The Cost of Doing Business

It is sometimes said that fees at Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA) are too high. When the AOA Headquarters office opened in 2004, fees remained unchanged as systems were put in place and registrations and transfers were brought up to date. The fee schedule was not reviewed until 2005. Each year the AOA Board of Directors reviews the fees and adjustments are occasionally made. However, even though AOA’s expenses have risen, and the amount of work completed by the office each year has increase, fees have been kept relatively flat. Members do not realize that between 2003 and 2011, some fees have actually decreased as you can see in the comparison provided below.

Service Description



Membership Fee (annual-calendar year)



Voting Membership



Associate Membership



Registration Fees



Less than 1 year of age



1 year of age but less than 2 years of age



2 year of age but less than 4 years of age



4 year of age but less than 7 years of age



7 years of age or more



Geldings or Non-Breeders






Within 90 days of the sale



More than 90 days after the sale



Geldings or Non-Breeders of any age




The vast majority of registrations submitted to AOA occur before the alpaca’s second birthday. As you can see, fees in that age group have actually decreased in the past eight years. Some owners question why fees have increased for registrations of alpacas beyond two years of age. While these fees have also been reduced from what was charged in 2003, they remain higher than registration fees for younger alpacas because AOA has determined that the more time that passes between an alpaca’s birth and its registration, the more difficult it is to complete all of the steps necessary to finalize the registration, which increases AOA labor costs. In other words, the older the alpaca, the more it costs AOA to complete the registration. Why is this so? As time passes, some breeders don’t always remember the specifics of herdsires used or what other potential sires were on the farm at the time. They may not have adequate records to identify the sire, or perhaps the involved dams and sires may have died making it difficult to get a new sample from them if the need arises. Members counter that AOA also charges for retesting and comparison with new sires, and that those fees cover the added expense. While it is true that those fees cover those expenses, they do not cover the additional e-mails, phone calls, and research performed by the AOA staff. This expense must be absorbed somewhere, and as a result, the fees for registering older alpacas were raised several years ago. The only alternative to this was to raise the fees on all registrations by a smaller amount so that fees for registration would be the same price no matter the age. However, it was thought by the AOA Board of Directors that spreading that cost across all registrations wasn’t fair to those who register in the first two years.

Because the AOA Board of Directors realizes that some breeders are watching the bottom line and don’t want to register early, waiting to see the quality of the alpaca, the Board decreased the fee to register a gelding or non-breeder to only $20.00. This fee includes a full AOA validated registration with the DNA test. AOA has done this to encourage breeders to register all alpacas early. Members can choose to initially register the alpaca inexpensively as a non-breeder and then, if they choose to breed this alpaca later, they can pay the difference to upgrade the registration from “non-breeding” to “breeding” status. This solves the member’s problem of wanting to wait, and ensures they will not have to pay the higher registration fee for older alpacas at a later date, provided they start the non-breeding registration before the age of one.

How do AOA fees compare to other registries? It is difficult to compare registration of alpacas with many other species because the AOA membership implemented Bylaws many years ago that require every alpaca to be DNA tested in order to be registered. While this has strengthened our industry and assured that AOA registered alpacas have truly validated pedigrees, it also means that our registration fees may be higher than many other species, due to the added expense of a DNA test.

It is natural to compare the AOA fees to those of the International Llama Registry (ILR), but not always easy to do because of differences in fee schedules and testing requirements. AOA’s registration costs are the same as, and, in several cases, lower than those of the ILR if you are comparing apples to apples. ILR does not require DNA testing, so if you want to compare evenly you must add in their DNA testing fee to the registration fee. Prices vary with age, but for DNA tested alpacas under one year of age, AOA charges $50.00 and ILR charges $70.00. When looking at gelding or non-breeder registrations, AOA charges $20.00 for a fully DNA tested and validated pedigree and ILR charges $25.00 for a non DNA tested and validated registration. In addition, by not requiring DNA testing, ILR is not able to offer a truly validated pedigree. This is a concern, because our statistics show that more than 15% of the time, members submit the wrong herdsire information for the registration of alpacas born into their herds. This reinforces that there is tremendous value in DNA validation in order to be certain that the alpacas you are purchasing or breeding to have accurate, DNA proven pedigrees.

