Llamas have many uses
and markets, but many people own or raise them simply
because they are wonderful animals. We are greeted at the gate by
many of our llamas, and some are not satisfied until they have
gently touched your face with their soft nose.
So you may be able to see where some of this love for
llamas comes from. But, what about the stories you have
heard? Aren't they nasty like camels? Don't they have
other bad habits?
There are many misconceptions about
llamas, and most are just that (here is a
link for a newspaper article that discussed misconceptions about
llamas). Llamas are known for
their lovely personalities and evoke many human
responses. They are often taken into nursing homes to
"communicate" with people who have not
responded to people.
Llamas are certainly not nasty,
even to other llamas. Indeed, llamas are truly a joy.
Llama crias (baby llamas) are fantastically entertaining, bouncing
about the pastures engaged in races with other crias.
It is impossible not to smile while watching.
Llamas are used as breeding
stock, wool producers, pack animals, pets, 4-H projects and even as
sheep guardians, protecting sheep from predators such
as coyotes in the western US and foxes in the UK.
Breeding stock: Llama
breeding gives you
a chance to experience the joy and excitement of
crias (baby llamas). Among large animal species, llamas are
quite easy to raise; they are feed efficient, so they don't eat
much; they should graze on pasture and/or be feed grass hay rather
than alfalfa, saving you money; they have fewer distocias.
With the breeder's attention, llama fiber can be on par with
alpaca fiber and is highly prized. We have been focused on
fiber for many years and the result is that most of our
offspring have extremely fine fiber measuring in the
range of 17 - 22 microns. This fiber is very soft and has a
silky feel without the "prickle" that is common with lamb
and sheep's wool.
Llamas as pack animals:
In South America, llamas have always been used as
work animals. It has been said that the Incan empire
was built on the backs of llamas. Today, particularly
in the arid west, llamas are highly prized as pack
animals. Their padded feet do not destroy delicate
mountain tundra and trails, and everything that a
llama carries is for you. Llamas are browsers like
deer and eat along the trail nibbling on leaves and grass. As members of the camelid
family, they can go longer and further without water
than other pack animals. Today, many dude ranches use
llamas for mountain treks and champagne brunches.
Llamas as pets: The
US llama herd originated with William Randolph Hearst
at San Simeon. This multi-billionaire could afford
anything he wanted, and had over 300 llamas grazing
the grounds of his estate. He loved them for their
beauty and tranquility. Today, gelded males are often
used as pets. Llamas are easier to train than dogs
and often much cheaper, costing less to buy and feed
than many purebred dogs. Llamas can be ridden by
small children and can also be trained to pull carts.
Llamas for 4-H: Llamas
are gentle, smart and easy for children to work with.
They cost little to maintain, and with some instruction, children
can easily do the daily chores for the animal. The same animal can
be used throughout the child's 4-H years creating a strong bond and
mastering more difficult tasks each year. Llama
training can be a wonderful learning experience for
the child, and a llama is also a friend and companion. Here is
link to an older article with a few quotes from the girl on the
bridge in the picture above.
The Alpaca and Llama Show
sanctions llama shows that have three different age classes for
youth 8 to 18 years old. Youth typically compete in three
"performance" classes and a showmanship class. The three
performance classes are obstacle (jumps, bridges, etc.), pack
(obstacles with the llama carrying pack bags), and public relations
("obstacles" a llama would encounter in a public
setting). Showmanship tests how well the handler is able to
present their animal to the judge. Within four hours of
Corvallis, there are at least five ALSA shows where youth can compete for awards with their
Llamas as sheep
guardians: A single gelded male llama will
bond with, and protect, sheep goats, mini horses and
even calves by driving off potential predators such
as coyotes and dogs. One of our customers reported
that he was losing a lamb a night and a ewe once every four nights,
reducing his profits to zero. After adding one of our males to his herd,
his losses stopped completely.
Llamas are often much less
expensive than guard dogs, and easier to train. They
can easily be slipped into the herd, where they eat
what the herd eats, and can guard effectively for
over fifteen years.