End of the herd at Swiss Line Alpacas
An over two decade involvement with alpacas has come to an end at Swiss Line Alpacas. The herd, which at one time was as large as 100, has been sold to a new owner near Pambrum.
Swiss Line Alpacas, owned by Max and Hedi Gossweiler, was a familiar Southwest alpaca breeder because of their location right beside the Transcanada Highway in Herbert.
“It’s 21 years since we bought our first alpacas. It was a rollercoaster, I would say. A lot of fun stuff. A lot of stress too. In general we really really enjoyed the creatures,” Hedi Gossweiler said just days before the remaining 25 alpacas were taken to their new home on November 3.
The couple got involved with alpacas during the first decade they became a wide-spread industry in Canada, and rode out the ups and downs of the specialty livestock business. They originally started with a pair of females, and built their herd from there.
“We just liked them so much we kept on buying,” Max Gossweiler said.
The most they ever paid for one alpaca was $15,000, which was not at the high end of the scale for breeders.
“That was a low price then. In 1997, when we bought the first ones, we went around and look at other breeders, and most females we encountered were anywhere from $28,000 to $35,000. We were very hesitant to spend that kind of money.”
However, but not getting females of the proper quality, they ultimately slowed the improvement of their herd.
“The problem for us was we were not knowledgable enough, so we bought some females that were not the quality you should have to have a good breeding program. That sort of hurt us,” he said.
Two years later they invested in a high profile sire, and that began to help their herd a lot. However, as they were still working with mediocre females, it took time to improve their genetics. However they eventually made strides and sold animals to breeders in Germany and into the United States.
“So we ended up breeding up, but it took us a long time,” he said.
It was also an eye opening time during their formative years in the industry, as breeders with financial backing were making the biggest gains in the industry.
“As an independent breeder, the politics involved in this was the most damaging I think to the industry and to individual breeders. I think you find that everywhere. But I found it very tough. Very tough to deal with it and handle it,”
“I believe that crazy high prices have hurt the industry the most,” he added. “It was very lucrative for these rich oil people and business people to come in and say ‘wow, you can buy a female and flip it’, but in the long run it’s not good. Most people got injured because they paid high prices that they couldn’t do what they were told they can do.”
He said that independent breeders and newcomers to the industry could not buy an animal for $35,000 and hope to turn around and sell it for higher profit.
“A lot of people got injured that way and then they got discouraged and they just gave up and they said well, it’s a loss. So they walked away,” he added. “The industry needs a lot of grassroots people coming in and say ‘hey, we like it’. And not going to be broke after you’re in.”
Hedi developed an alpaca garment business, and Alpaca Expressions of Canada is well known in the Southwest for her knitted garments and accessories. She crafts items like gloves, mittens, socks, insoles, sweaters, scarfs, seat warmers, blankets and hats.
“I make them. They’re all one of a kind. Just whatever you can wear.”
And while they are leaving the alpaca raising business to begin a new chapter in life, she will not stop working with alpaca fibre.
“I couldn’t stop there, I have too many ideas and too much on the go. Too many phone calls,” she laughed.
Max and Hedi Gossweiler from Swiss Line Alpacas sold their final 25 alpacas to conclude a 21-year career of raising alpacas.