having ONLY Peruvian products to me shows a lack of faith in the future of the NA fiber market. 

4 – Can they offer you marketing advice?
Will they help you get set up with advertising sources, website advice, etc or do they want to keep all that "good info" to themselves?  My opinion is that my customers ARE NEVER my competitors!  I WANT them to succeed as they will be the best advertising for me in the future! I want to help them in any way I can.  I want the animals I sell them (that are breeding/show stock)  to go on and win many ribbons for them! I want the fiber and yarn I help them prep take many ribbons as well!

5 – Can they help you get your fiber prepped for showing and/or the mill?
This is one of my niches.  I think that being able to learn from your fiber, prepping it for show and the mill is the most important aspect of the fiber side of the business.  

6 – Do they know how to skirt, sort and grade fiber or do they simple think taking a single animal’s fiber and sending it to the mill is good enough for a quality product?
same answer as #5

7 – Can they talk to you about what histograms mean and represent (all the numbers), and not just the average fiber diameter (micron count) ?
It is NOT all about micron count!!  SD and CV show consistency in an animal's fiber.  These items (in my opinion) are much more important than micron count alone.  Having a fine animal that is REALLY inconsistent is not going to be easy to skirt or sort and will bring less money in the long run on the fiber side and may not produce consistent offspring.

8 – Can they help you show your animals?
Do they show halter? Fleece? Spin-Offs?  Can they help you with this? Can they help you determine which animals should go to which level shows? Can they help you prepare for a show?

9 – Can they help you train your animals ?  Are the animals that they are selling you calm, easy to work with and around and handle? Are they trained with kindness and a proven method such as Camelidynamics?
As a Apprentice Practitioner with the Camelidynamics program and working with Marty for several years, all of our animals are easy to work with, helping teach others how to work with their animals is another value added service !!  To me this is one of the most important items regarding animal care!

10 – Do they have detailed health records on their animals? Do they do things such as fecals? Can they teach you how to do them?
Detailed health records should be available for any animal you purchase.  Some farms are better at this than others.  Fecals and weights are the most important health related items in my opinion!  Doing fecals on site and being able to share that knowledge with you is a wonderful value added service!! 

11 – Can they talk to tax advantages?
Of course with the added caveat that  you should speak to your accountant, can they explain section 179 and depreciation? Can they tell you what items are tax deductible ? 

12 – Can they help with a business plan?
Once you decide which direction you would like your business to take - can they help you sketch out a business plan to help you get there?  Can they show you S.M.A.R.T. goals and help you map out a reasonable time frame to get there? 

13 - Can they provide you a list of items to have on hand when you bring your first animals home?
Common items such as first aid supplies and not so common items.  

14 - Will they train you on routine care (such as shots, toenails, identifying a sick animal) prior to you taking delivery of your animals?
To me this is a MUST for each new owner to learn.  

Not every breeder/farm will be an expert in all the points above.  We all have "niches".  You need to decide which items are most important to you.  There may be items that other farms do that I am not aware of - so if you are a breeding farm and have a suggestion - please let me know.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Synopsis of the Build A Tent AOBA Meeting - 11/19/2010

To view the original  Agenda click here. 
For background info - other info and copies of the presentation - click here

The meeting took place in Nashville, TN and online through web broadcast software.  The buzz even generated a new story on the local news for a local TN farm. Of course the prices quoted in there should be tongue in cheek (Fiber $6 an ounce), but it was a nice article!    There was also a streaming video stream which was available to folks who did not pre-register.  I chose to join online (gotta love technology) as part of the web conference software.   As part of the AOBA Fiber Committee,  I not only was there for Alma Park Alpacas, but also for the future of the entire Alpaca Industry.  In order for the industry to really grow and become a true fiber producing industry, we need to come together as a large group of breeders.   I will always have a portion of my fleece clip be just for Alma Park Exclusive products and Genuine Aymara ™ products, but it would be wonderful to sell off a large portion of my 1000+ pound clip to a fiber buyer or textile manufacturer!!  OK - now back to the synopsis!

Let me say first that the AOBA staff did an excellent job in the technology portion of the meeting!  They also did a great job pulling the meeting all together.

A couple of tips for future meetings: 
  • We should have a full time moderator for the webinar participants as many of us felt left out from questions and opinions as no one was really "moderating" our chat.   
  • Friday or a day during the week is not the best timing for a meeting like this - there were about 100 participants both online and in person.  With approx 4000 AOBA members and approx 6000 farms across the country, this was not a well attended event.   Most alpaca breeders still have day jobs and many cited this as a reason that they could not attend.  I was dismayed that out of over 100 alpaca farms in the US - there were only 2 perhaps 3 of us in the meeting.   I would hate to think that low attendance overall was due to the fact that people are not interested in fiber and will rather chalk it up to a Friday meeting.  
  • Many folks stated on Facebook that they did not know of the meeting.   I am not sure if the email blast did not get to enough people, people did open it or some other reason.  AOBA has a page on Facebook as well - there are TONS of alpaca folks on Facebook - definitely should have been posted there.  Many folks stated that my Facebook post was the only way they knew about it.  
This synopsis will have both notes from the meeting as well as my opinion on some topics.  My opinions will be in italics and I welcome you to comment on them as well as the actual meeting notes.  AOBA will be putting out a DVD of the meeting and I encourage you all to get a copy! 

