Reality Check: Alpaca Ranching
Words of wisdom, encouragement, and warning about raising alpacas.
Connie Betts says about the transition she and her husband, Thomas, made in 2004 from suburban dwellers to owning Casade Alpacas of Oregon, "All the stars aligned":
- The Bettses were able to sell the house in which they had raised their two children and to use the money to buy a rural home with enough property, and the right zoning, for raising farm animals.
- The couple found a buyer for Thomas' 41-foot sailboat, and those funds paid for their first alpacas, which can range in price from a few hundred dollars for a gelded male to more than $10,000 for fertile females or studs with good pedigrees.
- After leaving his Portland job and while preparing their Hood River property, Thomas worked part-time managing a neighbor's alpaca ranch in order to earn some money and gain hands-on experience with alpacas.
- Thomas can handle much of the physical work involved in caring for the alpacas and ranch structures, such as the fences and barns. A trained machinist, he designs and builds his own equipment. (In fact, some restraining ropes and a "pooper" scooper he created are sold by a farm supplier.) On occasion, Thomas works freelance for a local machine shop.
- The Bettses' ranch is within commuting distance of an urban area. Because of that, if they need to re-engage in the traditional workforce, they can do so without having to relocate.
- Connie's job as a technical writer has allowed her to work part-time and from home. When she went full-time in order to offset the costs of buying more land to expand the ranch, she was still able to write from her home office. Working as a full-time employee of a company, she also provides herself and her husband with employer-sponsored group health insurance.