• 26Dec
    Categories: Herd Management, Llama Care, Photo Gallery Comments Off

    Twas the night before ice and all through the ranch the llamas were munching the last of the grass.

    M2E6L30-36R350B300

    Seriously though, the ice storm was the worst in many years here in North Texas. below is the same view hours later.
    M2E39L133-133R395B312

    The llamas fared well. We used tank defrosters to keep them in water. Drinking water, that was our main concern as without electricity we would not be able to keep them in drinking water. Fortunately, power was out here for only 2 1/2 hours. The llamas had plenty of hay and shelter from the high winds. We grained the llamas several times between the start of the storm and the complete thaw.

    Falling branches and trees, while a serious concern to us for the older llamas, are not a concern for the younger ones. Llamas hear the beginning crack and can get quickly out of the way. For the most part, the animals stayed in their shelters near the hay. We do not place the hay under trees.

    tree over backyard

    We lost a number of trees that will be sorely missed next summer. Sadly, the tree that was holding a wildlife camera that has captured so many priceless photos of the llamas at night, was one of the ones lost to storm damage.

  • 31Jul
    Llamas after shearing

    Llamas after shearing

    The Summer of 2011 North Texas had one of longest and driest streaks on record.  Like the rest of Texas, we were in a serious drought that lasted until early 2012.  Parts of Texas remain in drought conditions even now.

    At my place NE of Dallas, we did not have as many consecutive days over 100 but, 99 vs. 100 is pretty much a moot point.  The real issue for the herds, llama, goats, cattle etc is that the night time temperatures rarely dropped below 80.

    Like humans, animals need cooler nights to recover so they can deal with the day time heat.  Shade is essential as is plenty of water which ideally is in shaded areas.  Most animals do not drink water from tanks in full sunlight as the water temperature can get quite warm.

    Even with shade and water, llamas must be sheared. Put on your heaviest coat, preferably wool.  Now go sit under a shade tree. Take a cool glass of water with you.  That is what it will feel like for a llama that has not been sheared.

    Some will last several weeks before dropping.  Once down for heat, few recover fully.

    Llamas are wonderful guard animals and will give many years of excellent service but they must be sheared annually before the heat sets in.  However if you have one now that has not yet been sheared and has not dropped. Shear ASAP.

    Links to folks that shear can be found on the South Central Llama Association website  http://www.scla.us/shearing.html

  • 27Jun
    Categories: Llama Care Comments Off

    First:  Shear – every year if you have llamas and live in the southern USA.

    Do not know how or need help please check with your local llama association. In Texas links to folks that shear can be found on the South Central Llama Association website  http://www.scla.us/shearing.html.

    I have been known to take good scissors to mine late in the summer, to pull off new growth.  I have carpal tunnel so for me the electric shears are painful to use but, I can do and do use mine if needed.  I do hire a professional to do my entire herd every Spring.

    The debate over how much to shear is the question we focus on here.  It depends on your planned use of the llama.  If you are showing and have fans for your animals in the shade or in a barn.  The barrel cut may be what you prefer.   Most of  my customers use llamas for guard animals.   I recommend a fully shorn llama in Texas.  This cut gives maximum air flow around the body.

  • 11Jul

    For a 25-30 gallon water trough

    • 6-8 oz powdered fruit drink mix ( berry, grape, cherry, etc.)
    • 1/2 cup flavored equine electrolyte powder
    • Fully dissolve in the barrel with water.

    The purpose of the sweetened fruit drink is to give the mix a scent that will encourage the llamas to drink more.

    The barrel or trough should be a light color, silver, blue or gray so llamas can see the color of the mix.   The electrolytes need to be in a shady area where llamas kush in the heat of the day

    There should also be a barrel of cool plain water next to the electrolyte mix.

    This mixture will ‘sour’  in about 24 hours so un-used mixture needs to be poured out, the barrel rinsed and a new mixture set out for each day when there is a NOAA heat advisory issued.

  • 13May

    Llamas that have been sheared

    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

    Llamas cooling off in the sand

    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.

    Even the babies need to cool off

    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.

  • 12May
    Categories: Herd Management, Llama Care, Llamas and Texas Heat Comments Off

    Hot Rod in the front pasture

    Llamas are truly low maintenance. They can survive on forage that would waste a horse or cattle. We do give the herd semi-annual immunizations equivalent to what one would give to their horses, including immunization for rabies. We also worm the llamas every 3-4 months. However, we have found them to be remarkably healthy and have very few problems birthing or nursing.

    I strongly recommend anyone contemplating acquiring llamas or who has just purchased a llama to buy a book with basic veterinary care guidelines.  Caring for Llamas A Health and Management Guide by Clare Hoffman, D.V.M. and Ingrid Asmus is an excellent starting reference book.  Other excellent sources for information are the International Llama Registry located online at www.lamaregistry.com and a quarterly publication the International Camelid Quarterly.  This magazine can be contacted online as well at www.llamas-alpacas.com.

    In Texas the South Central Llama Association, SCLA, participates in many of the regional llama shows as well providing a directory of member ranches.  They also offer an on-line breeders list.  The SCLA can be found online at http://www.scla.us/