The meeting opened up addressing perhaps why the alpaca  industry has not been in the "fiber market". 
  • Industry has historically been focused on promoting breeding stock not fiber
  • Small scale producers of fiber
  • Social problem in the US - rural communities is our target market thus far - but that is NOT where the money resides.  Also the economy show the US is NOT getting richer! 
What does this mean to producers?  While there will always be a niche market for fiber producers, we need to make a move into commercial production in order for our Luxurious Alpaca Fiber to penetrate the market. I have to find the citation, but I think alpaca fiber has only a 5% market penetration.  We need to step out of a breeding market and bifurcate.  Commercial flocks (fiber producers) and Seed Stock (show string).  Producers can have both types of animals on their farms, but we NEED to make the distinction.  We also need to gear our show system and national marketing efforts to identify and make the distinction.  Currently (for huacayas) only merino like (crimpy) fleeces are winning the ribbons, but many of us impassioned fiber people know our "silkies" (smooth cool to the touch non crimpy fiber) make wonderful products and yarn!  The Suri Network has identified several types of fleece structures and most mills will tell you that straight locks are easier to process.  The tight ringlets require more processing and often take more time and "rip" on machines.  We need to start breeding for what fiber BUYERS want, not what we THINK they want or what is aesthetically pleasing to producers.  Also education to the alpaca breeder masses needs to happen to have them all be on the same page as to grade.  Those of us that make lots of products know that grade 3 is the most widely adaptable, usable and easy to work with without compromising feel. 

We have all enjoyed a high priced breeding market to this point, but the fact is that if these animals are for fiber production, prices are too high.  Merino sheep and even cashmere goats are $100s not $1000s of dollars to purchase and enjoy a rich long time history of commercial production!

I also believe since the majority of growers still have a "day job", many have not had enough "skin in the game" for the profits of fiber to make a difference.  The economy may have brought this to a premature inevitability.  

Strategic objectives:
  •     To create and promote business model for sustainable alpaca industry
  •     Alpacas of all types and quality
  •     Promotes domestic fiber off the animal’s back to fashion
  •     IMPROVES the economic potential for alpaca farmers
I have said it hundreds of times along with my fiber colleagues - FIBER must be the future.  We need to promote all types and quality of alpaca.  Different grades/lengths are for different uses.  Wool is heavily used in rug manufacturing, but it is NOT the 18-19 micron count merino.  What about all our coarse older animals?  There is a use for their fiber as well - we just have to let the manufacturers KNOW it and get a distribution and collection model together to get it done!  

If we can create a demand for our product, FIBER, then all growers will benefit and it will bring more people into the commercial side of the business in the rural communities who have the land and may want to move into alpacas from other forms of livestock or ag crops or do both! 

The topic of cooperation was discussed and that there were "competitors" in the meeting. 
  • Small producers
  • Mini Mills
  • Alpaca Blanket project 
and probably others I missed.

Rod Dakan (Royal Fiber Spinnery) stated: "... there are no competitors because no one in the room is doing the same thing and 100% of the fleece is not being processed”

I think this was a statement of genius and would have to agree that we are not competing and we are ALSO NOT collaborating or cooperating.

Industry development objective around fiber!!  It is "Fish or cut bait time" .

While I have been a fiber nut for about 6 of the 8 years I have been breeding alpacas, I believe there is renewed focus in our industry because of the economy and the fact that our "crop" could actually generate money is on many peoples minds and agendas. Many small producers and other organizations stated above have been making this a reality.  How about now we have an "umbrella" to bring us all together and pool efforts and knowledge to benefit one and all?  

Animal Statistics in the US only (From ARI):
  • 2006 - 86k registered animals
  • 2010 - 207k registered animals
I have been hearing for years that we do not have enough fiber in this country to do anything with.  Well I said that was BS in 2006 and it is DEFINITELY BS now!!  With 207k animals and possibly another 20k - 50k unregistered - that is a lot of fiber!

If we do the calculation of just the registered ones (and just assume just an average of 3 pounds of blanket - ignoring 2nds, 3rds and those big studs who shear 10 pounds etc), that is 621k pounds of fiber - OVER a half of a million pounds or 310 TONS of fiber!!  Can we do something with that ??  You bet!  This of course does not take into account ANY fiber stored in breeders basements etc (may not be good anymore depending on storage conditions) or unregistered animals.  

Other Statistics:    
  • Peru with 4 large processors uses 85% of the global alpaca fiber
  • Peru has over 100 year history of working with alpaca fiber and this passthrough is estimated at 4000 tons !
  • There are 165k ARI registered animals outside of the US currently
  • Italy KNOWS about processing fiber - think about Italian Cashmere
  • Australia - fiber research is amazing and growing fiber is part of their culture and government support
  • Estimated that there will be 2500 TONS of alpaca fiber in 2020 in the US based on a 15-18% growth in animal population.  
  • In 2003, first alpacas were imported into China, who has a huge rural community and will use the alpaca from cradle to grave as fiber, food and pelts.   Please see the website for alpacas in China (I know the top picture has to be llamas)
  • 2010 China National Cashmere and Wool Conference – Keynote speaker Karl Spilhaus (president of National Textile Assoc and Cashmere and Camel Hair Mfg institute) - Why was there not an alpaca representative at this meeting.  We NEED to be in the fiber/textile space!
  •  Currently the buyers of fiber in the US have a fragile system.  If they do not get enough fiber or the right kinds of fiber, they cannot make production.  ABP cannot make blankets, AFCNA cannot make socks, NAAFP or NEAFP cannot make product for their members to re-sell, Back to back can't make felt kits or quilt batting.  
  • Mini Mills are in an enviable position as they are getting a majority of fiber  - why don't we utilize them further and bring them into the production chain? 
  • Cashmere – small specialty fiber – how come we are not looking at their path to success? 
  • National Textile Assoc  - why aren’t we at that table? 
Production: Some things to think about since there is no current sustainable fiber collection and no private money to set it up.
  • Work with AFCNA and other sorting/collection orgs - pilot by region that would work to serve all of us?
  • Lack of adequate production support – cottage and commercial - LONG wait times in mini-mills that we would NEVER tolerate in a normal industry

Biggest Issues On our Road to Fiber: 
  • Value of fiber and how to do a value added strategy (don't have experience or culture like Italy or Australia)
  • Not an investment opp to date (been focusing on sale of animals not fiber)
  • Need Research and Development (this is on-going with AOBA fiber committee - see here for some info)
  • Need volume (have the fiber) and organization (collection and distribution centers)

What can we learn from others (Cotton): Nick Hahn - private consultant and former CEO of Cotton Inc was the keynote speaker and wow what parallels to our industry.  Read all about the struggle and success of Cotton Inc here. 

