Skip to comments.Chinese "Students" canvassing American Alpaca Farms (Vanity Post)
Posted on 09/30/2012 5:28:56 AM PDT by The Working Man
I left the Space Program as a contractor back in 2009, my wife and I have been raising Alpacas on our farm though since 2005.
My wife is big into the Social Networking thing especially Facebook and various Yahoo Groups. Last night she was reading a very interesting post from a Fellow Alpaca Rancher in the South. He stated that he was getting multiple phone calls from Chinese students at a nearby university asking about the Alpacas and how easy they were to raise, The fiber products made from them, etc.
He then stated that he was now having carloads of them showing up and gushing about his animals and telling him about how they were a rage in China.
He asked a question to the group at large; Have you been having similar experiences?
He received replies from several other Alpaca farmers stating that they had also been receiving phone calls and visits from Chinese students.
Personally this sort of thing really bothers me for many reasons.
1. The Alpaca industry in the United States is in a precarious position and frankly has been for some time. The National herd needs to get to be around one million animals according to industry experts. We are less than three hundred thousand right now.
2. We have lost a BUNCH of farms in the last three and a half years due to Retirements, Divorces and Lay-offs of the Breadwinner in the family forcing the closing of the farm due to loss of outside income. This has contributed greatly to the reduction in the size of the National herd.
3. Getting on to China, China still is the largest producer of clothing. It makes economic sense to build up their own herd of Alpacas for harvesting the fiber for their clothing factories.
4. China has a history of doing this before, namely the Cashmere Goat market. They bought a bunch of the goats transported them to Mongolia and within a decade had destroyed the Cashmere industry across the world by producing very cheap Cashmere clothing items. I can see them doing that with Alpacas. That would destroy our own efforts here in the United States to build up a viable commercial market for our fiber from these amazing animals.
What I am hoping for by posting this is to get some Freeper help on research on China's history and current practices in the Agriculture and Clothing markets regarding "exotic fiber livestock". If I get enough I plan on presenting that to American Alpaca Farmers with the intent on showing that a quick sale today of Animals to China will end up with China putting their own businesses out of business in a decade or so.
Thank you for reading this.
The Working Man
I wouldn’t trust the Chinese as far as I could throw them. My dad grew up in China and said the only thing they care about is money
I’m neither Chinese nor a potential alpaca breeder, but it’s news to me that alpacas are bred stateside as anything other than pets. In the past, the word most associated with “alpaca” has been “scam”. A casual Google search revealed that another key word is “subsidy”:
Their intent is obvious.
They’ve done the same thing to nearly every industry that we once dominated, i.e. garlic etc.
I think they still resent that Jesuit priest who smugled silk worms out of China centuries ago.
Scam?, well I suppose that any industry could have that name attached to it over unscrupulous people gets their hands on it.
For myself, and all of the other small Alpaca Farmers this is no scam. And they are livestock, not pets. You have NO idea how many times I’ve had to correct that. And I blame the Alpaca Owners and Breeder Association for that. They had a stupid ad campaign a few years ago calling Alpacas the “Huggable Investment”. They are no more huggable than a sheep or a goat. Yes they are soft and feel wonderful. But they don’t like it and they “can” display that.
As far as “subsidy” goes. I’ve never seen one! My farm is a business that I run as a business. I can take business related deductions off of my taxes and I report and pay taxes on my sales.
How much for a breeding pair?
Curious, are they bred for meat, obviously fur, but isn’t that market struggling? What is the Alpaca trade like? (I’m not Chinee)
If you drug them then they are much more huggable.
As a long-time China watcher (hence the Internet alias aka the name of a 2nd century Chinese warlord), I'd be surprised if the Chinese can do anything cheaper in relation to raising livestock. Beef, chicken and pork are all cheaper stateside, based on my occasional readings of news wire items (Reuters, AP, Bloomberg) regarding China. However, if labor is a big part of the cost of alpaca wool, you may have some issues going forward.
Still, the Chinese labor cost advantage isn't what it used to be. Wages there are 4x or more times many countries in the region, including India, Pakistan and much of Central Asia (aka the -stans), which have the climates necessary for wool bearing animals to thrive. They are also not only higher than those in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay, but also rapidly accelerating. Chinese wages have been held down for a long time via explicit government policy, meaning they have not kept pace with productivity growth, but rising expectations among the Chinese labor force have led to government relaxation of policies that slowed wage growth. Bottom line is that the low wage threat from China is about to disappear, after factoring all the other costs of goods like transportation lead time, energy costs, communication snafus, et al.
That's been the case for many years ~ we can deliver a disease free frozen chicken to an African village for less than it costs to raise and process one there which can be fed without any cost at all.
We almost wiped out the Russian poultry industry with really low cost competition.
Before they can be considered mainstream livestock, there needs to be a ready market for the products.
Were I to have a pack of alpacas, I would have no local source to sell the fiber, meat, or the animals.
With cows, pigs, and goats, there are local, scheduled sales. No guessing where to sell or what the market price is, the state publishes weekly average market prices on these livestock.
For now, this market is another Emu industry, sounds good and lots of hype, but the thrust of the market is for current owners to sell breeding pairs for profit. Once that market is saturated, it will collapse like the Emu market did.
I have a few llamas. Not alpacas. I have not found any market for the wool, though we must shear them each year. There is, however, a market for live animals.
No chinese looking at my animals.
They are fairly pleasant animals to deal with. Easy to handle and don’t eat much. The babies are the cutest things ever.
The Bolivians called and they want you to stop raising their alpacas.
Thanks for the very informative post/thread.
I thought that the alpaca bubble burst in the early 2000's. Did it reinflate?
Would not surprise me
Biggest problem is that we have Free Trader Communists in the US who blindly support Free Trade with Communist China...and encourage the continued failed policies with Communist China. You can bet if the Communist Chinese destroyed the Goat-Herding market with their practices, they will sure do it with Alpacas
We need to strengthen American markets in all areas. Its better to have strong tariffs and paychecks than high income taxes and welfare checks.
Perhaps they can get the Chinese interested in Emus.
Back when the United States did that sort of thing to the rest of the world in the 1950's, it was called "smart business".
From an agricultural sense, alpacas could make sense.
That is, if you look at a nation’s land, it can be subdivided in parts: urban, good arable land which is flat and has water, marginal land which is either flat or has water, and generally unusable land which is mountainous or desert.
Unfortunately urban competes with good arable land, which reduces the available farmland, so the focus becomes how to make the marginal land more productive, and how to produce at least something useful in the otherwise unusable land.
Because there is a lot of desert, but generally limited amounts of fresh water, the emphasis in marginal land is to use it for production that is less water intensive, yet can be cost effective to transport some distance to urban areas.
In China’s case, it intends to make truly gigantic water dams to provide water to its immense (500,000 square mile) Gobi desert.
Mountains, unless you have no choice but to create terraces, usually for rice, the preferred agriculture is hardy mountain animals. But China has an abundance of high altitude mountains as well, especially in its territory of Tibet.
So for that, Alpacas present a very reasonable alternative.
***I have a few llamas. Not alpacas.***
There is another animal that looks just like an Alpaca but is not an alpaca. A local grower was busted for selling this simalar animal as an alpaca.
I believe it is the Vicuña or Guanaco.
Wrench, you bring up all of the things we have been saying here for years. That’s why we need to get the numbers of Alpacas up here in the U.S.
For the last 20 years the primary way of make money on Alpacas was by selling the Animals themselves amongst the Alpaca Breeders. You quickly run out of customers that way and as a breeder you need to bring more people into the business.
Now I and my wife are bringing in interest of the Alpacas into our area of Kentucky. And that’s work that may pay off in several years. (If the economy recovers!) I always emphasize that this is a long-term investment of time. money and energy. Do NOT expect a payoff in a year or two.
Our primary customers for our fleece and products at this time are “crafters” who tend to be small home-based business and people who like to knit and crochet with natural fibers.
There isn’t a meat market here in the U.S., primarily because there are so few animals to begin off with. Secondly there really isn’t all that much meat on them either.
Now I’ve talked to many of the local farmers and I’ve heard the horror stories of those who invested in Emu’s, Goats, etc. So they are justifiably cautious and more than a bit skeptical. That’s fine and I understand completely, but their reliance on Corn and Cows, (dairy and beef), as the crops that brig in the most money also means that their land is depleting itself of nutrients and they are relying more and more on artificial fertilizers and weed products.
That is really increasing their year-to-year costs and their profits are decreasing because of it. So they are looking for alternatives.
The advantages to the Alpacas is that you can have more of them per acre on average it’s six per acre, but some people have more. They don’t require much feed supplementation. I feed the girls one quarter cup each of “Alpaca Kiblets” a day. The boys don’t get anything extra. I only feed hay when the grass is marginal or during the colder part of the winter. A single square bale will feed twelve girls a for a day. Compare that to a bale or two for a single cow or a horse.
