Llamas are a very fascinating animal to have in your life! Llamas are a very intelligent animal with very individual personalities. One must have a llama in their life to truly understand the full extent of the companionship of a llama. Coming into the barn and listening to a llama "humming" (yes...literally humming) to her baby has been known to calm the nerves of a person or two. Llamas serene demeanor makes having llamas a really enjoyable time.
....the fact that they have communal dung piles is a huge plus too!
Llamas are normally silent and may appear to be a bit distant when you first approach. They are most often curious about something new, especially children and strangers. Llamas hum, cluck or warble on occasion. Llamas give definite signals of communication by their head and tail positions. Spitting is generally reserved for other llamas.
What can llamas be used for...
-Guard Animals-Llamas make great guard animals! Llamas are used by sheep and cattle ranchers to protect their herds and flocks-especially during calving and lambing. Llamas will protect the herd from coyotes, wild dogs, etc. Llamas will do so by either chasing away the intruder or leading the flock to safety at the barn. Llamas geldings are the guard animal of choice.
-Fiber production-Depending on the llama, some llamas can produce up to 3-4 lbs of fiber each year which can be sheared off or combed out. Llama fiber doesn't not have the amount of laneolin/oil like sheep wool. Not having that oil makes the fiber much lighter yet it is very warm.
-Pack animals-many llamas are used packing. Llamas can carry between 60-100lbs depending on the llama and the circumstances. Llamas forage on native plants so rarely require extra feed accompany on the trip. Llamas are also very sure footed making them great for areas where horses can't be used.
-Pets-Llamas making great animals to have around. Their easy going personalities make them great additions to the family.
-4-H Projects-Llamas make great 4-H projects for kids. Owning llamas are a great way for kids to learn responsibility and enjoy the interaction with larger animals. Kids can also learn showmanship and present their llamas at 4-H shows. They can learn basic fiber
Training and Transport
Llamas are quite intelligent and readily respond to patient, non-abusive training techniques. With good training llamas will adapt to a wide variety of activities. Llamas are very curious to new things so taking a llama places and introducing them to new things is interesting to them.
Llamas are very easy transport. A trained llama can easily fit in a mini-van or covered pickup truck. Llamas will normally lay down doing transport-referred to as kushing. Multiple llamas can be easily transported in a small horse/livestock trailer.
Llamas can easily be contained in a 4 1/2-5 foot fence. Barb wire is not recommended. Woven wire is the usual choice for llama breeders and owners. Woven wire helps provide protection against wild dogs-when babies (crias) are present, etc. Llamas do need a three sided shelter to protect against weather extremes including rain. It is not uncommon to see llamas laying out in the rain but a shelter must still be available for them. Llamas need a dry area to come in out of the weather for as needed.
Llamas do need companionship. Whether it be another llama, a sheep or goat. Llamas are a herd animal and need to be kept as such.
Feeding and Health Care
Llamas do not have any special feed requirements. Llamas will thrive on good pasture and hay. The overall opinion is that grass hay is the best choice for llamas. Limited alfalfa can be fed to llamas especially to mothers with babies,etc. Llamas do require trace mineral supplement and clean water. Consult with your local veterinarian for recommended nutritional intake in your area.
Most llamas owners do regularly deworm their animals with the following wormers: Dectomax, Safeguard/Panacur, Valbazen. Consult with your veterinarian for proper dosing as llama doses vary from cattle, sheep and horse regular doses. Regular vaccinations are recommended including Rabies vaccinations if that is a problem in your area.
It is recommended that females are not bred until they are at least 24 months of age. Particular females may be able to reproduce at a younger age but it is not recommended. Normal gestation is 335 to 355 days. Llamas normally have single births but twins have been known to happen. Llamas babies are normally born during daylight hours and the mothers do not require assistance.
Males will usually ready to start breeding at 36 months old. Occasionally a male may be used at a younger age. It is recommended that males be neutered at 24 months old if they are not going to be used for breeding.
Babies are normally weaned from their mothers at between 5 and 6 months of age.
Just a word of warning...llamas are addicting...and fun!