A brief summary (all cited from
  • Cotton was losing market share to synthetics.  "In 1960, cotton apparel and home fabrics accounted for about 78% of all textile products sold at retail.  By 1975, that share had plummeted to an all-time low of 34%, due to the successful incursion of synthetic fibers in the marketplace, threatening the extinction of cotton as a viable commercial commodity." (Source -
  • 1970 - Cotton Inc is incorporated
  • 1973 - The Seal of Cotton ® is introduced
  • 1983 – Market share reaches 39%. Recognition of the Seal is at 63%
  • 1987– Cotton regains dominant position in the textile industry. Market share reaches  49%.  Recognition of the seal -  71%. Mill consumption of U.S. cotton reaches levels not seen in 15 years. 
It was a long road.  It has been 40 years since Cotton Inc was first formed and branding and marketing is still necessary.   They created the demand for their product.  They already had the supply.  Nick Hahn states that alpaca could use a "little help" in branding and marketing and while it would be too much money to do an all out campaign like Cotton did - we should look to work and collaborate with people and groups already in the fiber industry.

Some Problems to solve:
  • First hurdle – measure production 
  • What about alpaca growers who did not want to  cooperate?
  • Since an all out advertising campaign like Cotton would be too expensive - let's explore social media like Facebook and Twitter and use the power of the Internet
  • Partner with people who are already there, fashion people


Now comes the tough questions!!!! 

What do we do next?

  • There was a "fake" vote on whether or not we should create a new organization to focus on fiber and do what Cotton Inc did.  Call it "Alpaca Alliance".  I believe the majority voted yes.  
  • Other questions were - would you pay $250 to buy a share in this new organization?  Some folks hesitated on answering this question (including me) because they didn't know what the new organization would do, how it would be organized or where the arbitrary $250 price came from. 
Benefits of a L3C were discussed.  This is a hybrid model for creative capitalism.  This type of corporation would allow affiliates, groups etc  to hold shares of stock.  Would allow for charitable donations and would allow for dividends to be paid to shareholders.   Other concerns were voting rights of those groups or farms that bought multiple shares and the balance of power would be "big vs small" once again.

AOBA wants to help build the tent but in NO WAY wants to own it.  They simply wanted to start the conversation and be a part as any other shareholder.  

Here are my thoughts on moving forward: 
  • We need some type of  "tent" organization to focus on fiber only - NOT the animals JUST the fiber.  Supply chain, collection, distribution, education etc. 
  • We NEED a brand - we NEED to educate the public about our product - FIBER NOT ANIMALS. I for one am tired of the "lifestyle" ads and would like fashion or fiber ads!! 
  • We need to give growers a choice:
    • Many already utilize fiber as a small producer or cooperate with groups such as ABP, NAAFP etc etc.  Have these groups be part of the "tent" and able to utilize the new brand.  They have already done some amazing work from scratch - help them be MORE successful- do not try to replace or eliminate them. 
    • Some growers want NOTHING to do with the fiber once they grow it.  
      • Create a collection system to purchase fiber from these growers - Cotton growers do NOT have farm stores selling towels from their farm! 
      • Create a market by which their fiber can be purchased at the "farm gate".  No sorting/skirting etc by them - just clip and bag.
  • Education to the growers to better grow and shear their fleece - guidelines
  • The New organization needs to have some independent (outside the industry) folks involved like Nick Hahn!  I feel that one of the issues with our other efforts thus far is that we in-fight and do not know how to govern ourselves objectively.  This happens in industries in their infancy.  I say Nick Hahn has the experience and we should hire him to do what needs to be done to get this industry on the right track! 
  • Have patience - it took cotton 17 years to get back to where they once were because of synthetics.  
  • Wool and Cashmere are NOT the enemy!!  We are not better than cashmere (although we are more affordable).  We are not better than wool (although we feel better at the same micron).  Embrace these other natural fibers!  Wool (merino) at 30% blended with huacaya makes a much better all purpose yarn than either make on their own.  Merino give it memory and alpaca keeps it skin touch soft.  
  • We need professional staff - this industry is burned out from volunteering
I know that many folks will be hesitant in creating a new organization.  They will say "what about AFCNA"?   Well AFCNA is not working in my opinion and hasn't been for some time.   It gets less and less fiber "donated" each year.  The Alpaca Blanket Project got in over 50,000 pounds of fiber which is a very large amount for a private project.  Is it because of the price that ABP is paying or is it because people have lost faith in AFCNA.  I don't know.  I think that AFCNA cannot take us into the future but there may be a place for them "under the tent" .   AFCNA is the only true co-op that is currently in existence in the alpaca industry in the US and it is "owned" by the members.  The other organizations are all private organizations and can be a choice for growers as well.   (Correction 11/21/10 - NAAFP is also a true co-op and owned by the owners - apologies to the folks of NAAFP)

In creating a new enterprise I adamantly feel that it SHOULD NOT be a co-op.  Co-ops rely on member support and volunteering etc.  I think we need a real corporation, a staff that is answerable to the shareholders like IBM, Microsoft or Exxon!!! 

I am optimistic about the future.  I support moving forward into the FIBER WORLD.  I vote for Nick Hahn to be brought on board to help us get started.  As part of the AOBA Fiber Committee, I will relish helping with this project.  

I will continue to do my own portion of Alma Park Exclusive stuff but LOOK FORWARD to the day where 80% of my clip can be purchased at my "farm gate" and I get a check for it!!  The other 20% of my fiber will be the passion that I currently enjoy, but I can be more focused on the fun stuff with that 80% safely in the pipeline and off "my mind".  

So until the DVD comes out - here is my synopsis!  Please comment good or bad - as we are at the first steps in this process and EVERYONE's opinion matters!!! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Build A Tent Initiative - AOBA meeting 11/19/2010 - Agenda Build-A-Tent Initiative will be held both on-line and in person in Nashville TN.  For more info - please see the AOBA Build - A - Tent website

The initial agenda was as follows (all times Central) :

8:00 – 8:30    A.  Getting Started (30 min.)    
  1. Purpose of the Meeting
    •    Development of a fiber business model and initial objectives.
    •    Participant Purposes (per e-mail survey)
  2. Introductions 
  3. Meeting Process
8:30 – 10:00    B.  Overview - Benchmarking (90 min.)        
Where Are We?
  1. Status and Opportunities – C. Raessler
  2. Industry Exchange - Open Discussion - On-site and Webinar Participants
  3. Summary of Conclusions
10:00 – 10:15    Break (15 min.)            