I also have to give them a worming shot once a month for the Meningeal worm which is carried here in the deer population.
Another of the reasons I chose to work with the Alpacas is that I don’t need heavy equipment such as a tractor and implement. I can do everything I need with a Utility Vehicle and a Wheel Barrow. If I do need to use heavy equipment I hire a local farmer or contractor to do that for me. (Which is tax deductible.)
That’s just great. I have a conservative telling me I need to subsidize the domestic alpaca industry.
I don’t know what alpaca meat tastes like, but if it’s anything like goat meat, and if rearing costs are similar, you could attempt to sell it as an upscale goat meat substitute to ethnic communities in surrounding states. West Indians, South Asians, Africans and many Muslim communities are partial to goat meat - and therefore, perhaps close substitutes - although for Muslim communities, you might need halal (similar to kosher) certification from some local Muslim religious figure.
Maybe you guys should try marketing their hind ends as Chuck Todd Halloween masks.
Sorry, just throwing stuff at the wall.
I think Stossel outright lied. As far as I can tell, the alpaca industry gets the same expense deductions everyone else gets. If you want an example of a subsidized agro sector, look at big sugar and big corn.
Dear Chinese: It is a well known fact that the animal with the best hair for making clothing is the Grizzly Bear. They are gentle, lovable creatures that enjoy nothing more than a good scratch behind the ear. They are also quite tasty. The best way to tenderize them, is to hit them with a bamboo cane while they are sleeping. If you want one for a pet, then just pour some bacon grease over yourself and give the bear a hug. Best wishes!
Isn't that date rape?
I am aware that agriculture is one of the most heavily subsidized sectors of our economy. It is somewhat disconcerting to be told we need to subsidize it even more, in order to maintain our strategic alpaca advantage.
Oh look, another "all nation-states are identical" economics sophmore. Have you had your first beer yet, or are you waiting for the prom to celibrate that?
Busted? I have one “llama” that my shearer says may be all or part vicuna. Doesn’t seem like much difference to me. I believe that alpacas are quite a bit smaller and certainly their hair is different.
It would be interesting to know if those students were majoring in either agriculture or business, or whether they were just doing investigation for people back home.
It's probably accurate to say that what the Chinese can do they will do. They are very aggressive competitors in every field of business where they can gain a foothold. And of course trade laws and circumstances are probably tilted in their favor. But perhaps there are Alpaca farmers in Peru who are lamenting how the Americans got involved
I would think that the biggest concern would be the degredation of the the stock by indiscriminate Chinese breeding. When the Spanish entered Peru, the slaughtered most of the alpacas for meat and for control of the population that depended upon them. When they did that, they destroyed breeding lines literally thousands of years old, many of which produced incredibly fine fleece.
Americans have been working very hard to bring up the quality of the remaining lines, to produce better fleece. It’s long, hard work, and a huge part of alpaca breeding. The problem with selling alpaca fibers is that while it’s wonderful in many ways, the quality is not yet fine enough to compete as an alternative to silk or the finest wools - though it’s close. Samples of ancient alpaca fleece, however, show that this level of competition is definitely possible.
Enter the Chinese. Does anyone believe for a second that they will be interested in this breeding quality endeavor, when they could just approach the industry from a volume perspective, to supply fleece through a massive, uncontrolled breeding?
Not a bad idea and we, (the Industry), have looked at it. Unfortunately biology comes into play there. The Average Alpaca weighs between 135 and 180 pounds. They live for around twenty years and get to maturity in three years. The average Gestation time is eleven and half months to a full year. There is one Cria, (baby), at a time. So herd growth is necessarily slow.
Goats on the other hand can have two birthings a year usually of twins and the grow quickly to maturity. A four to one advantage when producing meat animals or herd growth.
As a type of livestock that has been bred for a specific purpose over 5,000 years, (so I am told), they are admirably suited for producing fiber, (hair, fleece, what-have-you), that is of a quality that is simply amazing for it’s softness, strength, warmth and generally all the good qualities that humans look for in fiber to make into clothes. That means that to make them a meat animal would be to the detriment of their fleece because you want to fatten them up and put on the poundage, which all leads to degraded Fiber production.
