What we can learn from deer farmers
Alpaca farmers would need to work together on a trial - or perhaps a number of trials - in different parts of the country. We would need to negotiate a deal with an abattoir and support them through the registration process. We would then need to keep them supplied with a throughput of stock on a regular basis to make it viable for them. Finally, we would need to develop markets for alpaca meat and hides. Those of us who have been involved in working together with other alpaca farmers to market our products are finding that united we stand, divided we fall.
For inspiration, we need look no further than NZ’S domestic deer industry. In 1969, the first licence was granted to establish a deer farm in New Zealand. By 1989, New Zealand had half the world’s population of farmed deer at 1.6 million animals. The pioneers of the deer industry succeeded because they believed in their product, were innovative, and were determined to work together to achieve a world-beating result.
Since then, total deer numbers have reduced to about 1.1 million animals, but it’s still viable. In 2014, the New Zealand deer industry exported over 16 million tonnes of venison with a value close to $180 million, but add on velvet, hides/leather and other products and the total export value of the deer industry was $241 million.
According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, the first alpacas were imported into New Zealand for farming in 1986. Alpaca farmers are in a very young industry, but one with enormous promise.
I believe the biggest impediment to the development of a profitable alpaca farm industry in New Zealand will not be bureaucracy and red tape but a lack of belief in - and failure to work together to develop the place of - alpacas as a credible and profitable farm animal.