10:15 – 11:15    C.  What We Can Learn from Cotton! (60 min.)
  • Nick Hahn, Private Consultant and former CEO of Cotton Incorporated a NYC based research and marketing 501(c)(3) corporation owned and directed by US cotton farmers and importers

11:15 – 12:30    D.  Business Model Discussion (90 min.)
What is a “For-Profit Low Income Limited Liability Co.” aka “A For Profit With A Soul”
  1. Concept Introduction
  2. Proposed “shareholder” tracks(1)  - The Moo Cow Story!
  •     Commercial
  •     Cottage Industry
  •     Individual
  •     Others
      3.    Role of 3-5 person “council” and operational management
      4.    Open Discussion – On-site and Webinar Participants
12:30 – 1:15     Lunch (45 min.)
Individual and/or Organizational Discussion and Straw Vote

1:15 – 2:30    E. Pretend We Are Having a “Shareholders’ Meeting” (90 min.)
    Agenda Item: Development of Business Objectives Year One (the IBM-BHAG Concept)
  1. Commercial – “Build a Graded Bale” or other core project
    • “BHAG” – Standard – commodities exchange
      2.    Cottage Industry – “Build and Brand a high-end E-Commerce Site” (an alpaca Etsy) or other core project
    • “BHAG” – Standard – Local Harvest?
      3.    Individual – “Build a Farm Based Collection Model”.  This model could (and should) leverage existing industry resources such as non-profit and private collection cooperatives.
    •  “BHAG” – Run on a profitable basis a regionally based, centralized collection pilot in 2011.
2:30 – 2:45    Break (15 min.)

2:45 – 3:30    What an Industry Brand Could Do for Us! – Nick Hahn (45 min.)

    Please note that the media has been invited to log-in at 3:30

3:30 – 4:00    Wrap-Up (45 min.)

(1)   LLC equity interests are not “shareholders” and shares.  The correct term is “members” and “units”.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What will you do today to build your business?

In my Facebook account, I try to post an inspirational message several times a week.  Today I took a quote from one of my favorite dancers of all times!  I had not seen this quote before, but it hit me like a ton of bricks today!! 

“I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to to dance better than myself.” Mikhail Baryshnikov 

To me this quote means a lot !!  Many folks look at some of the large or successful farms and want to compete with them.  Many folks look at farms who have had breeding programs for the last 12-15 years and want to immediately have the success they are having.  They are upset when they are beaten by one of these animals in the showring.  While it is natural to compare yourself with the most successful of folks in your industry, it can be detrimental to your own success. You are not comparing apples to apples so to speak.   If you have been in the alpaca business for less than 3 years, how do you think you can compete with the likes of folks that have been here 8, 12, 20 years?  I say - unless you spend a ton of money and buy from established farms and buy these winning genetics, you need to look within your own herd and see what you need to do to improve!  Get an outside breeding, skirt/sort your fleece and be honest if "fluffy" just isn't doing it for you.  Breed for the show ring or breed for the fiber market - but have a GOAL. 

I have been raising alpacas for 8 years.  My breeding program has really been on track for about 5.  I have enjoyed a lot of success in the show ring in recent years, but I did something different about 6 years ago - I decided to concentrate on the fiber!!  I have 2 types of animals in my herd.  Those that are destined for the show ring (merino type fiber)  and those that are destined for the fiber market (silky type fiber).  Sometimes the show ring animals make great yarn - sometimes they don't.   My champion herdsire Sebastian took a First Place and Judge's chocice of the entire skein competition at MAPACA this year.  That was QUITE an honor for me !  He is a dual purpose animal and that thrills me to no end.   Not only is he a champ and get of sire winner, he can also make money off his originally intended purpose - yarn!!  His yarn sells out quickly at all my events !!  I have to actually hide skeins for myself !!

I have said before I have a background in economics and realized before the economy took a dump that the alpaca market would follow wall street and the housing market and the housing market showed signs of problems back in 2004 according to my analysis.  I knew that in order to build a sustainable industry, we needed to work on fiber.  I also knew that in order to continue to sell breeding stock, you also had to market and get into the ring with your progeny!! So I took a two pronged approach.  Today I enjoy a thriving yarn and fiber business as well as selling breeding stock and the occasional fiber boy.  I make my living off my animals and yarn business. 

I empower each of you today to do something different than you did yesterday or last week, last month or last year!!  Compete with yourself as the quote above states.  Don't try to compete with others - you may not be on the same playing field!  

For me - I have detailed records of what I sold last year in terms of fiber/yarn online, at certain events on and off the farm etc.  I also keep detailed demographic records of my customers and any inquiries I get for animals.  I look at what works, what doesn't and my marketing budget is tailored to the stuff that is working!

I set goals each quarter using S.M.A.R.T goals.   I try to increase sales etc each day.  

So - what are you going to do today?  Spin some yarn?  Learn to spin/sort/grade?  Look at one of your alpaca's fiber with an objective eye and see where he/she fits into your program and the overall industry?  I say do something today that will make you just a little bit better and more competitive than yesterday - and this builds on itself until you are the one that is envied in everything you do !!!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Future of the Fiber Industy in the US

I have officially removed myself as a member and co-founder of CIABA.   I also asked my articles be removed from their site.  What started out as a fiber organization will (I fear) turn into nothing more than an organization that is more concerned about rescues and less about creating a TRUE fiber market so the NEED for rescues would be diminished drastically.

Leaders into a new frontier must be forward thinking, passionate and business minded. The emotion needed for rescuing is in direct opposition to a true fiber market in this country.   The emotion that most small breeders feel towards their animals also can be detrimental to their own success.

