Llama Question and Answer Page heading Ambassador drawing

This page discusses identification, moving pregnant llamas,
cria problems, allergies, and more.
(Updated December 15, 2002)

List of questions:

  Find the answer!

How are llamas identified?

There are various methods in use, a couple of visible ones are shown below. To identify a llama or alpaca for registration, blood samples or DNA samples are sent in so that the backgrounds can be verified.

alpaca with ear tassels llama with ear tassels

The Chilean alpaca and llama on the left have colourful tassels which is how their owners identify them in South America where the herds all graze together on the high plains. Notice the coloured thread on the side of the alpaca. The llama also has one on its neck.

llama with ear tag

The llama in this photo is a Canadian who has a metal ear tag which is used as identification so that he could be exported from our farm to the United States. An alternative method of identification would be to use a microchip which would be implanted near the tail. In this case there would have to be a compatible reader at the border.

Tattoos in the right ear are another way of identifying llamas or alpacas. In this case his tattoo number is MLL 9H. The “MLL” is our farm identifier, the “H” indicates the year 1998, and the “9” indicates that he was the ninth cria born that year.

You have to admit that the South American way is much more attractive and a herd there is very interesting as each family uses their own colour combination for their animals. Their sheep will also be marked with coloured threads on the side but won&’t have ear tassels.

Picketing llamas at night while hiking

Q. What do you do with the llamas at night on hiking trips? Do you picket them out? Do you have any problems or worries about picketing them?

A. It depends on the area. If there are lots of trees we will put a high line between the trees and clip the lead ropes to that. If there are no trees will will put a line along the ground but there is more danger of them getting tangled. We practice putting the llamas on lines like this before we go out, so that they learn to avoid getting the leads around their legs. It takes a while and is sometimes scary both for them and us while they are learning this.

We have used screw pickets around the farm but they are fairly bulky to pack add too much weight. The llamas can occasionally get their leads wrapped around these though. Sometimes we are lucky enough to find camping places where there are old corrals that can be used which makes it really easy.

Will llamas avoid poisonous plants?

Q. I’m especially concerned about poisonous plants so I’ve spent quite a bit of time browsing your page on plants that may be dangerous to llamas. I’ve noticed bracken fern and scotch broom near my pastures and we are working frantically to remove all of it. I have had other llama owners assure me that llamas will avoid anything that’s not good for them, but I would never take the chance even if I believed it.

A. They love bracken fern and you will probably never get rid of it all. They can eat some, but it is one of those things that builds up and a continuous diet is not good for them. A little bit is nothing to worry about. I have noticed that the bracken fern seems to flourish where there is rotton wood buried below it.

They will not avoid anything that is not good for them. They have no way of knowing and many of the plants that will kill them here are not native to South America so there is no genetic type knowledge either. The really bad ones are rhododendrons and azaleas, we avoid anything with a hard leaf.

We still have a few copies of the poisonous plant booklets available and are happy to mail them out. All we ask is that you send a couple of dollars to cover the postage.

Moving a pregnant llama

Q. My husband and I just bought a pregnant llama. The former owners thought that she was not as far along as she really is, so we waited a while before we had her delivered. She arrived yesterday, and according to a book that we have, she only has about a week left. Her teats are quite enlarged, and the area around the vulva is relaxed and bulging. My husband thinks that we should not try to handle her very much so that we don’t stress her, but if she doesn’t get to know us, will she let us near her and the cria?

A. You certainly don’t want to stress her at this point, in fact moving her at this stage is very stressful and could accelerate the birthing process. You shouldn’t have to handle her but try feeding her out of a bucket while you are holding it. She can use a little extra grain right now anyway. If you are gentle around her, hopefully she will learn to trust you. A lot depends on how she has been treated previously.

When the baby is born, the females are usually in a bit of a daze for a short while and she will likely allow you to deal with the baby’s umbilical cord etc. but you don’t want to handle the baby too much as she may get stressed about that. Some of them get very protective, which when you think about it, is a good thing.

Often when they are lying down, the area around the vulva is very open and red and you would swear she was going to deliver any time and then when they stand up, it closes up completely. About a month before the birth, some of ours look so uncomfortable and seem as if they are imminent and I think the baby changes position sometimes as they usually settle down and have it around the 350 day mark. That is not written in stone though and it sounds as if you don’t have a fixed date anyway.

Hopefully you have found our birthing page which shows all the steps and what to do and watch for.

Follow-up Q. We also have two other female llamas that have already decided that the new one is boss, but do you think that they will be a problem? Their ages are 16 months and 21 months old.

A. Normally the other females are fascinated by the new cria and will sniff it. They are pretty young yet so the mothering instinct is not set in them, but some of the older ones occasionally get jealous and would like to have the baby for themselves. Yours more than likely will just become favourite aunts.

There is an interesting dynamic in a llama herd, particularly in a larger group of females. The females without babies seem to be lower on the pecking order. Once they have a cria, their status in the herd rises considerably.

I can’t get near my new cria

Q. I just had a cria born a few hours ago and it is completely black. The mother is not very friendly can not get near the cria. Can you give me any information on what to do? We purchased the mother at an exotic sale. I have tried to get near her but no luck. I would really like to tame the cria but I do not know what to do. Are black llamas rare? I have never seen one before.

A. If you have not been able to get near the mother before, there is no way you will get near her right now. She doesn’t trust you yet and won’t let her cria near you either. The best time to check out and weigh the baby is just after it has been born as the mothers are usually in a bit of a daze.

She is going to be extra hungry right now so this is a good time to teach her that she can trust you. Give her some extra grain these days, put some in a bucket and try and get her to eat out of it while you are holding it. It may take some time but it will be worth it. You can gradually gain her trust, but it will be more difficult now that she has had the baby.

