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Ultimate Guide To Raising Llamas

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Llamas may seem like a strange and exotic addition to your small farm or homestead; however, they have friendly dispositions and are surprisingly versatile animals perfect for a homesteading lifestyle.

Llamas are generally easy and undemanding animals that thrive when given enough space to roam freely. They are herbivores that thrive on various natural grasses and fresh water. Llamas will appreciate a second companion, shelter, occasional health check-ups, and proper grooming.

Llamas are easy keepers and therefore are, not surprisingly, quickly growing in popularity. If you’re keen on taking the unconventional route to add llamas to your small farm or homestead, here’s the ultimate guide to raising them.

How To Raise a Llama?

Llamas are tranquil and undemanding mammals- give them food, water, and proper shelter, and they’ll be happy campers!

llamas roaming in the field

Roaming Space for Llamas

Llamas are mammals who love open spaces and prefer to spread out over a large area. They also need exercise and experience considerable physical benefits when given adequate roaming space to run around.

Llamas also need space to roam and play, so keeping them in tiny zones can cause stress and boredom. Sizable, open areas effortlessly fulfill these needs.

However, many pastures (especially North America) are too rich, causing llamas to become obese—immediately negating the benefits of large spaces.

Try to address this issue by keeping your llamas in smaller areas at night and allowing access to ample space for several hours during the daytime. When full-time access to larger grazing spaces is limited, they will generally spend more time running around and less time eating, thereby combatting obesity.

How Many Llamas Can I Have Per Acre?

The recommended stocking rate is four llamas per acre. However, it’s important to note that this does not mean that two llamas can be kept on half an acre.

Pastures need managing by using one half for grazing while the second recovers. So, even if you only have two llamas, they also need a minimum of one acre.

Do Llamas Need Fencing?

Even though llamas can jump five bar gates from a standstill, they mostly respect barriers.

Due to their territorial natures, they tend to stay inside anything once familiar with the area.

Therefore, a standard four to five feet high stock fence will work perfectly well.

However, keeping a breeding male alongside your female llamas only asks for trouble; in this case, a slightly higher fence would be advisable. I strongly recommend separating llamas of the same sex.

In addition, it’s highly advisable, if not crucial, to ensure your fencing isn’t a barbed-wire fence. Llamas can quickly get their fleeces tangled into the barbs, injuring your llamas or causing them to become stuck and unable to move.

So, instead, use plain fence wire or hot wire to increase the height of your fence.

Tip: Divide your fields into smaller paddocks to enable rotation -this will give your non-grazing field rest and ease rounding up your llamas to move them.

A small corral is another essential fenced gathering place for your llamas to hold them for shearing, weaning, and when any medical treatment is needed.

Lastly, plan by laying out your pastures so that they can be cross-fenced for additional fields when your herd grows.

Shelter For Llamas

Llamas require shelter in most climates despite their hardiness.

Provide an ample, safe outdoor area for your llamas to roam, as well as a safe, indoor shelter to protect them against the elements.

In summer, your llamas need a shaded and breezy area to keep them cool during scorching days. However, in windy, rainy, and icy regions, a shelter for your llamas is advantageous and sometimes even essential.  

Shelter does not have to be elaborate. It should, however, include the following straightforward characteristics:

  • Dry flooring
  • Two to three solid sides
  • Use a minimum of 40 square feet of floor space per llama
  • A shelter with seven feet or taller interior height

You may want to make the shelter warm and snuggly by adding soft bedding; however, bedding is rarely preferable. Llamas’ coats usually keep them quite warm enough, and adding bedding will only make sanitation a greater effort.

If bedding is desirable, never use wood chips, wood shavings, or sand. Instead, use straw, and be sure to clean it daily.

For the shelter’s flooring, use concrete or packed dirt or clay. All three are excellent options. Rubber mats with small drainage holes work just as well but are a lot more expensive.