Miniature horses are registered for $60 – $100, Thoroughbreds for $200 – $2000, Angus beef for up to $70, and dogs for $30 – $100 plus an additional litter registration fee. As discussed many of these do not include DNA testing. Looking at the sheep industry, you can register sheep for as low as $5.00, and as much as $25.00. This is without a validated pedigree and in most cases without a printed pedigree being provided at all. In fact, most sheep breeds require a $25.00 fee if you want to have a name assigned to the animal instead of just a number and you still don’t get a validated pedigree.

Over the years the AOA Board of Directors and staff have negotiated the lowest possible cost for DNA testing while maintaining an acceptable turnaround time. At the same time AOA has built software systems that enable it to handle most of the workload for the DNA testing process except for the actual testing itself. This has meant that the DNA testing vendor, currently DDC Veterinary, is able to more efficiently complete the DNA testing, and doesn’t have to worry about the actual parentage validation because AOA’s state-of-the-art software system handles that. AOA’s focus on negotiating better prices with all of its vendors has enabled the registration fees to not only remain low, but in some cases decrease as a result. AOA passes these savings on to their members through fee reductions or additional services whenever possible. The DNA testing process is incredibly complex, and alpaca breeders get a lot for the relatively little amount they pay. To fully understand the extent of the DNA testing process, please read AOA Parentage Validation for Registration and Estimate Progeny Differences (EPD) and AOA by Dr. Shauna Brummet.

Even though fees have not increased dramatically in more than 10 years and in many cases have decreased, the cost of doing business has certainly gone up for AOA. Technology, electricity, furniture, mailing and shipping, staffing and other things required to help the Registry function have all increased.

So what do those fees pay for?

  • DNA validation
  • 10 full time and one part time staff members (reduced from 16 in 2004)
  • 40,000+ personnel answered phone calls with little or no “hold time”
  • 11,000+ follow-up phone calls
  • Responses to 3,000+ online requests
  • 28,000+ certificates processed, printed, and mailed
  • Handling tens of thousands of pieces of mail
  • A searchable pedigree database
  • The websites,, and
  • World standard web based system for registering and transferring alpacas
  • Free educational website to refer to for current information about alpacas
  • A presence on the internet that has doubled over the last several years, increasing public awareness of alpacas

The management and Board of Directors of AOA is committed to finding ways to continue to improve and add technology that will benefit its members, without having to increase fees. The organization has also been able to more than double its online presence and websites for the benefit of the industry without increasing its hosting costs for a number of years. That commitment translates into a laser focus on expenses and creating efficiencies and savings, no matter how small from rent to credit card fees. All of this has been accomplished and at the same time, AOA has also decreased the turnaround time on the average registration from 2 months to just under 3 weeks, which includes the DNA test. The average transfer time has decreased to as low as 2 weeks. In 2004 the office had call hold times upwards of 30 minutes, while today, we rarely have hold times, and online support is quickly provided. These are just a few of the amazing improvements that AOA has made over the years, improvements now often taken for granted.

AOA members now expect this new tradition of great customer service, but if fees were to decrease to the level that some have suggested, this service level and member expectations would also be forced to adjust downwards. Put simple, decreased fee income will decrease staffing which will translate into decreased services relative to what is currently enjoyed with phone support and online services. This may sound a bit dramatic, but it illustrates the point that anything is possible, but it all about the level of expectation that the industry wants to have. Does the industry want to have an organization that collects, tracks, analyzes, and makes available information about all pedigreed alpacas so that breeders can make decisions using unbiased information? Or does the industry prefer to pay less and have a small scale organization that simply agrees to register alpacas without providing anything else to its members? This is acceptable to many livestock industries and could be done in the alpaca industry as well. However, this industry has spent a good deal of its history ensuring a world-class registry, show system, and marketing program. This has been unrivaled by any livestock industry of similar scope and has enabled the alpaca industry to endure when others have failed. The Board of Directors and AOA staff are proud of how far the organization has come over the last seven years and have decided not to compromise the service or the integrity that its members enjoy and expect. And so, for now, fees will remain as they are with continued annual review and appropriate change as needed.

AOA is not oblivious or immune to the current economic challenges facing its members and the industry, but remains committed to providing a Registry that is the standard of excellence by which all livestock registries are measured. AOA’s Board of Directors and management will continue to control fees as best they can, steadfastly focused on decreasing organization expenses without compromising integrity or efficiency. This cost of doing business provides the alpaca industry a huge service and amazing amount of information which helps in the day-to-day business decisions of alpaca breeders and potential alpaca breeders, and helps the industry grow.