Don’t try and make a fuss over the baby. Don’t even let her know that you are interested in it. As long as it is healthy and running around, you shouldn’t even have to do anything with it. She is not going to trust you if you try and grab the baby each time you are around them and you can’t blame her. When the cria is a few weeks old you can try touching it lightly as you pass. It will learn that you aren’t going to hurt it. You don’t want the cria to be overly friendly anyway.

Black llamas are not especially rare but there are not a lot of pure black ones around. Usually they look quite dark when they are born, but by tomorrow it may look a little lighter and often the black turns out to be dark brown. It is only a few hours old right now and it will look completely different tomorrow when it is completely dry and fluffed out. If it is cold in your area, it might be an idea to try and get them both inside overnight as the baby may still be a little damp.

Buying llamas at local auctions and exotic sales can be very risky. Most of the animals are there for a reason and that reason is often behavioural. There is no way of knowing how an animal has been treated before it ended up in an auction or how many places it has been. It is no wonder that they are scared stiff after an experience like that. We recommend purchasing a llama from an experienced breeder who can guarantee that you get a gentle, well-behaved animal.

My baby llama cries

Q. I have a question about baby llamas. I recently bought a six-month-old male llama. He is the first one I have ever owned. I have read many articles that say that I shouldn’t play with him a lot or spoil him. I have him in a small field with a few older sheep and a donkey to keep him company but he doesn’t stay with them. He just stands at the gate and cries. I have been letting him walk around with me around the yard on a halter and lead (he is broke to walk). He occasionally comes in the house, but only for a short time. When we put him back with the sheep he tries to climb over the gate and get back to us. Should I be letting him walk around with us and should I be spending so much time loving him? What will happen?

A. The articles are correct in that you shouldn’t handle a young male too much as it sort of confuses them as to whether they are a human or llama. This usually happens when they are very young and can lead to serious trouble when they are older. It is very cute to have a baby llama follow you around and it is hard to resist cuddling them. The problem arises when they get older and their hormones get going. Their instinct is to fight with other male llamas (sometimes females) to establish dominance and if they confuse you with a llama, you could have a 350 lb llama attacking you. It is perfectly normal for them to protect their territory from other llamas, but you don’t want them defending their territory from you because they suddenly see you as competition.

Most reputable breeders would never sell a young llama unless it had another llama for company. They are a herd animal and are much happier with another of their own species around. Your young guy is lonely and confused. He is way too young to be a sheep guard and doesn’t recognize the other animals as company.

Handling him is fine, but you have to be strict with him so that he knows his limits. I would recommend that you do not cuddle him as he will attach himself to you too much, in fact it sounds as if he already has if he is humming and trying to get over the fence to get back to you. A llama that is worried like this is a prime candidate to get ulcers which can be very painful for him and eventually kill him.

The best thing that you could do for him is to get another young llama to keep him company.

Can I put the male back in with the mom and new baby?

Q. We are recent llama owners and have had a new arrival a couple of days ago. We found your website and have had many of our questions answered. Our main question was when we could put our male back in with this female. We were surprised to learn that she could be bred back so soon. But our remaining question is: will this affect her milk production for her daughter right now? And, if we do breed her back so soon could we leave our male in with her and the baby?

A. In nature, a llama would be bred back two weeks after the birth. This assures that, with an eleven and a half month gestation, the next year’s cria will be born in the early spring so it would have the best chance of surviving. The wild guanacos in Patagonia survive with this strategy.

It will not affect her milk production at all. Once the milk is in, the cria stimulates it constantly by nursing.

It sounds as if you don’t have a whole lot of llamas and would like to keep them together. Again, in nature, that is the way it would be. A male would have his small harem of females and their offspring and spend most of his time guarding them. However, in a domestic situation, it would work fine with one male and a few females, but one problem is that if the female doesn’t catch or slips her pregnancy, the male will re-breed her, most likely without you knowing it. Then when you think the next cria is due, nothing happens. It could be a few months later when a baby arrives.

The other big concern is that the male will at some time decide to breed the daughter. When the young females are about a year old, they start teasing the poor male over the fence constantly. Also they can become pregnant when they are much younger, such as six or seven months which is something you definitely don’t want.

By keeping the male separately, you have a little more control over things. I assume that you have found the re-breeding chart on our site which will show you the best days to put them together. You can also use it to find the days to test them by walking her by his fence to see what the reaction is. If she spits at him on one of the top days of her cycle, you can be pretty sure that she is pregnant. You might want to test her again at about three months to make sure that she hasn’t slipped. That is not really common, but has happened occasionally.

Can male llamas share a pasture with females?

Q. Should male and female llamas be housed together? (six males and three females)

A. No. For one thing, the females will definitely be bred and you would have absolutely no idea who the father was. Also, males tend to fight when there are females around. There has to be a dominant male, and the other five will likely keep challenging him. The screaming and fighting would be more than you would like to tolerate. We keep our whole males separated (and by themselves) by as much distance as we can. They are mostly on the corners of the property. The only males that are together are the youngsters.

Are people allergic to llamas?

Q. I would love to have llamas in the near future, but I’m not sure how allergenic they are. My husband is allergic to most of our pets, and horses are out of the question if he wants to spend any time in the barn with me. Are llamas known to be allergenic, or it that a rare problem with llama/human interface? I figure it’s a good idea to ask someone before I drag him to the state fair and shove his face into some llama wool to test my hypothesis.

A. We have a friend who is allergic to everything and she has never had any problem with the llamas. I would suspect that your husband would not get any reaction from the llamas, other than falling in love with them. You could probably get a sample of wool from one of the local breeders and see if he is affected by it.

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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 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 (Present Page) 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