Friday, 14 November 2008

Faith,'s under attack.

I am in a very thoughtful mood. Drivel it still may be but it is thoughtful drivel.

Sue and I entered the alpaca world almost three years ago as the second step on a ladder which would ultimately change our lives dramatically. The first step had been the sale of our house in Dorset and the resulting purchase of our 'Wooden House' in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the South of France. It was a long term plan, eight years to be precise (still 4 years and 11 months to go). Some people said it was too long, sometimes I think it is too long.

The plan was to buy three female alpacas, which we did, and from them build a herd of alpacas through careful breeding that would be worthy of a business after the eight years had passed.

Three years down the line and we have 9 breeding females, (three black, three brown and three fawn) having purchased two more a year ago and 'grown' the others ourselves.

The herd, however, stands at 29 at the moment, which for us and our 5 acres, is maximum occupancy.

The rest of the herd is made up of our boys, including our new herdsire Columbus, and the sales herd. The sales herd is made up of animals belonging to others who have asked us to sell them on their behalf. The commission on the sales covers stud fees and the cost of running a herd of alpacas, in theory.

Last year, the first year of real business we did well. We have just received the accounts and we actually made a profit. Everything we made went back into the business.

This year the belief that we have in the ability of our alpacas to provide us with an income is under fire. We are going through the 'difficult' second year. The alpacas are in tip top condition, they are pampered, they are adored, they are watched carefully, they are fabulous, we love them all...........yes even the spitty ones and we don't regret making the decision to enter the alpaca world one single bit. Actually we can't imagine life without them.

However, we are starting to struggle. The cost of running two homes, a five year old and a herd of alpacas is beginning to take it's toll. For the last six months the alpaca bills have been paid by us personally and not the business (we don't earn huge amounts so it makes a big difference). The latest raft of bills (including Lily's jaw abscess whopper) arrived today and made me wince. In fact it made me want to run away and hide.

To try and ease the situation we have reduced the prices of all the alpacas on the website. We are having a winter sale, we need to shift some alpacas for monetary reasons and to reduce numbers, as I said earlier we are at maximum occupancy.

My faith and belief that we have made the right decision is still strong, I see that there is a future for alpacas and deep down I know that if we can weather the storm we will come out the other side and we will look back on a 'glitch'. At the moment though, the belief and faith are under attack.


Zanzibah Alpacas said...

Hi seem in a melancholy mood, Life throws trials and tribulations at us, but I have a strong belief that gives me strength in testing here goes.....Follow your Dreams and stay true to your Heart, and you won't go far wrong in this world, just a slight hiccup in this big pond of life....keep your chin up, and hang on to those dreams with all your heart, you can make it happen !!!...and it will, don't lose sight of the things you dream of.....Jayne

Mark said...

Thanks Jayne. You are a star. I didn't know why I was writing what I did but I always thought that, on the blog, I would write what I was thinking.
Feel a bit silly today.

Tim and Tracey said...

Hi mate,

Tracey and I are saddend to read your blog today. It seems that you are going through one of those days where things seem slow or not working to plan- we have many!

What you have done in such a short time far surpasses what many achieve after years of owning alpacas. Your breeding programme is totally focused, your marketing is excellent, your stock is healthy and ranges from average to elite and above all the Steele's are honest, happy and great people.

I can't believe that a female such as Milarka is still for sale. I have known this female for years as I imported her when I was with Alpacas of Wessex. If I was breeding white alpacas I can tell you that I would have her in a flash as she is full Peruvian, has a near perfect frame and is sired by Purrumbete Highlander and bred from a famous dam called Jolimont Giulia. Highlander is now dead so his elite Accoyo bloodlines are very limited. Every cria Milarka has is outstanding and have sold for a great deal of money. For example - Avon Water Millie and Avon Water Matilda.

Hang in there mate. The rewards will come. :-)

Zanzibah Alpacas said...

Hi Mark..
Never feel silly, with what prays on your mind, that is what makes us all human. We all have our own doubts and mountains to climb in life, but just remember when you get to the top of that mountain, the view is wonderful, we're all just climbing it at the moment, but keep climbing !!!!! don't forget to stop and take a rest, on yourself every now and again!..its worth it. We all have days like this. Believe me !!!!...Chin-up
tomorrow's another day.....Jayne

Mark said...

Aw shit, now you've got me welling up.

Thank you very much for your comments, I think I maybe reveal too much on this blog sometimes.

I will give you all a big kiss when I next see you and yes Timbo that includes you!!

I feel the power of patou growing once more within........

Zanzibah Alpacas said...

See....the future seems brighter already, a problem shared is a problem halved so they say.
That mountain path is getting clearer already !!....Jayne

Rob Rawlins said...

Hi Mark,

Keep your chin up buddy, it's a strange world. One minute things are up, then they can be down again.

I know what you mean though when you say you think you sometimes reveal too much on your blog. I often feel the same, and wonder if I should be so frank. People seem to act on what you write, and they sometimes take advantage of it. Which is quite sad really.

You will be fine Mark, keep your spirits up. Times are tough for lots of people at the moment. For some people finding finance for alpacas is impossible. It may take a couple of years before the confidence returns to the market. For the next year or so, prices may suffer. But it will return to normal, and all will be well again.

In the mean time, the best thing we can all do is enjoy our animal and take time to relax with them.

You'll be fine.


Lorna Penfold said...

Crikey, lots of lovely things were said, gave me a bit of a lump. I like you write from the heart! Not really sure what to say but things usually turn out good for the good guys!
Lotsa love
Lorna xxx

Mark said...

Thank you all for taking the time to read, your comments are very much appreciated.

Rosemary said...

Keep going. We are also struggling and we are a long way behind you but reading your blog is helping us along! We have just had an enormous vet bill and ours died in the end but despite the setbacks they are fantastic animals and we believe it will all come together in the end!

Gerry said...

Jeez Mark just read this!! (Your old looking 40 yr old Scottish bud here btw).

We've totally been where you are right now with the paca business. In fact I'm not sure we're not still there. But we're fighting tooth and nail to hang on to the dream - just like it sounds like you and Sue are. It's really tough but hang in there mate if you can. And I agree with Tim - we'd buy Milarka if we had the money. You've made a fine investment with Columbus and hopefully you'll make some money back with stud services.

Lucy said...

Hi Mark

I have just caught up with this too - hang in there! It is hard - we have most of the same issues as yourselves. Having an ill child has not helped us and we're way behind with our own business plan, but we are also trying to struggle on. Sounds like you are doing all the right things - and good things come to those who wait (and do the right things!!!).