Fun with llamas *PIC*

John K Jordan
>>>a clean black animal coat with a bit of "Show Sheen" wiped on will do the trick. I assume that your pet llamas do get regular grooming?

It may be challenging to wipe on the Show Sheen (or anything else).

The problem is llamas simply and naturally don't like to be touched. Most horses can be approached and touched in the field, caught and haltered, brushed, trimmed and detangled, hooves cleaned. You will never do that with MOST llamas without special tricks, in fact you will probably never even get near them. I volunteer with the South East Llama Rescue org and you should see some of our captures - on one it took us maybe 4 hours to get one that was loose in an unfenced countryside. People have been slammed into trees, dragged into ponds, kicked, cut... good fun!

Llama ranchers use feed or sorting sticks to guide them into smaller pens then into a 10'x10' "catch" pen first, and even then it can be an extensive effort to get them haltered. (The first llama I brought here had not been handled regularly and it took me days and special tricks to get a halter on her!) Once haltered, most are instantly "domesticated" - not necessarily cooperative but not insane.

Our llamas do get brushed, especially when taking them somewhere like I did yesterday for a school Farm Day. They are NOTHING like horses in their acceptance to grooming - try to brush the leg of a 300 lb llama that objects and you could lose a hand. I've had a slicker brush kicked out of my hand, bounce off the wall behind the llama, and hit the wall 20' away on the other end of the stall! I hired a girl who spent weeks with two llamas and an alpaca to desensitize them to where we could brush them. She was only partially successful with one.

Before shearing I blow the dust out of their coats with a grooming blower. Camelids roll in the dirt like horses except much more often - the coat holds the dusty fine dirt far better and deeper than a horse coat. Some of the animals have coats in excess of 4" thick.

The fiber on the llamas (and alpacas) is much finer than that on horses. We do have a sheen/detangler we use on our horses. I can try that on the llamas, but again, you usually can't touch the legs, hindquarters, or the lower quarter of the sides. People have been injured. If you see a llama that has just been sheared for the summer and the legs are not sheared, that's the reason!

People who show llamas have a much better time simply because they are groomed over and over for months or years and gradually become desensitized. Even then, some people administer a "calming" agent before shearing and show grooming.

"Horse people" are sometimes surprised at the effort it takes to catch and handle llamas. In normal situations llamas simply don't get handled as much as horses. I can walk up to any of my horses and brush them all over even if they haven't been touched in a while - not so with the llamas!

I built a steel restraint chute to restrain llamas for shearing, exams, hoof trimming, and medication. This makes life SO much easier! The animal is basically immobilized - the chute has removable panels to allow access to different parts. (You can still get hurt!) Building my own chute probably saved close to $2000 and I was able to add improvements over a commercial model. The large animal vets have these - UT even has a scaled-up version for working on camels (relatives of llamas!)

BTW, there is one time you usually CAN handle llamas - at breeding time! They are otherwise occupied. A friend with a llama ranch told me that's the best time to trim toenails, often a particularly challenging grooming task. (The pair can be oblivious to the world for 40 minutes or so.)

Back to the subject of photos: I wouldn't mind if the body is a light-sucking black if I could get a good photo of the head and face. However, another problem is you cannot normally touch anywhere on a llamas head or face unless it is an unusual or unhealthy llama except after a lot of t-touch desensitization, but even that doesn't always work. Better lighting is the best bet. Or forget the black ones. I took three llamas to a studio once for a TV commercial shoot and even though they had great lighting I took some with white and brown faces!

I would love to get some good photos of the new baby and mama!

Some interesting challenges.


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