There are nearly as many ways to care for your llamas as there are caregivers. What works for one may not work for another, but there are a few fundamentals that must be met. Those things include fresh water, food, salt and minerals, shelter and room to romp.
- Train your llamas in the basics of being caught, haltered and lead. A catch pen or catch corner can facilitate the process. There are videos available from llama association libraries or gentle training clinics from trainers such as Marty McGee Bennett (CAMELIDynamics), Cathy Spalding (Gentle Spirit Training) or Jim and Amy Logan (Click and Reward Training).
- Most people vaccinate for CDT. The important part of this vaccine is the T which stands for tetanus. Opinion is evolving as to the frequency of booster shots. Consult your vet for current practice and additional vaccinations that may be needed.
- Check your llama's toenails frequently and trim as needed. A recommended resource book is "Caring for Llamas and Alpacas" available from Rocky Mountain Llama Association. This book has a section on trimming toenails complete with drawings. You can also find information on the internet. It's a much simpler job than trimming a horse's hoof and worth learning how to do yourself.
- Springtime shearing is necessary for long- and medium-wooled llamas, especially in hot and humid climates. Short-wooled and classic llamas can often be brushed out to remove the undercoat while preserving the flowing guard hair that provides protection from the elements. You can learn to do it yourself with electric clippers, hand shears, sheep shears or even good scissors such as the spring loaded models made by Fiskar, or you can hire a professional shearer.
- Keep your pastures clean. Know what poisonous plants grow in your area and watch for them. Also, rain can unearth all sorts of junk. Remove it before your llama gets injured.
- It is critical to have a knowledgeable llama vet, preferably one that makes ranch calls, in case of emergency. Llamas are notoriously stoic "easy keepers". You need to observe carefully on a daily basis to be sure they don't end up so sick by the time you notice that it is too late. Establish a relationship with your vet and keep that phone number handy.
- Males from about two years old will begin growing what we refer to as fighting teeth. These are long, sharp, curved canines used, as you would assume, for fighting. Many pasture injuries, such as split and torn ears, are caused by young males roughhousing. The teeth should be sawn off with OB wire either by you or by your vet.
- If you are considering breeding your llamas or buying a llama to breed, why don't you instead consider adopting a youngster or a pregnant female? Please contact us to discuss all the options.
- Female llamas are "induced ovulators" which means that they ovulate in response to being bred. They can and will breed year round. Though a bred female may "spit off" or reject the advances of a stud, some more timid females may allow the breeding whether pregnant or not. The male will breed her repeatedly which could cause damage to her reproductive organs. Even geldings have been known to continue exhibiting breeding behaviors. Some people prefer to keep the females housed away from the males (whether gelded or not).
- If you train your llamas to come in to a dinner call or a call for treats, you'll easily be able to bring them in if there's an emergency. Just put a call, such as "LLLAAAAAmaaaaa", to the dispensing of treats or evening feed and in no time, you'll have llamas that come when you want them to... usually...
Please contact us if you have any questions or need advice about any aspect of llama care and handling.