|For Your Farm Holidays in South West
Llamas - Questions and Answers
Llamas originated in North America. At least the original camelids started out there. The animals that moved north and crossed
into Asia and Africa evolved into camels. Those that migrated to the south became the "lama" family. Most llamas now are native to western South America,
especially Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.
Not really, but there are different kinds of camelids. The “lama” family consists of four branches: Alpacas, Guanacos, Llamas and Vicuñas. Alpacas and llamas have been domesticated for approximately 4,000 years, whereas guanacos and vicuñas are mostly found in herds in the wild.
They graze on grasses and browse on leaves, and with their long necks, anything on the other side of a fence is fair game. As long as they have some decent hay and fresh water they are usually content. You will often see contented llamas lying around chewing their cud. A bale of hay will feed an adult llama for a week or so.
Llamas don't particularly like to be shut up in a barn, but newborns and their mothers need extra protection. The adults are clever enough that if it starts to hail or thunderstorm they will normally run for shelter.
Usually a three-sided shelter is sufficient, so that they can get out of a driving rain or get some shade. As well as protection from rain and snow they need to have shade in the summer, even though you will often see them lying in the
sun bellies up. Most of them seem to prefer to stay out in the rain or snow, as long as it is not driven by a strong wind. They sleep lying down with their feet tucked under their body, and the wool hanging down on their sides protects them from the cold.
Llamas make quite a variety of sounds. The most common sound is a humming noise. A female will hum
to her cria (baby llamas), which seems to reassure the baby that mom is still around. The crias have a softer hum. If an animal is not sure about what is going on, such as being penned up, it may issue an “uncertain” hum or even a “worried” hum.
Males will make a very strange sound while they are breeding which is called an “orgle”. They will sometimes make this sound if there is an open female on the other side of the fence.
If a llama perceives a danger, such as a strange dog , they will make an alarm call
which warns the rest of the herd. In the wild, a male guanaco will find a high vantage point to watch over his herd of females and if he spots a puma, will start alarm calling. Moments later every male in the vicinity will be alarm calling.
A male llama will occasionally make a snort at another male which seems to mean something like “You are lucky I can't get over this fence . . .”. Snorting is often the prelude to a fight.
Adult llamas are usually between 300 and 450 pounds and stand about five to six feet tall at the head. The newborns are often between 25 and 35 pounds and
about 30 inches tall. Provided that the mother has plenty of milk, a baby normally gains about a pound a day for the first couple of weeks. They
become fully grown somewhere between three and four years of age.
Llamas don't bite for defence. They have a hard plate on the top of their mouth, and the front teeth on the bottom are designed for cutting grass. Males, around the age of three, will grow fighting teeth at the back of their mouth. These teeth should be cut off, as they can cause serious damage to other males if they get into a fight.