Nice-to-have accessories for your llamas’ shelter:

  1. A gate to close the shelter and keep the llamas inside is a handy addition to your shelter.
  2. Lights are an excellent addition to your llama shelter, especially in case of emergencies!
  3. Mounting fans for summer is an accessory worth considering.
  4. Hay feeders located outside of the shelter will encourage your llamas to leave their shelter.
  5. Misting fans for scorching summer days.
llamas eating leaves

Food Requirements For Llamas

Feeding requirements are relatively simple. Llamas are hardy by nature with almost unlimited feeding options.

Llamas are herbivores that thrive on various natural grasses and fresh water- that is pretty much all it takes.

Llamas are also highly adaptive animals that store excess nutrition for leaner days. They aren’t picky eaters and eat shrubbery and other less ideal vegetation to survive in dry climates. They will eat anything from hay and grain to various fruits and fresh veggies.

Llamas are the happiest grazing in green pastures but also eat a variety of quality grass hay. Llamas consume 1 to 1.3 percent of their body weight daily and eat an average of 10 to 12 pounds of hay per day.

Ensure that your llama has access to plenty of fresh water at all times.

Feeding Tips For Your Llamas

  • Avoid overfeeding your llama! A llama will happily gorge itself to obesity if it has an unlimited food supply, especially grain.
  • Avoid feeding your llamas grains and seeds unless your llama is pregnant or lactating. Provide grains as a supplement to their hay and grass intake, but it is not required, and you need to be very particular when choosing a suitable grain.
  • Add additional supplements to your llama’s diet with salt or mineral blocks. (Look for free choice or pelleted mineral supplements). These mineral blocks should contain large amounts of selenium, calcium, phosphorus, and salt.
  • Add corn to your llama’s diet during icy winters to help them maintain their energy levels.
  • Supply your pregnant or lactating mothers and weanlings with protein supplementation, consisting of alfalfa hay or pellets.
  • Oat hay may have excellent qualities on paper, but many llamas don’t care for it.
  • Alfalfa is too rich for a llama’s digestive system to be eaten daily, and only llamas requiring supplemental feeding should receive alfalfa.  
  • Appropriate forage options include clover, orchard grass, timothy, and fescue.

Treats For Llamas

Llamas love yummy treats. Treats to feed your llamas moderately include:

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon
  • Mango
  • Broccoli
  • Bananas
  • Raisins
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Celery

Foods To Avoid Feeding Llamas

New llama owners can find it challenging to ensure their fluffy residents have healthy and happy lives after joining the farm. There are various aspects to consider that new owners, unfortunately, tend to overlook toxic and poisonous hazards.

While minor exposure to these toxins is unlikely to harm your llama seriously, large amounts can cause severe health complications and, sadly, even death.

So, to help you ensure that you never run into these problems, we have compiled a list of potentially toxic foods that you should avoid exposing your llama to:

  • Animal products of any kind- llamas’ bodies do not process meat effectively.
  • Avocado
  • Kale
  • Cherries
  • Chocolate
  • Nightshade vegetables
  • Potato 
  • Horse feed or grains- Horse feed tends to be high in copper, a mineral toxic to llamas if consumed in large amounts.
  • Sweet feeds- sugar and gluten in sweet feeds cause digestive issues in llamas.

Note that this list isn’t exhaustive, but it can certainly help to keep your llamas safe and healthy.

Tip: Toxic prevention can be imperative if your llama accidentally ingests something toxic. However, activated charcoal may help absorb the toxins and can be a helpful cure to have on hand.

How Much Do Llamas Cost To Feed?

Feeding llamas are noticeably cheaper than cows and horses.

If you have a high-quality grass pasture, feeding costs will be relatively low. Four to six llamas can comfortably graze on an acre of good pasture without any additional feed. However, if your field is limited (especially in winter), your costs will effectively go up.

One llama will eat an average of one bale per week. Hay bales costs vary from $3 to $12 per 50-pound bale, depending on location and quality.

Expect to pay between $12 to $20 per month to feed one average adult llama.

Lastly, if you are interested in adding a grain supplement, expect to pay between $30 and $70 per 50-pound bag of grain especially created for llamas.

woman feeding llama

Llamas Health

Llamas are pretty hardy animals, but they are susceptible to similar diseases and parasites as sheep and cattle.

