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We started with three alpacas and that set us back in the region of €15,000



Hushabye Farm

Hushabye Farm

Hushabye Farm

Owner Paul MacDonnell says they have 'learning on the hoof for the past ten years, and advising anyone intending to go into alpaca farming to buy the best stock they can at the start.

What level of start-up costs did you incur in setting up the business?

"The business grew organically over the last few years so the start-up costs were spread out over years.

"We started with three alpacas and that set us back in the region of €15,000. That's at the lower end of the scale. We have bought animals who were much more expensive. They are quality livestock."

Was financing readily available from the banks for this sort of business?

"We pieced the business together over the past few years without any massive, once-off investment. We didn't go to a bank manager and ask for €100,000.

"We've increased our stock bit by bit and did up a few farm buildings as we went, so we never really had to get into financing in a major way."

Was planning permission required and if so was it difficult to get?

"The houses and buildings that we are using were there already, so we were just doing them up. We didn't build anything new so planning permission was not an issue."

Did you need a licence or permission from any other government body?

"All of the alpacas are registered with the Alpaca Association of Ireland and with the British Alpaca Society, because we are members of both associations.

"The Department of Agriculture don't really have an interest in them - they are not considered livestock, they are considered an exotic animal.

"The only real interaction we have with the Department is when we are importing and exporting animals. So we have to get export and import licences but we are used to [organising] them now, so they are not an issue."

Are you required to pay rates or any other charges?

"Beyond the usual water rates, we are not required to pay rates."

What grant aid or other assistance was available?

"Because of the way we went at this, growing it organically, there wasn't really a huge amount of supports that would have suited us."

What supports bodies/state agencies were able to help?

"We didn't go down that line. Mentoring programmes did pop up on occasion but they were usually linked to funding or other things that didn't really work. We have been learning on the hoof for the past ten years."

Was insurance required?

"We approached FBD and initially they were a bit apprehensive - like a lot of people at that time, they didn't really know what alpacas were.

"But through FBD's involvement in the Tullamore Show, and our involvement in helping to launch it, we came up with a plan for insurance that would work for us and also for other members of the alpaca association.

"There are people around the country now looking to do things like alpaca trekking, and I'd say 99pc of the people who come to our Airbnb, come because of the alpacas.

"But from an insurance point of view, they [insurers] weren't sure how the alpacas would react with people. But they are very gentle and docile. Once we worked with FBD on this, they were quite happy to come on board."

How did the new business affect your tax dealings?

"Tax was something we had to consider. We hired an accountant and let them deal with it. It was the easiest way to do it."

How much time was needed to get the business off the ground?

"My main passion is breeding alpacas and trying to promote them nationally and internationally. It's a lifestyle for me, not a business. I don't wake up in the morning and think that I have to go to work."

Did you encounter any unexpected pitfalls or challenges?

"We made some mistakes in terms of farm layout over the years.

"Breeding stock is another big thing to get right, whatever you start out with; that's what you're going to finish up with.

"I would advise anyone who is interested to try and buy the best alpacas you can at the beginning."

We started with three alpacas and that set us back in the region of €15,000

Indo Farming