To all those folks that lust over the success of large farms like Snowmass and Magical - I urge you to think what really happens to all those "fiber boys" and ask yourself - will "rescuing" all these animals help or hurt our industry? Think about why Snowmass ships their fiber to Peru.  Because there is NOT a fiber industry yet in the US.

While the economic feasibility of a meat market is highly dubious in my opinion because of the slow growth of an alpaca compared to other forms of livestock - all livestock industries do have a cull market.  While I personally have made a pledge to myself and my animals that the animals I bring into this world do NOT wind up in bad or slaughter circumstances, I do not have a moral objection to it.

I think the growing pains of our industry has been exacerbated by the poor economy and I ask each alpaca breeder to look long and hard about the industry and ask yourself....what will make this industry strong, long and prosper?  I say FIBER. Breeding stock produces fiber, but fiber herds need to be established and made to be profitable as well.

Support those causes that are working towards the fiber end:- AOBA (raw fiber committee)
- Alpaca Blanket Project

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Exclusively from Alma Park Alpacas - Genuine Aymara ™ products

Aymara (noun) pronounced \ˌī-mə-ˈrä\ is the people and/or languange of the native Indiana of Bolivia, Peru, and northern Chile. The word "alpaca" actually comes from Aymara language whereas the other camelid species is from the native Quecha tribes.

Genuine Aymara ™ is Trademarked by Alma Park Alpacas to distinguish it from other alpaca products on the market. There will be 3 grades of Genuine Aymara ™.

  • Royal Baby - alpaca products made from alpaca fiber under 20 microns
  • Baby - alpaca products made from alpaca fiber 20-22.9 microns
  • Superfine - alpaca products made from alpaca fiber 23-26 microns

Genuine Aymara ™ is prepared under certain quality control techniques that are currently being refined after going through initial development. Anyone wishing to use this trademark in the future must contact Alma Park and be licensed to do so once the quality control of growing and preparing are examined.

Any questions can be directed to Rose at Alma Park. Contact info can be found at

Monday, November 1, 2010

How to be a good boarder

We have been raising alpacas for the last 8 years. In the past 4 years we have had a steady stream of boarders (agistors) on our farm who are in transition to setting up their own farm or who are in a long term boarding situation because they are "hands-off" investors. Well, in the last 6 months or so, let me tell you that I have had "boarders from hell"!!!! So much in fact, that I am no longer offering any long-term boarding on my farm.

I am not sure why this has only occurred in the last 6 months or so. In speaking with other long term alpaca breeders, we can only liken it to the economy. People seem to be more demanding, less trusting, and just overall more uptight. I believe that people need to start cooperating in the alpaca community or this backstabbing BS will hurt us all long term. It seems a day doesn't go by that I don't get a phone call or an email from someone telling me gossip about another alpaca breeder. It is quite sad and something I did not face in my other past and current businesses.

I have asked a variety of host farms what their issues were with their boarders and I have compiled the top 10 here in no particular order and paraphrased quite a bit on many:

1 - Boarding is a privilege not a right
2 - If you use something, put it back where you found it when you are done. Put your 'stuff' away before you leave.
3 - Remember that the host farm is a business (and often times their home) - do not monopolize their time with unnecessary chit chat or tirades about your personal problems. Be considerate of their time spent with you.
4 - Let the farm know if/when you are coming to visit. Don't expect the host farm to necessarily be there or be available each and every time for you.
5 - Do not take advantage of my time. A million and one questions can and will be answered, but need to be at a mutually convenient time. NOT at 9:30pm at night, when it is good for you but I am exhausted and want to relax a bit.
6 - Do not speak about me or my operation to others - it is none of their business. If someone wants to know about me - they should ask me personally. Gossip is never good.
7 - You are not the only boarder/client on my farm. My farm protocol is what it is and was discussed when you first came here. If you want a different level of care - then I suggest you go elsewhere or have your own farm.
8 - I am here to make money, this is a business. While I may do things from time to time for free, EXPECTING it will only strain the relationship.
9 - Treats such as apples, grapes or whatever ARE forbidden on my farm (EVEN for your animals). . . they are not to be given period. If you want to feed them to your animals, then I suggest you get your own farm. If you want to give handfulls of grain - that is fine. Please also do not spill grain all over the floor. It is expensive and flies multiple in the summer months because of this.
10 - Board is due the 1st of the month for that month. It is a set fee (like rent for an apartment/home). There is no reason to wait for a bill. If there are additional charges, they will be billed separately. If you don't, can't or wont pay on time, why would you expect me to return your phone calls 5 minutes after receiving them?

I believe people get too comfortable and then they treat ME as THEIR employee. Well I am not, I have my own farm and my own animals and you are simply a guest here.

Anything I left out?

I will be posting new board prices effective December 1, 2010 for short term boarders (3 months at a time). . . and have to say, the few ruined it for the future boarders that may come here to live.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Alpacas on Martha Stewart

Whether you love or loathe Martha, one thing most will agree on is that she knows "A good thing". She featured alpacas in yet another mainstream feature of alpacas and alpaca products! Great episode, great info and 2 great farms represented.

Watch a replay of the video here. Click on the picture of Martha with her guest Leda.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Economics of the Alpaca Industry

This will probably be viewed as a somewhat cynical and definitely a controversial view of the alpaca industry, but really it is just an economic viewpoint on a business opportunity (and I have studied economics).  As someone who has been raising and breeding alpacas for 8 years, I have stood back and made some observations that are startling to say the least. 

I feel that most alpaca owners can fall into 3 categories in regards to the alpaca "business":
  1. Those that treat this like a business and try to make money (and many do)
  2. Those that treat this like expensive pets and "enjoy the lifestyle" sometimes to the detriment of their bank account
  3. Those that do this only as a tax shelter (these are typically people who have purchased their alpacas more than 5 years ago)
    Of course this is not black and white, but for the sake of the article and for the sake of argument we will be only discussing the first 2  categories, because folks who use something strictly for a tax shelter either want to come out to a net sum of zero or lose a little money (in my experience). 

