Llama Question and Answer Page heading Ambassador drawing

This page discusses cooling off llamas, spitting problems,
washing llamas, poisoning treatment, gender differences, and more.
(New December 16, 2002)

List of questions:

  Find the answer!

Cooling off llamas

Q. My llamas are hot in the summer so I read some where that they like water. Can I put a sprinkler in their pen to cool them down. I told you about the baby we had and I still cannot touch and I did what you said. He comes up to me and smells me then runs away? I have seen him chew on some hay that I give his mom. Is that normal? He is only 35 days old.

A. You can put a sprinkler out for them but don’t have it on too high. It should only spray up a little so they don’t get totally soaked. They like to get their neck wool cooled off and some of them like to stand right over it so that their bellies get cooled off. Don’t get their backs wet though, it takes too long for them to dry off and they can get too chilled overnight.

Some farms will put out a child’s wading pool for the llamas to stand in to cool off. Another idea is a sandbox with dampened sand where they can lie on the cool sand. A fan in the barn is another good idea, some of them will lie right in front of it.

The baby sounds pretty normal, he should start to chew on hay and grass by now and in another few weeks he might even start eating a little grain. You don’t want a little male llama to get too friendly so the way he is acting is perfect. He will learn to trust you eventually, but a lot of it depends on the mom. We have one mom who tells her crias to stay away from those two-legged creatures and it is about two weeks before she will even trust us to touch them. It is not as if she doesn’t trust us, she has been on the farm for about fifteen years. The moms that have been born on the farm though usually trust us and their crias learn very quickly to trust us.

Breeding for birthing in the best time of year

Q. I have had llamas for a year now and I love every minute of it! We had four babies this year. The females were bred before we got them. I have a male and thought I would do my breeding the middle of October so I would get babies end of September and that would be a good time for me.

A. Been there. Done that. Fifteen years or so ago, we decided that we should have all the crias around the end of May. That was long before we figured out the cycle system. We had five different males breeding females in five different fields all at the same time. We ended up having crias spread out for the entire year! Theoretically it should work.

Same letter I was told and have read that you take a female to the male and she will kush and the male will breed her any time. Well for two weeks we have been in and out and every combination you can imagine. I just don’t think they like him.

Reply That was the problem that we had. They are induced ovulators so that is the reason breeders tell you that you can breed them any time. We tried breeding them when we were home on weekends and the weather was nice. Looking back on it now, it is no wonder it didn’t work.

Same letter I have the girls trying to breed each other. I was told that this means they are ready. Well I let him in with the girls and he ended up fighting the one girl. She did not want him near her. Why? I just can’t figure it out.

Reply The females do get confused and sometimes will try breeding another female. You would think that it would be a sign that they are ready. When you think about it though, it may be the one doing the breeding that is ready, not the one lying down. As far as the male fighting with a female, that happens occasionally. Sometimes they just don’t like each other. (They are a lot like people in some ways.) We had some females in a quarantine facility in Washington State a few years ago and put a female in with one of their males. We had run a chart for her so knew exactly when she was cycling. He tried to kill her. We tried again the next day and again they had a big screaming fight. The result was that we put her in with another male and she lay down immediately and he successfully bred her.

Same letter Well I printed the chart from your web site and if correct this is not a good time for them at all. So I will try using your information which will be later in the year than I would have liked but this is an important aspect of the world of llamas and I am getting them to distrust me as I keep putting him in with them, hoping to catch them on a good day.

Reply Putting them in on the right day is so much easier. It is no wonder that they get upset as there is no way they want to be bred at the incorrect time. We have to learn to listen to them. We did some stupid things in the early days, just because we didn’t understand what they were trying to tell us.

Same letter I am not sure how to deal with a maiden? She will be two in March. I was misreading the snorting and clucking as I am available. Now I understand why he was spitting at the girls who did that. What does the tail wagging mean? Not available?

