Without a doubt, the Texas heat has been the worst enemy to raising healthy llamas. Our first stud, Strait-Black, nicknamed Rama, had a mild heat stroke in August of 1995. The temperature was 105° Fahrenheit at the time and he was in the sun grazing. We saw him go down, got to him immediately and began shading him and soaking him with cool water. We also called the vet. It took 4 of us to get him back on his feet and into the barn in front of a fan. We gave him tons of electrolytes, first through a syringe into his mouth every hour and then finally he began drinking voluntarily out of a bucket. He appeared to make a complete recovery.
As a result of this incident, we became a firm believers in body shearing of heavy-wooled llamas. We also began purchasing large (48 inch) fans for the llamas. Over the next two years we had electrical connections installed in shaded areas near the barns and large trees. The llamas are sheared in a barrel cut (trunk area) late in the spring. This allows for better cooling through the summer. Llamas perspire from glands on the trunk of their bodies near where the legs are connected to their torso. We also provide electrolytes for them daily anytime the temperature is expected to be 90° Fahrenheit or higher. Water soluble electrolytes can be purchased at any feed store. We provide a 5 gallon bucket of electrolytes for every fan or heavily shaded spot on the ranch. This works out to be about 1 barrel for the large herd and 2-3 buckets daily for the smaller pastures. We also insure the water barrels are located in shaded areas as llamas will not drink fresh water that is too warm.
We have a dump truck of sand, approx. ten yards, hauled in every other year to a well shaded location. We then hose down this sand once or twice daily and the llamas kush in these shaded areas during the worst heat of the day. Sort of like a day at the beach.
Minerals are available for the llamas free choice at all times. Every area has
some type of mineral deficiency in the soil that impacts grazing animals. The minerals we leave out for my llamas are in powder form and provide the nutrients they are not able to get from grazing and grain. I purchase mine from Winners Edge in Tyler Texas and from Stillwater Minerals. Both companies make fine products that can be ordered online. There are other excellent firms from which minerals can be purchased, the key is to ensure the llamas are getting them. The minerals are salty and will also encourage the animals to drink more water. We ensure these minerals available year-round, not just in the heat of the summer.
Note: Some mineral companies are now making llama mineral formulas that contain electrolytes, I did try these in the summer of 2010 and found they do work well.
We have tried three different brands of llama minerals over the years and all worked well but, they each were significantly different in price depending on the volume purchased. Llama minerals are by far the most expensive single ongoing expense as the average llama needs roughly 1 ounce of minerals per day. For that reason it is important to offer these in a location sheltered from rain and wind. Some people sprinkle the minerals over the animal’s grain. Others like me, offer the minerals free choice in a protected feeder.
Some llamas also like a good soaking during the worst heat. Some go to the stock pond and stand chest deep in the water. Others really like the water hose. We offer a thorough soaking to any llama that wants one at least once a day, more often in the worst heat of the summer. Llamas are hosed down from the bottom up. This means we start with the legs and spray the water up under their chest and belly and tail areas. Do not spray water on their backs or head as this just packs down their wool and makes them hotter. Of course there are always some llamas that HATE to be sprayed with water. Do not chase them down and spray them. That just adds to their stress.
We do have some llamas that prefer a nice cool foot soaking instead of being sprayed. These ladies like a barrel of water in the shade that they can step into with their front feet.
Hot weather morning routine:
o Mix electrolytes and pour into barrels in shaded areas.
o Verify all fans are running.
o Fill water barrels and soak sand pits.
o Hose llamas wanting to be soaked. Water from the feet up to the stomach and where the legs meet the torso.
In the Evening:
o Hose down llamas.
o If the temperature is going to be over 100°F, in the evening, set out a sprinkler in a shaded area set low so the llama can stand over it to get wet. I usual set a time for about 30 minutes to let them play.
o Check electrolyte buckets to be sure the animals have been drinking. (We mix Gatorade powder or Kool-Aid in small quantities with the electrolytes to encourage the llamas to drink more.)
The summers of 1997 through 2000 were some of the hottest in history for North Texas. Using all of the methods described above, We had no llamas in heat stress during those years. Unfortunately, the ‘mild’ stroke Rama had in 1995 damaged his liver and ultimately resulted in his death in February of 1997.
The year 2004 was the mildest summer I personally can recall. The llamas loved the cooler temperatures and the wonderful rains we got throughout the summer.
Summer 2010 has ended and was one of the hottest on record for the Dallas area. June and August were brutal but, we had an unusually wet July. We made it through the heat fine only to lose a much loved female to a snake bite at the end of August. This was a reminder to us that there are always things beyond our control.
As we now get our first taste of cool fall evenings, the herd is noticeably more relaxed and playful. Fall is our favorite time of year. We look forward to new births and llamas frolicking in the pasture.
A note on fans:
The size of the fan is not nearly as important as the velocity of air flow. We get great service out of the small $39.00 wire fans available at most big box stores. Plus these can be strapped to the fence or barn beams using cable ties.