    I think in order to get a clear picture, we need to be on the same page so let's talk about some simple economic principles to became familiar with.  I will try to keep it simple and short because while economics thrills me, I know most people find it pretty dry and dull. 

    Supply and Demand -  an economic model of price determination in a free market. Quite simply stated: in a competitive market, the unit price for a particular good will vary until it settles at a point where the quantity demanded by consumers (at current price) will equal the quantity supplied by producers (at current price), resulting in an economic equilibrium of price and quantity. 
    • If demand increases and supply remains the same then price per good increases
    • If demand decreases and supply remains the same then price per good decreases 
    • If supply increases and demand remains the same then price per good decreases
    • If supply decreases and demand remains the same then price per good increases 
    For most of last year (2009) - I believe the alpaca breeding stock industry saw a decrease in demand and an increase in supply.  Which is a combo of bullet points 2 and 3 above,  which inevitably had prices decrease or in a free market that worked efficiently - they SHOULD have decreased.  

    Category 1 -
    Now let's talk about people from Category 1 above "Those that treat this like a business and try to make money" .   The people that fall into this category, (of which I am one) during the economic recession in 2008 - 2009  either intuitively or purposefully decided to reduce their prices on their breeding stock in order to continue to sell alpacas.  Now don't get these folks confused with people who ran scared and sold out entire herds at any cost, or folks who HAD to sell due to job losses etc, or would have had serious issues.  I am speaking of people who made a conscious decision to lower prices. 

    I significantly reduced prices and have sold over 35 animals so far in 2010.  While more folks decided to finance animals and of course prices where down from years ago (as supply and demand would dictate), we were able to do well with our sales since we have approx 40 cria born each year.  We also decided to ask most of our long term boarders to leave who had more than 10 animals each.  Now while this sounds counter-intuitive, board does not really make a farm money when one adds in all the extra work and aggravation and phone calls etc. that the host farm has to include in a day to day operation.  This actually helped to cut opportunity costs (is the cost related to the next-best choice available to someone who has picked between several mutually exclusive choices) because it freed up my employees and myself to be able to do more value added work which would add more money to the bottom line than board fees.

    Now of course in order to make the choice to ask boarders to leave, you need to be able to know how much each animal on your farm costs to care for.  I calculate my costs on a rolling quarter basis, so I know at any time of year what a single animal costs to house, feed, medicate etc.  Of course this is an average across the herd, I do not know whether Fluffy or Muffy actually eats more.   However,  I do know who required more medical care and what each individual animal makes in terms of breeding fees, cria production and sales and fiber sales.  (Tracking fiber costs and sales per animal will be in my new book). 

    Once the aggravation factor increased, the money we were gleaning from board no longer made sense and it was an easy decision to move these folks from our farm.  We had approx 40 animals leave this past summer (2010), with another 35 or so sold,  we greatly reduced our workload,  reduced crowding and made herd health much easier.  Now be prepared, when you ask people to leave your farm, regardless of how nice or how much notice you give, they will be upset, take it personally and you will most likely sever a business relationship.  People who board with you tend to think that they are your best friends and do not realize the work, worry and responsibility  it is to care for animals you do not own.  Boarders can also take advantage (but that is a topic for another blog post - which will be up in the next day or so). 

    Most breeders who have been successful in the economic downturn have also shifted focus to more local advertising rather than national advertising.  Local advertising through public outreach, events and other forms of inexpensive advertising such as flyers, very local newspaper ads etc is reaching a broader audience.   New people and people who were not aware of alpacas as an investment, an agricultural crop or 4H performance animals are being introduced to a whole new world..  Internet advertising and social networking can also be a powerful and often free advertising venue.   (Please read my Facebook Article here.  There can be many pitfalls of social media on line as people "read into" comments as there is often not a "tone" like in person as well as people would say things on line to a faceless computer screen that they may not say to your face - so beware and careful in how you use this powerful media.  It could put you at the other end of a slander suit. )   We used to advertise full page ads in American Livestock each quarter.  This cost was $3,000 per year and over the 4 years we did it, I could not trace back a single sale to this magazine.  Because of this it was also an easy choice to cut this out of the budget and use that money where sales were coming from.  Again, you can only make these choices if you know where your sales are coming from, so you need to query your customers. 

    By lowering prices many more folks who once were unable to enter into the alpaca industry due to the high entry costs have been able to purchase, thus allowing more breeders in the mix,  rather than simply selling to each other.  Of course with this has come some negative consequences.  I have seen and heard of more incidents of  legal disputes, repos and failure to make payments on time.  I have also seen new folks disappointed in their purchase of a boy for $250 thinking that he was going to be the next HUGE herdsire only to walk from the show ring.  While there can be boys that are "diamonds in the rough" for little money - sometimes they really are only worth "fiber boy" status.  I am honest when I sell boys inexpensively and tell folks that "this boy should NOT be a herdsire" and point out why.  Or, this boy while selling for little money "has potential", but I cannot use him in my program for one reason or another. 

    Category 2 -
    Breeders from the Category 2 above "Those that treat this like expensive pets and "enjoy the lifestyle" sometimes to the detriment of their bank account"

    This category is made up of a multitude of people.  
    • Don't want to sell at a lower price because they think it will "hurt the industry"
    • Don't want to sell at a lower price because they have too much invested
    • Don't want to sell at a lower price because they think the market will rebound to incredulous prices of yesteryear
    • Don't want to sell at a lower price because they can afford to keep their animals and don't care if they sell or not 
    • Seriously believe that their animals are worth the prices of years gone by 
    I can totally respect if people chose not to lower their prices and are OK with not selling any animals.  The people that really annoy me are those breeders who complain that they have not made a sale in years, claim they are losing money everyday and complain that the industry is a mess, broken, and they were lied to either by AOBA or other breeders.   My comments back to those folks are, the housing market is a mess, houses are worth less than purchased for if purchased in the last several years, stock market is down, construction is down etc etc.  I think almost every sector of the economy has been hit and some hit very hard.  NOW there is a bright spot in the economy and that is the craft sector.  My yarn and fiber sales have increased dramatically since 2008.  I cannot keep up with local demand for my exclusive products!! Now of course, I have shifted much of my focus to fiber endeavors.  We of course still breed, sell breedings to our herdsires, promote our breeding programs and show at at least 7 halter shows a year, I shifted my business model to have the majority of our income come from fiber and fiber based activities and the breeding end of the business is a great "topper" to that income.  This has shifted my paradigm significantly since my start in 2002.

