Alpaca ranchers come from many walks of life. Increasingly, alpacas are becoming an important source of income for many people. Entire families are full-time alpaca breeders. Young couples with children might own three or four alpacas and enjoy caring for them. Retired couples, who have raised their kids, sold their business, and retired to the country, are often owners. The family whose members include a hand-spinner might own two or three animals for fiber production. Several breeders are veterinarians who have found the ownership of alpacas to be more rewarding than practicing veterinary medicine. Many herds are owned by families where one spouse has a city job, and the alpaca business is managed by the other on their acreage in the suburbs or the country. A large number of breeders are working couples who tend to their herd in the evening after work. There are even city dwellers who have discovered the option of boarding (or "agisting") alpacas, thereby giving them an operational alpaca operation while still retaining an urban career. For all owners, alpacas offer a great way to diversify their financial portfolio with a commodity that is both rare and in demand worldwide.
There are few large ranches with over 500 alpacas, small ranches of only two or three alpacas, and everything in between. The average alpaca herd consists of about ten to twenty alpacas. Most herds start out small and grow to the size that fits the breeder's ranch and financial goals.
Almost all breeders are in business for the long haul; they believe in the future of the industry. With the relatively small number of alpacas currently available, there will be an extended and steady demand for breeding stock to continue meeting the needs of our growing industry for many years.
It is important to recognize that alpaca ownership has inherent risks, as do all livestock and financial assets. You should talk to breeders to familiarize yourself with the risks as well as the rewards of alpaca ownership.