Reply Clucking and snorting are both signs of aggression. They are saying “Stay away”. Tail wagging is a mild form of annoyance. I have tried everything I could think of to figure out when to breed maidens and nothing has worked. You just have to watch them and if they are lying down next to the male’s fence and he is orgling on the other side, that is the time to put her in. I even tried making a twelve-day calendar where I marked the times they were hanging around the male to see if I could see any sign of a cycle. It was a great idea but it didn’t prove anything.

Female won’t spit at the male

Q. I’m just getting into purchasing llamas and I have six picked out. Anyway, all is well with five. The sixth one is a female and I was going to buy her already bred. But, when she was first put in with a male, she didn’t know what to do and would not sit. So, her current owners put her in for the night then let her back in with the females the next day. A couple of days later, they repeated the process only she seemed willing to go visit. After they took her out again then tried to put her in about three days later, she threw her ears back when the male approached, but she did not spit. The llama I’m referring to has a very sweet disposition and has never spit at any llama or human as long as these people have owned her. So is it possible she’s bred and simply won’t spit? The people also told me that there is a chance she was bred during the night. There is no commitment on my part, I can pick another llama, I just liked this one and wanted some advice.

A. Field testing, or walking a female llama past the male is sometimes accurate but with a maiden who is not sure how to react, you cannot be certain. Some of the young girls have no idea that they should lie down for breeding and take the male chasing them as aggression and will run. Then, the next time they are put in with the male, they are tense and worried. This certainly isn’t going to optimize her chances of getting pregnant. There are some female llamas who have such great gentle personalities that they just don’t spit.

There is a possibility that she was bred during the night but again, you can’t tell for sure. The only sure way is to do a progesterone test which can be done any time past twenty-one days after the breeding. If the owners really want to sell her, this certainly is not too much to ask of them.

Llamas sell themselves and you obviously have an affinity for this one and it sounds as if you probably would prefer her rather than another one.

Stopping spitting behaviour

Q. We have a young male llama who has just started spitting. He has quite the personality, but when he doesn’t get his way he has started spitting. He is ten months old and 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 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 at my cousin’s. She was the sweetest llama you could ever find. For some reason, she hated my cousin’s 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 and 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 quietly 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.

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.

How did the llama get its name?

Q. I have been telling visitors that Llamas got there name from an Englishman who asked a native in Peru what the name of the animal was. The native came back with, “Name?”, trying to clarify the question. Of course he used the Spanish word, llama, which means name. The Englishman went away happy that he learned the name of the animal was llama.

I don’t remember where I read this story, but it is supposedly true. However, now I am perplexed. What do the natives in Peru call these animals? Certainly not llamas, do they?

A. I have heard the story, but I kind of suspect that it is one of those “urban legends” that become fact. In Peru and Chile, they do call them llamas but it is pronounced “yama”.

Different letter, same subject Anyway, it appears that the Spanish call the llama by a completely different name, and knowing that “llama” means “name” in Spanish (as in “Como se llama”), I was wondering whether the origin of its English name has anything in common with the origin of the kangaroo’s English name, which actually means “I don’t understand” in one of the Aboriginal tongues. Is it possible that one of the first Anglo explorers to catch sight of a llama asked a native what it was called and that the native (knowing some Spanish already) replied, “Llama?” and the name stuck (as with the kangaroo). Just a theory, that’s all!

Reply That’s as good a theory as any, maybe we should declare it a fact.

Telling genders apart

Q. How does one determine the gender of a cria?

A. When people ask me this at a show, I simply tell them that the females have pink halters and the males have blue halters.

The easiest way when checking a newborn, is to look at the back end. If there are two holes, it is a female. One hole means it is a male.

Washing a llama

Q. How would you go about washing or bathing your llama. Should they be bathed? Do you use any particular techniques?

A. It is not absolutely necessary for you to bathe a llama. Washing a llama is optional. Generally we only wash a llama before a show or if it has a particularly nice fleece and I am going to shear it.