    Other Insights and Observations - 
    Some disturbing, some eye opening and some just need to be said !!

    The majority of breeders have little to no business experience and little to no livestock experience.  I see many folks (women especially) with empty nest syndrome who cannot part with animals they raise.  Again, that is all well and good IF they do NOT complain about the industry, the market etc.   I am tired of hearing people say they cannot make money with alpacas.

    The "motherly", "mother earth",  "tree hugging" breeder.  These folks want to dazzle you with the "beauty of the alpaca" and the "peaceful lifestyle" and how wonderful these creatures are, but yet they never get into facts and figures, have very little to offer in terms of fiber aspects of the business and simply want to Kumbayah their way into your mind and wallet.   While I do love my animals and do enjoy them and think they are wonderful, I have a sound business plan.  I use all my fiber and make money doing so.   If you are looking for a tree hugging, Kumbayah singing, kiss and hug an alpaca farm, move on because you will not find it at Alma Park.  If you want to know how to make money, how to show, how to keep them healthy, do fecals, skirt and sort your fleece, make good yarn, halter training and on and on - then you have come to the right place.   So beware of the folks who want to be your best friend and only talk of "cuteness".  I don't blow smoke and I don't candy coat things.  I offer  a real business opportunity for those that want to work.  This is not a get rich quick scheme - it takes work and persistence to make this a sound business!

    The jealous and lazy- these folks I have no time for!!  I have helped countless people with fiber and herd health, yet I still get off-handed comments "well, it is great you are doing well, but what about me".  I have offered courses, free seminars and on and on, but people simply are either lazy or too jealous to see straight.  I have actually had people get mad at me when I refused to skirt their fiber for free!!  Are you serious? I clip over 1,000 pounds a year to skirt, sort and move into the pipeline, but I am supposed to do yours for free???

    I am currently finishing up my book on how to make yarn, aimed at the breeder community and once this comes out, I will no longer be offering advice for free - no more free seminars at shows about fiber, no more free seminars on my farm about fiber.  Buying my book or purchasing an animal from our farm will be the only way to get this info.  Sorry the stupid few have ruined it for the many.  I am tired of people bashing me because I am successful and have an opinion.

    The meat market - a well known and large farm publically announced recently that they have been "(harvesting) them for your freezer as we do".  I chose to raise alpacas rather than other forms of livestock primarily because of the fiber and the fact that there is no terminal market.  I will continue to conduct my business in the same aim I started out and that is that I will not allow any animal I brought into this world wind up in a poor situation or to go as meat.  I do not agree with this farm's philosophy . . .you make your own decisions.  I belive that the ONE and ONLY key to reduce the need for rescues AND/OR a meat market is to create a STRONG FIBER industry in North America!!  



    Friday, September 24, 2010

    David Letterman Has Spoken - #1 America Loves Dancing Alpacas!!

    After the girl scouts from the Lehigh Valley, PA danced with their Alpacas on Letterman on 9/23/10 - this top 10 aired, "Top Ten Secrets Revealed In The New Bob Woodward Book".   The number 1 is around minute 1:29.    I know you are wondering why I am posting this on an alpaca blog - but wait for #1 !!!  David Letterman has spoken !!! 

    The girls and their alpaca companions did great - but I wish the segment was a bit longer!  

    Once the Video of the dancing alpacas is ready - I will post that as well.

    (Added 9/25) Well I couldn't find the Letterman Clip - but here are the girls dancing with their Alpacas at the 2010 MAPACA Jubilee in Harrisburg PA.

    (Added 9/28) Full Letterman Clip from YouTube

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Alpacas are mainstream and ALL over the place!!!

    Alpacas were set to be  on the Martha Stewart Show (Sept 23) on the Hallmark Channel, so while we are waiting for that to debut, I thought you would enjoy watching some other places alpacas are today in the mainstream!!

    Stanley Steamer: (goes to YouTube)

    Know the Animal, Know the Stain
    It was Awesome!
    Lesson #1
    Lesson #2
    Lesson #3

    America Express: (Tracks back to this blog's post and comments)

    This is Priceless

    On the Today Show With Jane Pauly:  (Tracks back to this blog's post and comments)

    On the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: (Tracks back to this blog's post and comments)

    Tractor Supply:  their in store magazine publication features Alpacas on the cover!!   Click here to read on line.  It takes the page a few minutes to load.  While thier average prices for animals are much higher than the market currently bears right now and the number of registered animals is greater than 120,000, the rest of the article is pretty good !!

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    A reprint of an article in the Alpaca Ontario Newsletter

    Click here to download and read the entire Alpaca Ontario Newsletter (we are on page 6).  This link downloads the newsletter in PDF format.   You can also right click on the link and "save link as".  Our article in this newsletter was "Alpaca Herd Viability"

    It is a great newsletter!

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    A Mama for Mr. Frost Book available to pre-order

    A Mama for Mr. Frost
    This heartwarming story will delight children and adults alike. Based on a true story of an orphaned alpaca cria, A Mama For Mr. Frost will make you smile, laugh and cry !

    Fully Color Illustrated

    Author: Rose Mogerman

    Illustrations by: Dawn Bourdeau Milstrey

    32 Pages


    Click here to go to our store and pre-order at a discounted price!

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Can I name a Cria anything I want or are there guidelines?

    I am going to go over some basic rules on the policy & procedures of ARI on how/what you can and cannot name a cria.  If you are a member of ARI - then all this info is readily available on the ARI website and I will quote sections so that you can read the info for yourself.  If you are not an ARI member - you will not be able to access this part of the ARI website.

