Llama Question and Answer Page heading Ambassador drawing

This page has discusses llamas and freezing weather, spitting
pooping in the barn, getting along with cats, llama kisses and more.
(Updated on December 15, 2002)

List of questions:

  Find the answer!

Can they eat corn?

Q. We just purchased a new llama (our first) and we have hear that they can not have corn. Is this true?

A. It is all right if it is crushed. The whole kernels of dried corn are not very digestible and they do not get any nourishment out of it. It is fine if it is flattened or crushed and mixed in with other grains as in a dairy ration.

Our llamas just love to eat the leaves from when the fresh corn is shucked and we also toss in the corn stalks into the fields so they can eat the leaves.

Llama droppings

Q. We took in this one mother and she pooped the barn all the time, there was nothing we did stopped it. Now all the other llamas and her baby even started using that barn for their “daily doing”. How can we stop this?

A. Once one of them starts going in the barn, that is their poop pile from then on. If we have to keep one in a stall overnight, that’s the last time that stall ever stays clean.

Follow-up Q. One of our males even goes when we are in there cleaning up, like he is mad at us or something.

A. They do mark their territory, particularly the males. If you have males in adjoining fields, they will often poop in front of the gates. We had one older female that would get very upset if we cleaned up her pile out of her shelter. It must mean more to them than we can possibly realize.

Follow-up Q. The llama that started it is gone and has been for sometime, but now our llamas still use that barn as a spot to go, they have other spots around the farm, but this one is one place I would like to see they stop using. Any ideas as to how to stop it would be very helpful. We have put a gate up and left it that way for months, then clean it out really well, then open it back up and they still use it for pooping in.

I am afraid that we don’t have a solution to this. We have kept them out of a stall for months, hosed out stalls, put lime on the ground, use stall deodorizers, cleaned it as much as possible and twenty minutes after the stall is opened they are in there pooping. We have seen them come all the way across the field just to relieve themselves in the barn. They seem to have a tremendous sense of smell and the odor of urine and poop must stay long after an area is cleaned up. The odor seems to be what attracts them to a particular spot.

I used to get really frustrated at this and decided that there was nothing that would stop them, short of moving the barn. To end my frustration, I made a sign that said LLAVATORY with the silhouette of a llama pooping, and stuck it in the barn. That way, they still poop in the barn but at least I don’t worry about it, because I gave them permission. When you think about it though, from the llama’s perspective, it is much better to poop in the barn than it is out on the grass. After all, they want to eat the grass...

Sometimes, before we have a tour coming, I put one of these signs on a stick and poke it into the poop pile. People are always amazed that the llamas can read and “go” by the sign.

For more information see:

Llamas and cats

Q. We have two beloved 15-year-old cats and are hoping they can be introduced along with our two dogs and that all will live in harmony! Any hints or warnings you can offer?

A. Most llamas are just curious about cats and want to sniff them, which may look as if they are chasing the cat, but in actual fact, they are just curious. The occasional llama takes a dislike to a cat and will try to stomp it, but cats are pretty quick and get out of the way.

We have some friends who acquired three llamas about a year ago and timid which probably has a lot to do with it. Our cat is in the barns and pastures constantly and there is no problem. One time he was sitting on a hay feeder watching us deal with a new baby llama and the mother spat at him, which sent him head over tail off of the feeder. The other llamas tolerate him though, but we have a couple that don’t like any small animal going through their territory and will run him off.

I would suggest holding the cat (one at a time) in your arms and introduce them to the llamas over the fence. The llamas will just sniff at the cat and as long as the cat doesn’t hiss or take a swipe at the llama’s nose, the llamas should be satisfied that there is no danger.

The thing you have to remember about llamas is that they are a prey animal and their first instinct is to flee at any sign of danger. It will take them a little time for them to realize that your cats and dogs are not a threat and learn to accept them. It will probably take longer for them to accept your dogs than the cats.

Let the llamas get used to their pasture before introducing the cats and dogs. They have to feel at home, as everything will be new to them and you don’t want to stress them by adding anything that will make them worry of feel uncomfortable. Let them get used to you for three or four days before introducing the dogs into the pasture if possible. You will notice that they will be pretty wary of the dogs, so it is best to let the llamas see them over a fence for a few days first. It is hard to keep cats out of the pasture, but I would anticipate that the cats will be nervous for a while and likely stay away.

