Your First Llama!
Llamas are one of the best of the alternative livestock breeds. They are friendly, smart, affordable and a good investment (especially with accelerated depreciation). There is a national show circuit and a growing fiber industry. They are easy to breed and care for.
If you have 5-10 acres that are only marginally productive or you need farm status for tax purposes, breeding llamas may be your answer!
Before purchasing that first llama, do your "homework". Surf the internet and read as many articles on llamas you can find. Llamas have a wide range of uses including: fiber production, showing, carting, packing, companion animals, therapy assistants, breeding stock, golf caddies and livestock guard animals. To help you in your first investment you need to establish your intended use before you go shopping to purchase a llama. We just feel in love with those big brown eyes and wanted something down in our pasture, after a short-time our whole intention of use changed as you can no doubt tell from reading about our adventures.
We have a friend that really did her "homework" before that first purchase. She contacted her local llama association and started to attend workshops and helped out as a volunteer at llama show events. She and her husband visited lots of llama ranches and asked questions of the owners. They took pictures of the ranch set ups for pastures, barns, shelters, feeders etc. This enabled them to pick different ideas from various ranches and make an educated decision on how they could set up their ranch in preparation for adding llamas to their lives.
Can't you see what an advantage this was to determine which direction to go and to make wise, educated decisions on making your first purchase?
Once you have made the decision of your end use, decide on what type of llama would best suit that use. Do not purchase a llama without a hands-on approach with it first. If a llama on a ranch catches your eye, ask to halter it and walk the llama around. This will give you a sense of how easy or difficult that animal is to lead, manage and interact with. The personality of your llama is just as important as the visual appearance. You want to have an enjoyable experience with a well behaved manageable llama, therefore DO NOT try getting your llama from a livestock auction. You will not likely be given the opportunity to interact with the llama and take the chance of purchasing a llama with behavioral problems. Llamas are large animals and you can get hurt if they are not "imprinted" to be with us. That is why it is so important to see the llamas and how they interact with their owners and with you before you purchase them and take them home. (the exception to this is attending a Llama Association Sales Event,for example Celebration Sales in Oklahoma City in April and the LFA Sale in Cedar Rapids in Sept.. they offer you the opportunity for "hands-on" etc before the actual auction) When you go to a ranch to purchase that first llama, check out the cleanliness of the animals in the pastures and the housing areas for the llamas. Be sure the llamas have been getting their vaccinations and are registered with the International Registry. Also be sure to get a written Purchase & Sales Agreement that spells out the terms of the sale, including a full description of the llama, the intended purpose of the animal, specific guarantees provided by the seller, and the conditions of the sale.
Although a veterinary pre-purchase exam is highly recommended, it is no guarantee that an animal will meet a buyer's particular needs. A pre-purchase exam will help ensure that the animal is healthy and could be used for its intended purpose.
Deal with a breeder you feel comfortable with and who is able to provide the llama you are looking for. It's important to establish your intended use and price range before you start shopping. Be aware that a pet or guard llama will be less expensive than a show quality or breeding llama. The only downfall of llama shopping is it is difficult to stop at just one or two. You will find that llamas have a unique way of enriching our lives and once you have these magical creatures in your life, you can not imagine life without them. You will also discover that llama owners are an approachable group of people and eager to share our passion and obsession for llamas.
Shelters and Fencing for llamas
Even through the llama has an impressive ability to cope with most any type of climate, some guidelines do apply.
Basic windbreakers are necessary. You can provide a simple three-sided shelter (as shown above), even a free-standing shed--of a simple addition to any existing structure may be sufficient.
Llamas should always have a dry place to lie down. In colder climates, provide bedding to keep them off the cold, damp ground. This is particulary important for older llamas with arthritis or rheumatism.
Barbed wire is strictly off-limits for llamas. Remove it if it already exists on your property. Animals can seriously injure themselves when frightened or seeking food.
Fencing can enhance your property's beauty & value.
Llamas are respectful of fencing. But a llama can easily jump a 5-foot fence, and one that is lonely or looking for food will often make the attempt. Highly social animals, Llamas do not like to be alone and will seek a way out to join other llamas or livestock.
The height of your fence depends on the sex of the animal and their access to forage. In most cases, breeding studs will require a more substantial fence (at least 4 feet high) when in close proximity to females. Generally, it is beeter to have a higher fence between breeding studs and "open" (non-pregnant) females as well as weanlings (cria recently moved from their moms).