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Half Moon Bay Review - Nov. 1995
Business Half Moon Bay Review by Stett Holbrook


Alpaca rancher Victoria Hibbits, right, admires the silky fleece of one her animals. Alpacas come in a range of 22 different colors. Each animal produces about five pounds of fiber annually, which sells for $3 to $5 an ounce.


When most people think of a safe investment for their money, you can bet they don't think of alpacas, the Dr. Seuss-like animals from the South American altiplano. But according to Montara residents Ken and Victoria Hibbits, the wooly creatures are a sound and fun way to invest your money.

An alpaca is a smaller version of the llama and has been domesticated for more then 5,000 years. They were revered by the Incan civilization as a source of spiritual power and wealth. 

Today, the alpaca is prized for its high quality fleece, gentle disposition and lucrative investment potential.

The Hibbits, who live on 3.5 acres above Farallone View Elementary School, considered raising horses and goats but decided to bring in the exotic alpaca when they learned how easy they are to care for and how profitable raising them can be.

"They are low-impact on the property…when contrasted to horses and goats," explained Ken Hibbits. They have soft-padded feet and trim grass rather than rip it out, he said. Together with his wife Victoria they founded Alpacas By The Sea, a small alpaca ranch.

"The production of fiber is actually the smallest part of the financial picture at the present time due to the limited number of animals that make up the United States herd. It will take years for this to change. And, in the meantime, the alpaca fiber will remain a rarity," said Victoria Hibbits.

"It's a lot more fun than stocks," her husband added.

Each year an animal produces about five pounds of fine wool, which sells for $3 to $5 an ounce. Selling a male out to stud can fetch meantime, the alpaca fiber will remain a rarity," said Victoria Hibbits.

Standing around a group of the long-necked creatures, Victoria scooped up a young alpaca, called a cria, and gave it a big kiss, leaving a trace of lipstick on the cheek of the dewy-eyed animal. "Have you ever been able to do this to any investment you've ever had?" she asked with a smile.

"We are known around Montara as the people with the alpacas…especially when a new baby is born." 

Since they began raising the animals three years ago, the Hibbits have become involved with 4-H and local children. Their paddocks abut the elementary school and are a natural draw for students who enjoy feeding the animals. As if on cue, one of the students called out and waved at them from the school. "Hi Kenny and Victoria!"

Because the animals originate from the harsh environment of the Andes, they need little care. Interestingly, because their natural environment can be bitter cold females generally give birth early in the morning so that new-borns have a chance to dry out before night and the cold returns. Alpacas eat grain and grass and cost no more than feed than a dog, say the Hibbits. And cleaning up after them is easy because they usually defecate in the same area and avoid grazing around the piles, cutting down on the chances of parasite infections.

Also, the dung has a high nitrogen content and makes an excellent fertilizer.

The Hibbits are both involved in selling ultrasound equipment and have utilized the technology on their alpacas to provide a quicker means of determining pregnancy. Usually, pregnancy tests for alpacas are lengthy affairs, but ultrasound speeds up the process dramatically.

 

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Alpacas By The Sea
P. O. Box 371628
1162 Tamarind St.
Montara, CA 94037
(650) 728-LUCK
Fax: (650) 515-3000

For further information on Alpaca farms, alpaca husbandry and alpaca sales,
write to:  Hibbits@alpacasbythesea.com