Tuesdays are always exciting around our house because it is the day my wife’s favorite uncle, Clarence, takes our family out for pizza at the local diner. You might wonder why Pizza-Night at a small town diner would be exciting. The first reason is the rare opportunity to be on the receiving end of Uncle Clarence’s generosity. It’s not that he is not generous, but let’s just say he gives my wife and I seemingly endless opportunities to be generous with him. The second reason Pizza-Night is exciting is because you never know what the topic of conversation will be. I don’t even like the pizza at the diner, and I would love to take Clarence up on his offer to take the kids with him so my wife and I could have some alone time, but it’s not worth the risk leaving the kids with this 65 year old bachelor who knows a lot about a few things, and what he doesn’t know he makes up.
Last Tuesday, we were already sitting at our usual place when Clarence comes plowing through the door with his arms full of bows, arrows, and other items seemingly related to archery. There wasn’t a person in the restaurant who didn’t stop and take notice of this big guy lumbering over to our table and depositing the entire collection in the empty booth next to us.
As he sat down at the table with this big triumphant grin on his face, the boys all jumped out of their chairs and ran to the booth where they started playing around with the assortment of bows and arrows. I am guessing this had an unsettling effect on those in the neighboring booths, so I called them all back to the table.
Knowing I was going to be on the receiving end of another one of Clarence’s stories of triumph and conquest, I simply asked, “Well?”
“Craig’s List!”, he replied.
“What do you mean ‘Craig’s List’?”
“That’s where I found all this…on Craig’s List, “ he explained. “It’s the greatest place to find stuff that people just don’t want anymore and are willing to sell cheap. You can find anything there. I even saw alpacas listed for only $50!”
“That’s not a good thing,” I said. “Offering alpacas in that type of venue for that price puts downward pressure on all alpaca prices. It can also lead to an environment of abuse or neglect for alpacas.”
Clarence leaned back in his chair as if to be pondering my statement, but I think it was actually a type of signal for the waitress who was bringing the pizzas to put one right in front of him. “How does a $50 alpaca on Craig’s List lead to abuse and neglect?”
I reached over and grabbed an arrow from Austin, and replied, “It costs $50 per month or more to care for an alpaca. If someone is selling it for that, it may mean they can’t afford to care for their alpacas anymore. Or even if they can, it can reflect a market where others are finding it increasingly difficult to care for their alpacas correctly. I just heard about a farm that was taken over by the state livestock commission because of deplorable conditions. There were nearly 200 alpacas on a small amount of acreage. There were dead alpacas in the field and many were sick.”
“And that’s because there are $50 alpacas on Craig’s List?” Clarence asked through a mouth full of pepperoni pizza.
“The problem isn’t Craig’s List. The problem is a market where a $50 alpaca is even an option. Think of the person buying the $50 alpaca…Will they be able to afford $50 per month to properly care for it?” I asked as I reached for the 2 liter of Dr. Pepper.
Clarence started nodding as he chewed. I wasn’t sure if he was agreeing with me or had a tough piece of crust. “I knew this was going to happen when you first told me about alpacas. It’s an incomplete market. You kid yourselves into thinking you are livestock people, and you’re really just collectors.”
“Collectors?” I asked.
“Yep,” he repield. “ You collect what you don’t have or what you think are in high demand by other collectors because of their color or bloodlines. That’s fine for baseball cards, antiques, and artwork, but not livestock. Real livestock people look at the best use of the animal in order to get the full potential from whatever they are raising, and that always includes an end-game. If the primary use for a cow was milk and she no-longer produces milk, it enters the meat and hide market. You will never see a $50 cow on Craig’s List because there is a terminal market in place that establishes a minimum value for it.”
I tried to explain that while more and more alpacas breeders are exploring this option, many couldn’t bring themselves to consider the meat and hide market for their alpacas. I also mentioned that many who are exploring the option are quiet about it so as not to endure the wrath of those who are against it.
“Danny,” he said (because he knows I hate being called ‘Danny’), “Remember when we went to the Wooster Fiber Fest last year? That was bigger than any of your alpaca shows. And, what did they have in the concession stands? Lamb burgers and lamb kabobs. That was a ‘sheep/lamb celebration’!”
“Yeah, I just don’t know if you will ever see that at an alpaca show.”
“Which is a much bigger problem than $50 alpacas on Craig’s list. When the alpaca industry develops a market for meat and hides, the market will establish a minimum value for alpacas based on the alpaca’s terminal value. Believe me, it will be well north of $50.”
Brendan then chimed in, saying “Dad, you know there’s a couple alpacas you wouldn’t mind putting in the freezer! Think of all the pepperoni we could get from Maestro!”
“I think of Maestro in the freezer every time he spits on me. But, like most breeders, we got into the alpaca business because it didn’t involve eating our animals.”
“And what’s that got you now?” asked Clarence. “That worked when the industry was young, but as it matures, there has to be a change. A true livestock industry cannot survive long-term without pursuing Best-Use principles. Think of John Cox's cattle farm. They are incredibly aggressive in culling anything but the very best from their breeding program, and they are nationally recognized for their quality. There is nothing that will improve a breeding program more quickly than aggressive culling. At the point at which the alpaca’s fleece or breeding potential no longer warrants the expense of paying for its food and care, then it should enter the terminal market for meat and hides.”
“I can’t imagine all the breeders going for this.” I told Clarence.
“If some don’t want to, fine. They can continue doing what they are doing. Just don't demonize those looking to make your industry truly a livestock industry. Think what would happen if just one-third of the alpaca population went into the terminal market! There would be the start of a whole new revenue stream for alpaca breeders; a lot of the downward pressure on alpaca prices would be eased because of the drop off in supply; and I guarantee you, there would be no more $50 alpacas on Craig’s List,” he said while once again motioning to the waitress, but this time to get her to give me the check.
“You make a lot of sense,” I admitted.
“It’s time to grow up, Danny,” he said with a condescending squeeze of my shoulder as he headed out of the restaurant, and left my boys to explore the potential of their new Craig’s List treasure.
(Note: This article is opened up for comments. This is a topic that needs to be discussed. Agreement is not required, but respect is.)
marketing concept you will come up with next - bravo! GH NH
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