Our cat is very friendly and when we have school tours, some of the kids will pack the cat around while they are in the llama pastures, and there has never been a problem at all.

Fred, the cat in the photo on the left, looks a little apprehensive as young Honeysuckle comes to investigate him. Fred just loves to be with the llamas and can usually be found in the pasture. Nothing fazes Barney, the cat on the right and he is just ignoring young Smokey who was visiting us with his mom.

Llamas and freezing weather

Q. I have two llamas, a male and female aproximately six to seven months old. I live in northern Ohio and recently we had a snowstorm of about six inches of snow. When I went to check on the llamas in the barn I found their backs to covered with snow and both were shivering. It was about 27 degrees and the barn has a nice layer of wood shavings and plenty of places to get out of the wind (very slight wind). I guess my question is, if I notice them shivering is this a sign that they are exceptionally cold or just a natural response?. I closed their stall door and kept them in overnight and this morning they seem fine. Am I just being over-protective?

A. In general, llamas don’t like to be in an enclosed space, they prefer to be outside even when it snows.

We often will see a llama covered in snow even when they have a shelter available. (Not that we get as much snow as Ohio, but we do have the odd snow storm in the winter.)

The photo on the right was taken one morning and shows Pizarro covered with snow. He had a protected shelter against the barn on the lower side of the field, but he prefers to be on the high side of the field, no matter what kind of weather.

Their thick coats protect them from the cold and usually their feet are tucked underneath, but Pizarro even has his front feet exposed out in front.

We had a frozen pipe which burst one night. When we discovered it in the morning, Domingo was standing in the shelter eating hay while being sprayed with water. His back and sides were totally covered in ice as you can see in the photo on the right. He was shivering a bit, so we put him and his buddy, who was also coated with ice, into a barn stall.

It took four days for the ice to melt, but they didn’t seem to be in any discomfort.

Your two are still pretty young and don’t have mom to take them inside when it gets really cold. Our youngsters are outside most of the time and at night the temperatures have been around 20 degrees in the past week. At six or seven months they also don’t have a full coat of fibre so they don’t have as much protection as an adult.

If they are shivering, I would definitely put them inside. It is a sign that they are cold. They are still immature and don’t have the sense to seek shelter.

And no, I don’t think you are being overprotective. If I were in your position, I think I would get them used to staying inside at night. If you leave some hay in there so they can eat a little, they should be quite happy and eventually they will accept going into the stall as the normal evening procedure.

It would be good to get them used to it now as it is bound to get much colder during the winter and you don’t want them to get run down and not be able to handle the real cold.

Another thought would be to give them some grain in the evening as that will create more body heat than hay. We have used dairy ration for years and now our local feed mill makes a llama text. Don’t use a pelleted feed though, their stomachs don’t handle it very well. You won’t need to give them very much, a quarter to half a pound would be ample at that age. You didn’t mention what you are feeding them and if you are not feeding them grain, they need to be taught that it is good as they are sometimes very suspicious of anything new.

You can sprinkle a little on their hay so that they start to get a taste for it. It is good to get them looking forward to their grain as eventually you can get them eating it out of your hand and that really can help the training procedures.

One other thing, the wood chips in the barn may be warm but if you have to groom them at some point, it is awful stuff to get out of their fibre. Bedding hay or straw might be preferable

Llamas and distance

Q. How far can a llama travel in one day?

A. The standard answer is twenty miles. It depends though on how much the llama is carrying and what kind of country. If it is flat country with a light pack, twenty miles might be pretty close. It also depends on what shape the llama is in.

Up here we don’t have much flat land and when we are hiking the country is usually pretty mountainous. Climbing mountains with a heavy pack on a hot day changes the equation quite a bit. We recently hiked thirteen kilometers with that situation and both the llamas and ourselves were quite happy to quit.

The other day we hiked about ten kilometers mostly along a flat dike and most of the llamas could have gone further, but one llama who had never been out hiking wasn’t happy about even that and the owner took him back after going three or four kilometers.

Spitting llama

Q. We have a ten-month-old male llama who has just started spitting. He has quite the personality, but when he doesn’t get his way he has started spitting. How can I break him from that?

A. You haven’t told me whether he is spitting at you or at other llamas. If he is spitting at other llamas, he is just trying to establish some dominance in the herd which perfectly normal.

I have a suspicion that he is a lone llama and spitting at you so in that case, it is an unacceptable behaviour and a precursor to even worse behaviour.