We wait for a warm (not hot) day with sunshine if we are going to do it. We use a mild shampoo (your personal shampoo is fine or you can buy shampoos for animals at your local feed store). Tie the llama to a fence or have in a contained area. I wet the llama down with the hose (if you can hook it up to a tap where you can make it slightly warm it is better). I mix up some shampoo in a small bucket and pour it over the llama a little at a time and rub it in. Then rinse well with the hose. You can use conditioner and rinse it off if you wish. Towel the animal dry as well as you can and leave it in the sunshine to dry. Do this in the morning so there is time for the animal to dry before evening. You can use a grooming blower which has a bit of heat in it if you have one available.

Poisoning treatment

Q. Is there a home remedy that we can use if one of our llamas eats some poisonous plants?

A. This was passed on by a friend who found it in a goat packing magazine. We haven’t had to try it, but I would imagine that it would be fine for llamas.

Rhododendron poisoning

In one pint jar mix:

1/4 cup molasses
2 - 3 TB. Epsom's salts
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
enough warm water to fill jar

Give orally as soon as possible after the plant has been eaten. Call your vet as soon as possible.

Here is another recipe from the same source that we havn’t tried but which might be useful:

Goat Gatorade (or llama)

1 cup sugar
2 - 4 capsules of ground human calcium-magnesium pills
(of 4 - 600 mg. of calcium and 2-400 mg. of magnesium in strength)
1 - 2 tsp. potassium salt (sold as “10” or lite salt)
1 - 2 tsp. regular table salt
1 - 2 tsp. regular baking soda

Mix thoroughly, store in airtight container. Reconstitute at 1 tsp. per 1/2 cup of warm or cool water as available. Give as drench. Repeat every 15 to 30 min. Probably not more than 1/4 cup concentrate in one hour. Offer plain water in between. Goat packers use this as an energy boost for animals severly lagging on trail due to exhaustion. It has been used to head off “milk fever” in orphaned lambs.

Fun questions we have received

Question   My donkey and my llama just got in a fight. Should I just let them fight or go stop them?

Reply   They have probably stopped by now.

Question   How much is it to rent a llama for a ride up and back?

Reply   How far is up?

Question   Did you know that you have a strange Face on Mars picture on your site? Could you please tell me why it’s there?

Reply   It is there just for fun, hopefully to get a smile out of people. There are a whole set of “strange” llama sightings linked from that page. A lot of our pages are serious with information on llamas but that series of pages is strictly for entertainment.

Question   I suppose you feed the miniature llamas green cheese imported from the moon.

Reply   Actually we feed them Mars Bars.

Question   I have to do a research paper for school, and this year I’m doing it on genetic crosses. When my mom showed me the cross between llamas and emus, it was like the answer to my prayer. Not many people that I know have heard of them, and I thought it would be really interesting to do it on that.

Reply   Oops.

Question   I have never seen a llama emu cross, didn’t know they existed until I found your site. Do you have any babies available? if not when? Can’t wait to get one of those little things.

Reply   Oops again.

Question   I have a question. Are these llemus real? ’Cause I don’t believe you.

Reply   Don’t believe anything you see on that section of our site. All the pictures are done with PhotoShop. I try to make them as ridiculous as possible but still some people think that they are real.

Question   I LOVED the picture and have passed it around to a few friends! Is that a real picture??? I wouldn’t think a zebra and a llama could produce an offspring. Is this a boy or a girl? What did you name it? Is it still with you? how old is it now and do you a more recent pic? I’m sorry for all the questions, I just really enjoyed the pic!

Reply   I had to do some gentle explaining on that one. And no, we don’t have any more recent pictures.

Question   I enjoy the company of animals but never RADIOACTIVE LLAMAS!!!!! What am I missing out on?

Reply   Think of the advantages, you always know where they are when they glow in the dark!

Question   What I want to know is why are there babies of children, when the thing says pictures of baby llamas?

Reply   Babies of children? The pictures of children are there as a surprise. They are our new grandchildren and it was just a fun way to announce them.

Question   A llama llover and owner myself, I learned a few things and truly enjoyed your art gallery! I believe I saw one of your paintings at the Prado . . . obviously they have a FAKE!

Reply   We shall have to up the security in the gallery!

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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 Page Fourteen (Present Page) 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