Saturday, March 5, 2011

I am a Llama's Mama

Spring shearing is just around the corner, so I wanted to write about our fiber animals instead of me blogging about me. We have a guard llama named Izaak. A friend gave him to me, because she was moving to the West Coast. The only problem was that we lived in town! It's hard to keep a llama in town.

Luckily, my weaving teacher was a llama breeder and boarder. Yes, you can board llamas, Virginia! So, Izaak was boarded while we searched for our small acreage.
Izaak and his friend, Pierre.
I always tell people that if I had a llama as my first pet, I would have never had dogs or cats. Llamas are relatively easy to take care of:  they need grass in summer, hay and grain in the winter, access to fresh water, and shelter. They also appreciate apples and pumpkins.
Insert head, begin consuming chicken food.
Llamas do require some health-care maintenance for worms, shearing to keep them cool in the summer, and annual hoof trims. They do not like to have their feet touched, so that's when I call in the "big guns"...I call Doc (our vet) and pull out the checkbook.
Llamas are part of the camelid family. They have split upper lips and toes.
Llamas urinate and defecate in one spot. Actually, they might have several locations around the pasture or in the barn, but they will only use those spots. It makes barn clean-up easier and llama poop can go straight onto the garden.

Most people know that llamas can spit. Izaak has never spit, but, once upon a time, we were owned by a llama that did! Belle would spit at Izaak, the goats, and us. I quickly learned to duck around her. Llamas also have the potential to kick. Once my husband made the mistake of touching Belle on her back. He said she softly kicked him with lightning speed. I told him that was her way of saying: "That's your only warning. Ever!"
Belle the Beautiful
Folks often say that llamas won't work as guards if you have more than one. We found this not to be true. Belle was definitely the primary guardian, but she and Izaak worked as a team. Once, when spooked by a farmer and his combine, Belle ran the perimeter of the fence while Izaak herded the crew into the barn.
Most of a llama's time is spent off-duty eating grass.
Llamas will also give the most amaaaazing alarm call. If Belle spied a distant coyote or stray dog or anything that appeared threatening, she would release a sound that I can only describe as a high-pitched, yodeling cough. If I was in the house and heard that sound, I immediately ran outside to see what was wrong. Izaak has never made the alarm call, but I have seen him rush the pasture fence when the neighbor's dog made the mistake of coming over for a visit. A llama can kill a dog or coyote by kicking them to death.

Shot time? Just try to catch me!
Llamas also make a humming noise if something is amiss. Last June, I was in the barn and Izaak was humming and humming. I soon discovered that my yearling sheep, Tomas, was unable to stand. It turned out Tomas was very ill and required emergency medical care. Izaak saved his life.
Tomas + Izaak = BFF
Unfortunately, Belle had to be euthanized because of chronic stomach troubles. The hardest part of owning a llama is saying good-bye. She had a beautiful, chocolate brown fleece, but it was loaded with guard hairs. Guard hairs make a fleece coarse. I still have about eight skeins of her handspun yarn and hope to make something out of it. One day. Soon.

Llama yarn with guard hair. This is Belle's fiber AFTER having it professionally processed.
Izaak's fleece is very dense with almost no guard hairs which makes it easier (and cheaper) to process and blend with other fibers. He is predominantly white with some red spots, so it's fun to dye and spin. I can't wait to get my hands on it again this year!!!
Izaak becomes a sweater!
 In my next post, I'll blog about our Angora goats.
Izaak relaxing but always on the look out.


  1. What wonderful stories about your llamas. I had 6 of them but I never saw them doing what yours did. On the other hand, I don't think I ever really had predators around, so maybe they didn't need to do such things. Fortunately I didn't have spitters (except during shearing, and I bought a spit mask for that, which fits on the halter....very useful!). Now my llamas are with Hedgeapple Farm and the Stamps Family Farm, but I hope to get more in Canada in the coming months!

  2. I hope to come back as a knitter or a spinner in my next life! Great job, Cassie.

  3. Llamas are the greatest. I just love them. We were going to get another one or two after Belled died, but Izaak is loving his job as head llama. So we're going to get three more Shetland sheep this summer instead! So much wool, so little time. :)