Llamas do not like to spit, it tastes awful and after serious spitting (cud, not jsut grain) they have to air out their mouth for a long time. They spit for a reason only, which is usually to settle an argument about food or pecking order.

There is no reason to get in a spitting match with him, you cannot win. I know, I have tried it. There are a few things you can try though, one is to carry a water pistol and give him a shot of water in the face every time he spits.

If you get to know a little about their body language you can read their ear positions and before they spit they usually give you a warning with their ears that they are not happy. (We have a page on body language that you might find interesting.)

Eye contact will often be read as aggression to a llama so avoid getting into a staring match with him.

If he is challenging you, extend your arm and hold your fist high up in the air in front of him. They often back away as this seems to be a warning to them (someone is bigger than me).

Don’t let him get pushy, you have to let him know that you are in charge. Otherwise he is going to think he is in charge and a couple of years from now you will have your hands full.

We had a female that we were boarding out in the States. She was the sweetest llama you could ever find. For some reason, she hated the husband and he did not like her. He called her the spit witch. She would spit at him whenever he was near. One time I was there and she was shedding so I decided to brush her. She started spitting. Smelly, juicy. green spit. I stuck a rag in her halter so that it hung over her mouth. She spat for a solid hour while I brushed her and talked to her nicely. She smelled pretty badly when I had finished but I kept talking to her and then took the halter off and let her back in with the others. I think it helped as she found that it didn’t do any good to spit at me.

Since then we have brought her up to our farm here and I don’t she has ever spit at anyone. That is until we sheared her last year. She didn’t like that all and we have a short video of her spitting.

When they spit they expect a reaction and if they don’t get it, there is no point in spitting.

I suspect your boy is testing you, just be firm and try not to react, at least don’t let him think that he is getting to you with that behaviour.

Touching young llamas

Q. Our two young male llamas seem really afraid of us and everything around us. We have had them for four weeks, they are six or seven months old. We have them eating out of our hands but everytime I raise my hand to “pet” or “cuddle” either one of them, they pull back from us. Not allowing us to touch them. Is there any quick way to get them used to us?

A. There is no quick way. You have to remember that they are still pretty young and everything is still pretty new to them.

It takes a long time for them to learn to trust you. You have to very patient and not rush things. They are not like a cat or dog that wants to be petted, they are much more independent and don’t really want to be touched. The area around their eyes and ears are particularly sensitive to being touched at first, and you can’t really blame them. Try rubbing them down on the neck and chest, they don’t seem to mind that too much, but don’t overdo it each time. One thing that you don’t want to is to “cuddle” llamas, particularly young males. I know they are beautiful and cuddly, but please don’t put your arms around them too much. You can always do this later after they have matured a little more.

One way of getting them used to touching them is to reward them for letting you touch them. If you have them in a pen (one at a time will be easier) try putting your hand on his back. His reaction will be to move away and walk around the perimeter of the pen. Stay with him, keeping you hand lightly on his back. When he stops, usually after a few turns around the pen, remove your hand and walk away. This is his reward, when he stops you move away. After a short while walk up to him and go through the process again. He will probably not go around the pen as many times now. He will learn very quickly that if he does what you ask, you will reward him by taking your hand off.

Praise him when he does what you want also. Don’t make the sessions too long at first, they are still youngsters and don’t have a long attention span.

Eventually you will be able to rub your hand down their sides and down their legs, and after a while you will be able to lift their feet. It takes time and patience, but is well worth it.

The same idea will work when teaching them to lead on a rope (assuming that they have not been trained much at this yet). You put a little pressure on the rope and eventually when they take a step forward you release the pressure on the rope. Again this is the reward. They soon learn that when they step forward, the pressure lessens on the rope. It takes time and a lot of patience. It took me thirty-five minutes to get a male into the trailer once. He had never been in the trailer before, but once he had been in once it was easy to load him after that. The key to it is lots of patience, no pulling or dragging or shoving. It is the llama’s idea to take each step and he gets rewarded each time he makes the right decision.

Hopefully these few ideas will make it easier for you to train your boys and when they are trained you will enjoy them even more than you are now. One good thing that you have going for you is that they will eat out of your hand so that shows that they trust you now so as long as you don’t push them too hard they will keep that trust.