I figured it came down to that. There's a reason why no one has successfully domesticated elephants or bears for meat via selective culling - too expensive to feed (relative to the yield) or too large to control.
He thinks Milton Friedman and Adam Smith share the same views on Free Trade as John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx. He's either a liberal or he doesn't understand what conservatism really is......
You have very good points!
And yes, I expect the Chinese would do all they could to produce as many Alpacas as fast as possible and to heck with the fiber quality. Even in my own modest herd of 23 I am culling out several animals from my breeding program because their fiber isn’t what I want to see.
Now I and my wife were at Jo-Ann’s and took a look at their Alpaca Blend Yarns. She was outraged at the horrible quality and that they even dared to put such “crap” out for sale. And when you compare what we produce ourselves or through a commercial mini-mill there really is no real comparison. However the consuming populace at large doesn’t know the difference and there-in is the original “problem”. We NEED more people breeding these amazing animals so that the “national” herd can increase up to the point that the commercial mills can afford to tool themselves up to handle Alpaca Fiber in large quantities.
Hey, I never said anything about that. I’m talking strictly hugs!
No longer accurate, IMO.
The fiber world has gone to alpaca in a big way. In my nearest small town, there is a HUGE alpaca fiber shop with such a large online business they have, within 5 years moved from an average-sized shop to a former 1/2 square block 2-story department store with a full basement. Carded batts, spun wool, felted sheets and finished goods comprise the line. It is very expensive and they cannot even keep up with the knitters, crocheters, spinners and weavers who want this fiber.
I think every farm in my area has a small herd and some have a large one. It was an investment scam, but now people have their marketing act together and I see an established and mature market. Evidently the Chinese do, too. I know of at least 2 local other businesses that only custom card and dye alpaca and are ordered to the walls. Subsidies come and go, but this is a market that has reached critical mass in both production supply and demand and it is inevitable that it will be taken over.
I have manufactured a wool felt sewing notion for 27 years. I have had American buyers for large chain operations attempt to reproduce my product and insult me by asking if it could be made in China when I won’t meet their onerous terms. I have had people hire away my workers to learn my production methods. This gushing approach is SOP. I saved my business because I have changed my production process multiple times to cut margins and kept certain aspects totally proprietary. I come across forums where others are attempting to figure out how my product is made. Since this is a commodity and not a process, Americans are going to face competition as everyone wants to get into a popular niche. An upside for the consumer will be cheaper fiber, but there may be a backlash if the fiber artists demand organic fiber.
The Chinese cashmere is awful. Thin and without the hand of cashmere as it once was. They will ruin alpaca the same way.
American producers must become known for top quality or they will be crushed.
My sense is that keeping trade secrets is the key to remaining competitive, given that patent applications simply give developing countries (like China or India) that don't respect patents a road map to your process. If it's good enough for KFC and Coca Cola...
Thank you for your original post and the ensuing discussion. I have no knowledge or involvement in the Alpaca industries, except I have a good friend who has gotten very involved in the fiber end of it. I have been absolutely fascinated with her blog and facebook postings about it. She has been giving spinning demonstrations on various Alpaca farms and at fairs and shows here on the DelMarVa (Delaware and the Eastern shores of Maryland and Virginia) peninsula.
She is very interested in fiber quality and has spoken of differences. I’m going to pass a link to this discussion along to her and ask for her opinion, for my personal interest (she’s not a member here.)
I investigated a patent years ago. All I could qualify for would be a *design patent*, worth whatever you are willing to pay to defend it in court. Also, the attorney bragged that he charged $500/hr and told me I could not supply my own drawings. I decided to forget it.
Besides proprietary processes, I have over the years developed modifications to the equipment that are probably the most valuable portion of the business, besides the current account base, were I ever to offer it for sale. When I am ready to get rid of it, I have thought of simply writing and selling a book on the process, equipment mods, etc.
Depends on whether or not TSHTF, I guess.
In the hand manufacturing, production craft world, you simply accept that everyone tries to knock off a success and that you must stay ahead of them. I cannot tell you how many *artists* have contacted me over the decades requesting my process. They seem to believe that because they are artists and I am simply a production crafter, I will hand over years of work for the heck of it. I take great comfort in the fact that the company that hired away my assistant in order to steal my process is no longer in business, per se. They were purchased multiple times as part of various catalog *empires*, the work was all outsourced to Pakistan and all that is left in the US is a tiny division of a huge conglomerate that simply retails a few outsourced or outright imported items. Too bad. So sad.