    Breeder Identifiers - A breeder identifier is a unique identifier chosen by the Indicated Owner and approved by the Registry for owners of ARI registered alpacas. (Section 04-03) of ARI Policy & Procedures

    Why should you have a breeders id?
    1. It says to the world that you bred and created this animal.  This is a real feather in your cap especially if he/she was sold and has gone on to have a very successful show career or produced progeny that were successful .
    2. It makes it much easier to name a cria.  For example - there may be a ton of animals named "Apollo" or "Thor" but once you attach your breeder's id to that name - it makes that animal unique to your farm and unique in the ARI database.   
    Naming crias -

    Usually these rules involve breeder ids:

    One of the specific rules regarding naming an alpaca is :

    "An alpaca name cannot include a breeder identifier other than that of the Indicated Owner of the dam at the time of service without permission of the Indicated Owner of the dam at the time of service. " (Section 04-03) of ARI Policy & Procedures

    This is something that often confuses a lot of breeders at the time of cria registration.    Translated, this simply means that unless you owned the DAM at the time of conception/service, you CANNOT name the cria with your breeder id WITHOUT the express permission of the DAM owner at time of conception/service (usually the seller). 

    EXAMPLE  1 -  I will use my breeder id "Alma Park"  and the generic name "Some Alpaca Farm" as the other breeder id.   Alma Park finances a dam  to Some Alpaca Farm.  The date of the contract is March 1 2009, and the last payment is scheduled to be made on March 1, 2010.  This dam is bred on May 25, 2009 with an expected due date of May 16, 2010.   Some Alpaca Farm makes all his payments on time and the Dam's ARI is transferred on March 15, 2010.  The cria is born on May 14, 2010.  What are the possible names that the baby can be registered as  :

    1 - Some Alpaca Farm Butterscotch
    2 - Alma Park Butterscotch
    3 - Butterscotch

    Number 1  -  would need express authorization from the Dam owner (Alma Park) at time of service.   Many established breeders/sellers are building a brand and it is doubtful as to whether they will let this be authorized. 
    Number 2 - this too would need express authorization from the Dam owner (Alma Park) at time of service.  Many established breeders/sellers would let this go through no problem
    Number 3 - a quick search of ARI shows 90 alpacas with the name Butterscotch somewhere in them and generic names like this are ofter auto-rejected by the ARI system.  But if it is a unique enough name - these one word names would go through no problem as it does not violate any ARI policies or procedures.

    EXAMPLE 2 -  I will use my breeder id "Alma Park"  and the generic name "Some Alpaca Farm" as the other breeder id.

    A Dam was purchased for cash on April 13, 2008 pregnant and due Oct 12, 2008.  The ARI was transferred on April 25, 2008.  Sometime in August of 2008, the Dam lost her baby and it did not survive.  The Dam was bred back in Oct 2008 and gave birth to a healthy boy on Oct 15, 2009.  What can this cria be named:

    1 - Some Alpaca Farm Apollo
    2 - Alma Park Apollo
    3 - Apollo

    Number 1  -  since the dam was owned by Some Alpaca Farm at the time of service - this is a perfectly acceptable name
    Number 2 - this would need express authorization from Alma Park and I am not quite sure why the new owner would want to do this.  It is up to the individual breeder/seller to decide if this is ok. 
    Number 3 - This would pose the same issue as number 3 in our last example. 

    The Dam owner at time of service would still need to sign off on this cria.  The stud owner will also have to sign off on this cria.  Just remember the sire and sire owner HAS NO bearing on how you can name a cria.   It is ONLY the Dam owner at time of service /conception.  My saying to new people is "whoever owns the uterus at service gets to name the cria" . . . .

    Changing the name of an alpaca -
    Name changes shall be allowed for alpacas having no registered offspring. (Section 04-05) of ARI Policy & Procedures

    Proposed name changes must also comply with the naming requirements of policy ARI 04-04 Alpaca Names. (Section 04-05) of ARI Policy & Procedures

    While I have never had the desire or need to change an alpaca's registered name -this does happen and there are valid reasons for it.

    Translating these 2 sentences of the code means that if an alpaca has no registered offspring, a name change is rather easily accomplished if the change complies with the naming requirements in section 04-04 of the ARI Policy & Procedures code which we spoke about above.   If there are registered offspring then there has to be a petition made to the BOD of ARI. 

    EXAMPLE 1 -  I will use my breeder id "Alma Park"  and the generic name "Some Alpaca Farm" as the other breeder id.   A Dam was purchased and financed with cria at side on March 1, 2009.  Cria was less than a week old when Dam was purchased. The cria came with the Dam and there was no value placed on the cria.  Dam was not paid off until March 1, 2010.  The cria was named Alma Park CutiePie and the ARI certificate was in the sellers name.   Once the dam was paid off and both the ARI for the Dam and Cria were transferred to the buyer, the buyer attempted to change the crias name to Some Alpaca Farm CutiePie.   This would obviously be denied.  Firstly, the cria was born prior to the buyer even entering into a contract for the Dam and the seller obviously made the breeding decision for this Dam and owned the Dam at time of Conception and owned the Dam at time of birth of the cria. 

    EXAMPLE 2 -  I named an alpaca "Alma Park Snook'ems" cause he was so adorable at birth.  Well as Snook'ems grew up, he did amazingly well at shows and was really destined to be a herdsire.  Since Snook'ems did not sound like a regal enough name and had not started his breeding career and had no registered cria, it is quite easy for me to go into the registry and change his name.

    Change - Alma Park Snook'ems to Alma Park Stud Muffin

    I was the dam owner at conception so I did not have to ask anyone's permission even if I had no longer owned the dam.

    Other items in name such as "Bolivian", "Peruvian", "Accoyo" etc etc -

    There are no specific guidelines in the ARI Policy & Procedures for this type of additions to names.  When I started breeding 8 years ago, it was very common to see these types of items in names and many farms use it today.  It is largely for marketing.  I personally do not use this when I name any of my crias simply because I prefer to use unique names that are fun and have a story behind them.  Many people also like to add the Sire's name, again, this is great for marketing especially if it is a well known sire.