Caring for your Llama
Just a few Basics
Learning the basics about llama care and management should make your llama shopping and eventual ownership pleasurable experiences. And they truly are a pleasure to own. Some of the care considerations that you should investigate are housing, worming, inoculations, shearing and toenail trimming, as well as hay supply and type in your area.
Depending on where you live, adequate housing can vary from a 3 sided shelter to a large barn that you can close up during extreme winter conditions. In the West, sometimes it is important to install misters and /or fans for relief in hot weather, as llamas are prone to "heat stress" and must be protected. Other measures such as shady wet sand pits or kiddy pools have been utilized. Worming and inoculations requirements are also dependent on your location. In certain parts of the country with high densities of white tail deer and a prevalence of meningeal worm, dectomax or ivermectin injections every six weeks are recommended. Most people also use more than one type of wormer because not all parasites will be killed by any one wormer. Shearing is done in the mid to late April here in the West. This is a must to prevent heat stress. Llamas are not "thrown" and shorn as sheep are. Some people use hand clippers, others use electric clippers, and others might use both in various instances. We shear our own llamas every spring. Another consideration is keeping the toenails trimmed if the llama requires it. Whether they need it depends on your terrain, and the genetics of the llama. Some lines do not ever seem to need toenails trimmed while others need it several times a year. Often rocky terrain or walking over concrete slabs is enough to keep the toenails trimmed. However, if the llama needs it, a consideration when looking at llamas is whether the llama has been trained to let you easily lift his feet calmly. With a properly desensitized llama, this is no problem. The proper formulated mineral/vitamin supplement for your area and feeding program should be available to your llamas free choice. In the absence of good browsing/grazing, clean hay should be provided. This is another question to ask at llama ranches you visit. What kind of hay has the llama been eating and how easy is it to obtain? Depending on the condition of the llama, supplemental feed can be provided, especially in the winter months or for late gestational or nursing mothers and growing crias. Are there negatives to llama ownership? No, but a llamas only form of defense is to spit. Unless a llama has been terribly ill treated, and raised not to respect people, they only spit at each other to establish the "pecking" order, or to warn another llama that it is too close to his feed bowl, or getting too personal. Often crias will try to sneak milk from the wrong mom, and learn in a hurry that's not acceptable. Spit does have a distinct odor for while, but it does wash off. Llamas do not even like to spit themselves, so they do so as a last resort. Young males, raised without the companionship of another llama, preferably a young one his age, can develop bad behavior more commonly known as "misdirected territorial aggression" and become improperly bonded to his human caregiver. Young llamas need their play time, a time to wrestle and chase and chest butt each other. If another young male is not available, the youngster will attempt to play with the humans present. Often, new owners, unaware, will think this is "cute" in the young weanling and encourage the interaction. Later, when the youngster is approaching 250-300 pounds, and becoming territorial to boot, this is not so "cute" and, in fact, becomes dangerous. Proper education, which should begin prior to purchase, will help new owners learn how to interact with young males to keep them easy to work with, but not dangerous to be around. Reputable breeders would never sell a young, or preweaned, bottle fed llama to unsuspecting folks. A weanling needs to be a minimum of 5-6 months old and sold with the understanding he will have proper companionship. Bottle fed males or females can become too pushy and possibly dangerous, if they are raised improperly. Sometimes bottling is unavoidable, but this is not something that should be done to make cute pets. Llamas are fun, easy and a wonderful joy to own.