Llama kisses

Q. A young llama recently arrived at the farm where we have our horses. When we approach her, she runs over and presses her nose against ours, which is quite endearing, but I have never seen a llama do this before. (There have been a few other adult llamas at the barn in the past). Is this a greeting?

A. It is just a friendly greeting. Some of ours will always sniff people’s faces when they enter the field. They also like to sniff your hair. We have one that will always sniff a man’s beard. We call it a “llama kiss” and consider ourselves lucky to be greeted this way.

In the photo on the right, our daughter-in-law is getting a kiss from her favourite llama, Canadian Ambassador.

Llama terminology

Q. What do you call a female and a male llama?

A. There really isn’t a proper name for them except for the babies who are called “crias” which is the Spanish name for llama babies.

The females are usually called dams. Around here they are just called the girls.

I don’t know if there is a specific name for the males, we just call them males or geldings. The breeding males are known as studs, but we usually refer to them as the boys.

If anyone reading this has a proper term for them, please let us know and we will add it to the page.

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Index to the Question and Answer Pages

Page One Page Two Page Three
Are there different kinds of llamas? What are their feet like? Can you eat them?
Where do llamas come from? Do they spit? What is their temperament?
Are they expensive? Could I have one as a pet? Are they good with children?
What do llamas eat? What can you do with them? What kind of fencing do they need?
What kind of shelter do they need? Can you ride them? How do you transport them?
What kind of sounds do they make? Are they hard to train? When do they have their babies?
How big do they get? Are there any unpleasant odors? Do llamas need help when birthing?
Do they bite? What are their natural enemies? What do llama crias look like?
Do llamas lose their baby teeth? What do you call a baby llama? How much should my cria weigh?

Page Four Page Five Page Six
Cria questions, nursing, cria coats How do you shear llamas? Breeding questions
Is baby “poop”yellow? How long do llamas live? Eating bark
Llama feeding and treats Can llamas be used for therapy? Scientific classification
Behaviour questions How do I earn my llama’s trust? Birthing and dog questions
Llama gaits Handling young llamas Training commands
Llamas with horses, halters, gelding Will they eat out of my hand? How much space do they need?
How do I trim toenails? Why is my llama standoffish? Barbed wire and electric fences
Black colour Should we groom our youngsters? What is their spit like?
Can I have intact males together? What about leading youngsters around? Llama “poop”
Deadly nightshade Problem with choking Llamas and deep snow

Page Seven Page Eight Page Nine
Shedding wool Children’s llama books Llamas as sheep guards
Can llamas eat apples? Where can I find llama songs for children? Grooming brushes
Fighting with other animals Can llamas be fed alfalfa? How much can they carry?
Protecting other llamas Llamas and goats Do llamas swim?
Skittish llama and haltering Llama and new horse What colour are llamas?
Mouth abscess Llamas and coyotes What colour is llama milk?
Why is my llama afraid of me? Do llamas get ticks? Are there shows about llamas?
Intact males with other llamas Do llamas get fleas? Do they tolerate new dogs?
Can I have a cria with an intact male? Getting a llama to kush What is the best age to buy a llama?

Page Ten (Present Page) Page Eleven Page Twelve
Can they eat corn? Llamas vs alpacas How is “llama” pronounced?
Pooping in the barn Blue-eyed llamas When do you wean babies?
Llamas and cats How fast can a llama run? How tall do they get?
Llamas and freezing weather How do you estimate their age? What does clucking mean?
How far can they go? Llamas crossed with emus??? Llamas and heavy loads
Spitting llama Llamas eating pine trees Halter fitting
Touching young llamas Males and females together? Do llamas guard poultry?
Llama kisses How do you clean llama wool? What do you call a group of llamas?
What do you call a female llama? Will llamas eat blackberries? Llama anatomy

Page Thirteen Page Fourteen Page Fifteen
How are llamas identified? Cooling off llamas Breeding related llamas
Picketing llamas at night while hiking Breeding for spring or fall birthing Attacking a haltered llama
Will llamas avoid poisonous plants? Female won’t spit at the male Llamas eating fences
Moving a pregnant llama Stopping spitting behaviour Spotting a sick llama
I can’t get near my new cria How did the llama get its name? Feeding a greedy llama
My baby llama cries Telling genders apart My llama attacked me
Can I put the male with new baby? Washing a llama
Can males share a pasture with females? Poisoning treatment
Are people allergic to llamas? Fun questions we have received

Who made these pages?

Mount Lehman Llamas Farm Page