Llamas can be infected with internal parasites, including:

  • Gastrointestinal nematodes
  • Lungworms
  • Meningeal worms
  • Tapeworms
  • Flukes

Llamas can be infected with external parasites, including:

  • Ticks
  • Mites
  • Lice

These parasites can be treated with medicines approved and currently used to treat cattle and sheep.

The most common health conditions include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • John’s disease
  • Anthrax
  • Malignant edema
  • Tetanus
  • Abscesses
  • Anemia
  • Enterotoxemia
  • Footrot

Other common toxins for llamas:

  • Algae
  • Blister beetle poisoning
  • Copper overload
  • Acidosis (Grain poisoning)
  • Lead toxicity
  • Mycotoxins (from mold and fungi on contaminated food)
  • Pesticide, herbicide, and rodenticides poisoning
  • Selenium overload

Grooming Llamas

Llamas are generally clean and low maintenance, but they do require some maintenance. Here’s a quick rundown of the general questions on how to groom a llama.

Do Llamas Need Brushing?

Whether or not to brush a llama depends on their type of coat.

  • Classic llamas: they have a double coat that regularly sheds. Therefore, they need an occasional brush to maintain healthy coats.
  • Woolly llamas: Woolly llamas have dense body and neck fleece that they do not shed. So, a woolly llama does not need brushing; however, they require regular shearing.

Do Llamas Need Shearing?

Woolly llamas require wool shearing to keep them healthy. However, it’s best to leave the job to a professional shearer.

Leaving a heavy coat on your llama restricts movement and provides a perfect home for pests and parasites.

How often to shear a llama depends on each llama, the amount of fiber, and your local weather conditions.

Do Llamas Need Bathing?

It’s generally good to give your llamas an occasional bathe. Ensure that you use a high-quality shampoo and conditioner suitable to your llama’s fiber.

Do I Have To Trim My Llama’s Toenails?

Llamas have nails and pads instead of hooves. Their toenails generally need trimming three to six times a year, depending on the weather conditions, the floor surface, and your llama.

How Often Do I Need To Clean A Llama’s Ears?

It’s advisable to check a llama’s ears daily for ticks and pests.

Can  A Leaf Blower Be Used To Remove A Llama’s Debris?

Try using a hairdryer or a leaf blower to remove the debris on your llama for hard-to-get waste.

Blow the leaf blower in the direction that the fur fiber grows. Then, keep blowing the llamas fur until it’s visibly clean- your llamas may enjoy the blowout.

Should I Trim My Llamas Teeth?

Llamas have six, sometimes eight, razor-sharp teeth that should be sawn-off or removed by a vet. Their front teeth, however, do need trimming.

llamas

Companionship For Llamas

Llamas are happiest in a herd and need at least one other llama for their mental and emotional well-being.

Llamas deprived of llama company tend to develop neuroses, severe depression, abnormal interests in other species, and even extreme aggression directed at humans.

Females, in particular, tend to have a natural need to be part of a herd. The best herd size for llamas is four to six llamas. If the herd size increases and gets too large, they may form two herd groups. This is usually not a problem if given enough space, but if your pastures are too crowded, the herds might squabble and fight more.

Note: Males can be castrated and kept with other females in other species- this is NOT the case with llamas. All geldings will eventually develop sexual interests in female llamas. Yes, even if they weren’t exposed to sexual experiences before castration.

What Can Llamas Be Used For?

Believe it or not, llamas are excellent guardians to protect sheep and other livestock. In addition, they can fend off dogs and coyotes.

Llamas are excellent for fiber products that can be made into yarn.

Lastly, your llama can be used in shows or parades thanks to their gentle demeanor.

Conclusion

Llamas are great companions with a low-key temperament, friendly disposition, and easy maintenance. Still, it’s important to remember that they require a significant amount of space and can be costly to care for properly. 

So before impulsively buying llamas, determine if you have enough space to fit a llama’s needs. Ensure that you can provide a warm shelter and obtain a reliable food source.

Lastly, remember that even though llamas are relatively low-maintenance, they require frequent grooming to stay healthy.

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