From XU Magazine, 
Issue 21

Ever thought about owning an alpaca?

The first thing you need to know is you need at least two. Alpaca’s are very social animals and need to be socialised with other alpacas. They are very intelligent, gentle creatures and are very easy to care for…
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My alpacas are Betty and Edna. My brothers bought them for me last year as a surprise birthday present. I got a post on Facebook in the morning from Jack saying “Happy Birthday mate! I heard that Mum got you a kitten. Arthur and I thought we’d stick with the theme….”. I thought it was a joke, until I called Arthur. He could barely speak because he was giggling so much.

Betty and Edna turned up that weekend. My immediate concern was that they would eat all the trees I had planted 12 months earlier, but Jack assured me that they are ‘grazers’ and not ‘browsers’. The next day we were down to from 180 to 177 Pittosporum. And so my journey as an alpaca farmer began…

Here are some common questions about alpacas, and Xero Practice Manager:

Do alpacas eat trees? Alpacas do eat the leaves of some trees, but the real issue is they use them as scratching posts. If you are trying to establish new trees, you want to keep your alpacas away from them.

What is the biggest mistake people make with XPM? The biggest mistake is having invoices and timesheets in seperate jobs. This often occurs when you have fixed price agreements and the billing is set to go from Xero to a ‘billing job’ in XPM. The problem this causes is when the jobs are closed, the job with the invoices incurs a massive write up, and the job with the timesheets incurs a massive write off – rendering most reports in XPM useless.

What is difference between alpacas and llamas? The way I like to think of it, is alpacas are like sheep, whereas llamas are like goats. Alpacas are very easy to care for and just need grass and water. Llamas are much bigger and require roughage in their diet – branches etc. Llamas are bigger than alpacas, and have longer banana-shaped ears, whereas alpaca have short ears.

How should I set up my Job Categories? We recommend setting up Job Categories to match your engagement types. For example Fixed Price Agreement, and Billable. This will allow you to filter out the negative WIP from our fixed price agreements, allowing you to see what your Billable WIP is.

Are alpacas easy to care for? Very easy! Goldfish require more effort. You can head overseas for a couple weeks and they will look after themselves.

How do I link my recurring invoices to my jobs in XPM? The reference field in the recurring invoice must match either the Job Number, or the Client Order Number in the job. We recommend using the Client Order Number because it is easier to update when you start a new engagement.

Do alpacas spit? It is very uncommon for an alpaca to spit at a human. Edna will spit at Betty when it’s feeding time to let her know she is the boss, but I have never been spat at.

What is the best way to capture the job budget? If the work is for a one off job and has been quoted, it is best to raise a quote for the job, then bill from the quote. If the work is for an annual engagement, capture the budget in the Job Budget field and reference this when billing.

How much space do I need for alpacas? Half an acre would be enough space for four alpacas. Betty and Edna live on half an acre and they can’t keep up with all the grass, so I need to mow every few weeks to help them out.

What is the best way to setup jobs in XPM? Think of a job as an ‘engagement’ and the tasks as tasks you need to complete for the engagement. This means you want to be setting up jobs as annual engagements, which include everything you need to do for that year for that client. If something falls outside this annual engagement, such as a cashflow forecast, you can set up a new job to recognise this is a new engagement. This will also be billed separately.

Do you sell the alpacas wool? Alpaca wool is very expensive once it is spun. It takes a lot of work to clean it and spin it however, due to how fine the fibres are. A sack of alpaca wool is only worth around $5, but a sack of alpaca yarn on the other hand, is almost worth its weight in gold.

What mark up should I apply to my outsourcing fees in XPM? I recommend 200%. This is to align with internal margins once we consider unproductive time. Let’s say we have a cost rate of $50 per hour for a staff member, we’d set a billable rate at $200 per hour. At a target 75% productivity, we have an average billable rate of $150. This is a 200% markup. Remember your contractor markups affects your staff write offs and ROI, so make sure you get this right!

What is the worst thing about owning an alpaca? The only negative I can think of is getting dissed by your neighbours who are real farmers with sheep or beef. If you can put up with the lighthearted jokes, you are well on your way to being a proud alpaca farmer.

Why leave it there?

Any Questions? If you have any questions about alpacas, running a lifestyle block, or getting better reports from WorkflowMax and Xero Practice Manager, feel free to get in touch with us at

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