Llama Care 201 by Lillian Beck
The llama is not a demanding animal to care for and with some basic care is an enjoyable animal to own. Since it is a random grazer it does not require a special diet. There are many varieties of feed on the market which llamas will eat readily and survive on. An owner can use anything from basic feeds on the market to specially formulated llama pellets. In addition to this, their diet of hay and field grasses are sufficient. We llama owners tend to over feed our animals, and I have noticed as they get older they begin putting on a lot of weight and really need less feed. We feed a coastal Bermuda which has a high protein content, and as a result, our animals need less grain then I first thought they needed.
A supplement of a mineral in their diet is good to provide. We put out salt and mineral blocks on the walls of all the buildings too. Some just love the blocks, and others prefer to just eat the minerals. You can get real fancy and go into dressing your feed with additional minerals, do Vitamin B shots etc. I am not too sure about the advantage of the shots though and how much benefit you are really getting since Vitamin B does tend to leave the body at a very rapid rate .
You want to be sure you provide your animals with a lot of fresh water. Your nursing mothers will go through an enormous amount. Right after they have given birth to a cria we always provide a bucket of luke warm water for them. The birthing process kicks in an added requirement of water to provide the needed milk for the cria. Sometimes she will drink the whole bucket at that one time. Also, put a few minerals out for her then. In the winter when it is freezing and cold all the llamas like the warm water. Each year I always say I am not going to put out all that water, but always end up doing it. It is a lot of added work, but it provides them with fresh water, and they all prefer to drink that over the cold water.
Routine maintenance on a llama will keep them fit and healthy. There are really four main things to remember - feet, worming, shots, shearing. You can make these as difficult or as easy as you want them to be. Some people do every llamas feet and shots all at the same time. I prefer not to and stager this work load.
Worming is an interesting subject. There are as many worming theories and products out on the market as any person could wish for. The majority of worm medications were designed for cattle and horse use, and they have been adapted over for use on llamas. A good way to get started is to consult with your veterinarian about what types of worming problems are in your area. The most important thing is that you worm on a regular basis. When we first started, our veterinarian recommended that we use two different types of worm medication. We worm monthly, some people worm every two months, others quarterly. The worming program you decide on is entirely up to you just be sure you rotate the worm medications. This I can not stress enough. Do not use one product, but switch off, because if you donít, the worms will build up an immunity to that product, and then you have lost the use of that worming medication.
There are a variety of products out on the market: liquid for injection, pour on, pastes, and pellets. Each product will attack a different group of parasites. All need to be used as directed or you may not get the results you plan on. For example, the Ivomac injection can be poured on food, or squirted in the mouth, but if used this way it will not protect your llama from the meningeal worm. It prevents meningeal worms ONLY IF INJECTED every 21 days.
Llamas require the same types of vaccines as livestock. Llamas can get enterotoxemia. Clostridium perfringens causes this disease. This is a very fast disease with diarrhea, convulsions, and uncoordination, and sudden death. The C and D vaccine is given to prevent this. This vaccine is combined with the tetanus vaccine and can be given as one shot. The tetanus organism is also from the clostridium family (Clostridium tetani).
Llamas can also get rabies. The bite of a warm blooded animal passes this through the saliva of the effected animal into the wound of its victim. You may or may not want to vaccinate for this depending on the circumstances in your area.
These three are the vaccinations most apt to be needed in the Southern area, but there are other diseases which llamas can acquire in other parts of the country, and you should consult with your veterinarian before setting up your vaccination program.
The feet of a llama are very interesting. Externally, they consist of two toenails and a bottom pad like leather. Internally, there are three bones or phalanx bones. Next to the toenail is the distal phalanx, followed by the middle phalanx, then where the foot bends is the proximal phalanx. The toenail needs to be trimmed or it will grow long and curl under and prevent the llama from walking properly. This trimming should be part of your maintenance program.
The llama can not tolerate extremes in temperature which occur too quickly. Interestingly, llamas can adapt themselves to extreme weather if it occurs gradually over a period of weeks. The biggest problem llamas are presented with are those brought on by man, who likes to travel and therefore moves his/her llamas into different climate zones. This is not always to the llamaís best interest. Llamas can tolerate very hot or very cold weather if the change occurs gradually. If we have an 80 degree day and the next day it is 42 degrees, and then followed the next day by cold rain turning to sleet and snow, which has been very common this fall, it is very difficult for them. Under these conditions you need to provide some type of shelter for your llama and hay for their bedding to help them stay warm. It is also helpful to give them warm water to drink to keep them from getting cold.
When the weather becomes very hot, shearing has become a recommended and much needed part of maintaining a healthy llama. At first, shearing began several years ago mainly in the Southern and South Western States to help them from getting heat exhaustion. Then people who went to shows began experimenting with show cuts and simultaneously discovered the benefit of the cut as an added aid in cooling down their llamas. At the same time, people were discovering that sheared wool could be spun and turned into beautiful clothing. As a result, more llamas were being sheared, and more ranches were discovering that shearing also benefited the health of their llamas by giving them relief from the heat. Now, here in the South, it is part of routine maintenance and proper care of the llama.
You can shear by hand or use commercial hand shearing blades to get the wool off. If you blow out your llamas, brush them, and wash them the day before you shear, you can harvest the wool and have it spun. If you donít have time for all the brushing and washing , just blow out your llamas before you clip them with electric clippers to prevent the blades from being destroyed. There are as many types of cuts as you can imagine, from the basic barrel cut to - Iím saving my llama cut, so he doesnít die of heat exhaustion today. Do not worry about the pretties if you have a compromised llama. If you find your llama suffering from the heat just get the wool off!!
These are just some of the basic needs of llamas.
There is more that can be covered.
Males have fighting teeth which need to be removed, and speaking of covering - all llamas need shelter from the elements in the way of a building with a roof.
They need a clean place for their food, and also for their hay to be placed.
And they need you to just love them, and love them, because they love people and enjoy interacting with you.