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Ranchers offer livestock exchange

EAGLE POINT — Alpaca buying and selling was all the rage just before and shortly after the dawn of the millennium.

Back in 2001, it made sense for folks such as John and Kim Andresen to dive into the alpaca ranching business. In 2006, they branched out and created an alpaca exchange website called "Alpaca Infinity."

When the Great Recession hit, however, like many industries, alpaca ranching took a hit. Rather than just let the website slip quietly into the cyberspheric night, John Andresen began toying with the concept of taking it beyond infinity. The 2.0 version of the website re-emerged this year as Livestock of America, a place where animals and agriculture-related products are bought and sold.

"The industry has been failing the last few years," Andresen said. "During the boom times in the 1990s and early 2000s, you would see an alpaca sell for anywhere from $2,000 to $500,000. These days, the range is more like $1,000 to $10,000. You even see lower-quality animals for hundreds of dollars."

The price might be far-saner, but the accompanying buzz has declined as well. As a result, the website that produced $70,000 revenue in its infancy needed a fix.

The answer, Andresen surmised, was a low-cost, broad-based approach.

The organization neither buys nor takes possession of the animals, and doesn't take a cut of the action. It merely works as an exchange for members,

There are three levels of membership, starting at $19.95, good for five listing slots. If you have five animals and one sells, you can replace it without an additional cost. The top tier, for $98 annually, provides unlimited sales space.

Andresen has been programming since he was 12, when he tackled assembler code on an Odyssey 2 computer.

He comes by the trade somewhat naturally. Noreen Andresen, his mother, was a software engineer in the 1970s and 1980s for Mentor Graphics,Tektronix and Intel in the Portland area before the family moved to Eagle Point.

It's taken time to work out transition kinks, he said, but when the market moves, it moves. 

"One thing we've found is that the animals can sell really fast," Andresen said. "We've had working dogs turn around in a week, a donkey in a month, cows in a few weeks. It's just a pretty quick turnaround for most of the animals."

Alpacas, which remain oversubscribed for the broader market, are the exception.

"Mainstream ranchers consider them to be exotic, but their fiber is still valuable," he said. "People are just not as likely to buy them these days."

The website stands to get its 15 seconds of big-screen fame in a forthcoming Diego Luna film called "Mr. Pig," a road movie set in Mexico that stars Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph. Glover purportedly goes online to sell his prize pig with an ad on Livestock of America.

"I don't know the outcome," Andresen said. "If I did, I couldn't tell."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

Zoe Andresen, 8, pours treats into her hand while an alpaca named Paul Bunyan nibbles her hat Friday at Andresen Acres in Eagle Point. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore