Llama Question and Answer Page heading Ambassador drawing

This page has discusses breeding related llamas, llama attacking a haltered llama
cribbing fences, spotting a sick llama, greedy llamas and more.

(New on December 30, 2002)

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Breeding related llamas

Q. I realize that you aren’t supposed to breed related llamas, but how far back in their lines does it have to be to not matter. Two llamas that I have and want to breed have the same llama on their registration form, but it is in the third line back. The llama that relates the two is the great grand sire, is that a problem?

A. You should be OK. The recognized limit is a common great grandparent and grandparent which is a 1/64th relationship. The same great grandparents is 1/128th relationship. Common grandparents would be a 1/32nd relationship. You do want to make sure that they both have the traits that you want to intensify, but be aware that you might also amplify any negative traits. This information comes from an article by Hank Kauffman in an edition of the ORVLA Newsletter.

I would investigate the results that other breeders have had with that line to ensure that there are no genetic defects that may be there but not talked about too much.

Llama One Llama Two Relationship
Common Parent Common Parent 1/8
Common Grandparent Common Parent 1/16
Common Grandparent Common Grandparent 1/32
Common Great Grandparent Common Grandparent 1/64
Common Great Grandparent Common Great Grandparent 1/128

In-breeding occurs anytime related animals are bred to each other.

Line-breeding is the deliberate in-breeding of animals emphasising a particular ancestor to amplify the traits of that ancestor.

To successfully line breed, three things are necessary:

  1. You must have faith in the genetic merits of the ancestor you are attempting to amplify.

  2. That these specific genetic merits are what the industry, and you the breeder, want to amplify.

  3. You don’t currently have those same qualities in your existing animals.

Basically line breeding is a trade-off, you may end up with the desirable traits you attempted to accomplish but create other serious effects.

Attacking a haltered llama

Q. I recently bought a female llama who is really sweet and lovable, but a couple of days ago something strange happened. I had the nice llama, Calamity Jane, out on the lead rope just brushing out her wool and talking to her, when another llama I had, Nutmeg, came up to me threatening to spit. Thinking nothing of it, I calmly walked to Calamity Jane’s other side and continued brushing her. Nutmeg countered me and spat. I wasn’t really that upset, so I started to let Calamity Jane off the rope because Nutmeg was making it hard to brush her anyway, and Nutmeg went berserk! She jumped up on Calamity Jane and started acting like she was breeding her. I finally got the rope off and Calamity Jane started walking away, but Nutmeg followed her. And I swear she was orgling. What is going on with my llamas?

A. Females sometimes get confused and try to breed another female. It is not really unusual.

As far as attacking the other llama, I would suspect that they haven’t really decided who the dominant one is yet. We usually have this problem with young males. When you return one to his field on a lead rope, the others realize that he can’t get away and that’s the time to nail him. They will usually take a run at the haltered one and rear up and hit him on his side with their chest.

The solution is to take the one with the halter on into a separate area, either an adjoining area, a pen, or a shelter that the aggressive one can’t get into. Take the halter off in there before putting them back together.

Llamas eating fences

Q. The other day I saw my llamas reaching over the fence eating. I thought they were eating bark and ignored it. About two days later, I went out and discovered that they had been nibbling on the fence. I’ve heard of horses doing this, so I wasn’t too worried. However, later I noticed that they had started to eat the paint off the fence and the barn. How do I stop them from eating paint and wood?! Do you think my llamas will get sick from eating the paint? It’s driving me crazy and if it doesn’t make them sick, they’re still defacing the barn. Have your llamas ever eaten paint?

Chewed fence by chicken pen

A. They will eat wood, especially if it is older and soft. Our fences get chewed in places usually when the boards are getting old and a bit soft. They have eaten holes in the barns on occasions, they seem to have a preference for cedar siding and old plywood. It seems to be in the winter that they want to chew wood and bark. In the spring, when the sap is running, we have noticed that all of sudden there will be a little bark missing on a tree. If it is not stopped, a couple of days later the bark will be totally stripped wherever they can reach. When we see it, we start putting out more minerals as we have a suspicion that something is lacking in their diet.

Chewed plywood on llama shelter

As far as the paint, I wouldn’t think that they could have eaten enough to bother them, a layer of paint is pretty thin. I know we have never had a problem from them chewing on painted surfaces. We have latex paint on the barn and stain on the fences and they don’t seem to be toxic. The new paints are not like the older lead-based paints which were really dangerous and it is extremely unlikely that your barn is covered with one of these unless it is about fifty or sixty years old and has never been repainted.

The two boys who share this field have started chewing the plywood on the corner of their shelter as shown in the photo on the right. It is surprising how much they can strip off.

As for stopping it, the simple solution is to use llama poop. If it is warm enough you can mix some llama dung and water and spray or brush it where they have been eating. When I see that bark is freshly missing on our trees, I put on rubber gloves and rub the llama droppings on the bark. That stops them instantly. They don’t eat the grass for a long way around a poop pile so this is a natural repellent for them.

For more information see:

Spotting a sick llama

Q. How do they sleep? I know they kush, but do they lay their necks out? I’ve heard if they do that they are ill. How would I know if one was sick?

They also won’t come out of the barn. I know they don’t like extreme weather, but it stopped snowing late last night.

Llama print in snow

A. The llamas sleep pretty lightly and it seems to been in all sorts of positions. If it is cold they will remain kushed with their feet tucked underneath whereas if it is warm they will stretch out on their sides, often with their belly to the sun. Often they will kush with their neck stretched out, and sometimes will have their front feet straight out ahead of them. The photo on the right shows where a llama spent the night while two inches of snow fell. There is no mark to indicate that the neck was lowered while she was sleeping.

If you see a really sick llama it will often stand in a hunched over position, looking very miserable and uncomfortable. They may or may not kush with their head straight out, it depends upon what is wrong and if there is pain in certain positions. Often it is difficult to tell that a llama is sick as they are very stoic and sometimes give you no indication at all that something is wrong. We give all or our llamas a little grain every day, even during the summer. Many people do not do this, but the reason we do is very simple. If a llama does not come for its grain, something is wrong. It may not be sick, but there will be a reason. Maybe one will have its head stuck through a fence. This has happened to ours and one girl had to be moved to a pasture with no page-wire fences after the second time I had to cut her out.

Basically it is a matter of knowing your animals and their mannerisms and habits. If one is acting differently than it usually does, take an extra look. As long as they are urinating and defecating normally, eating and drinking normally, and chewing their cud, they are usually just fine. Any observed deviation from these is a reason to start watching them closely. One is straining over the poop pile for a long time is an indication that something is wrong.

I like to keep treats in my pocket and if one who usually does, doesn’t come for a treat, I start checking closely.

As far as extreme weather, it depends on your definition of extreme. If your llamas are staying inside, you can’t really blame them if it cold and the snow is deep. On the odd occasion when the snow has been deep here, we have had to clear paths for them before they would venture out. It is usually pretty mild out here on the west coast so even when it snows it is not really all that cold. Our llamas often will stay out in the snow. Often there will be a dark oval on the ground where one has spent the night during a snowstorm. They all have shelters that they can go in but only when it is extremely miserable will they use them. It has to be really cold or a real downpour first. This afternoon it was really windy and the wind seems to get them excited., the girls in the main field were nearly all running around at full speed. We have often noticed this happening when it is windy.

Feeding a greedy llama

Q. I have one llama that is a pure glutton. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for keeping her away from the others’ food. I mix their grain, cracked corn, oats, etc., then I let them in to eat. Right away, they all take off for their own containers, but the glutton finishes first. Then, she runs to all the other feeders and takes what she wants. It’s not like they’ll starve, I have free-choice hay out for them now that six inches of snow are covering the pasture! They just sound so pitiful when they don’t get their grain. It’s heart-wrenching!

A. About the only thing you can do with a glutton is feed her in a separate stall and only let her our when the others are finished. In any herd there will always be some like that. The good thing is that they will be the first to race into a stall to be fed and then you can shut the door and feed the others. If you don’t do something like this, you will have an overweight llama which is not healthy. They can have problems with birthing for one thing.

You are lucky that she hasn’t found the trick that one of ours used to do. It would run from feeder to feeder and spit lightly into each one. The others wouldn’t touch the grain that had been spat on and the glutton would just wander around and finish up all the feed.

We have about three that run around and try to grab all the feed and the three of them are the first to rush into a stall at feeding time. We put our their ration and shut the door. This allows the others enjoy their grain more leisurely. The other three can all argue about the three feeders in the stall and nobody else really cares. The only downside is that some of the paintings in the barn get spat on during this.

It is pretty natural for the first ones finished to check out the other feeders once they are done and some of the ones lower down in the pecking order can get moved off of their grain so we usually have a couple more feeders than llamas in a field..

My llama attacked me

Q. We have a three-year-old male intact llama that is very aggressive. He has attacked me twice — once when he was the only llama here, he ran me over when I was walking away from him. The next time was after we had gotten a three-year-old female to keep him company (pregnant when we purchased her). They don’t seem to get along and are always spitting at each other. One day when I was carrying a water bucket in the corral he rammed me up against the gate and kept pushing me hard until I hit him and made him stop. He also spits at us frequently — we keep hearing about how gentle and friendly llamas are and I am afraid to go near him.

A. This sounds like a very serious problem as it signals very unacceptable and dangerous behaviour problems. This type of problem is normally caused by the owners when he is a small baby. What happens is that he is made a fuss of, cuddled, most likely bottle-fed, and consequently confuses humans and llamas. In effect, he doesn’t really know if he is a llama or a human.

A typical llama such a this will start to get pushy with humans, just as he would with other llamas. When he gets sexually mature, say two to three years of age, then you will have a real problem especially if there are female llamas around. The normal male llama behaviour is to fight other males to establish dominance over the females. If he sees you as competition for the female, he is likely to attack you.

We had exactly the same situation with one of our males. He got spoiled as a youngster in a small petting zoo. He was fine on a halter, but in the field he was dangerous. We kept him in a pasture with a higher fence than the other fields. We did use him for breeding as it was not a genetic problem, it was a learned behaviour. We thought of gelding him, but our vet suggested that we didn’t, as he thought rightly that we would then have a gelding that we couldn’t trust. Eventually, after seven years, I had to shoot him. (The llama not the vet.)

The spitting between your two is probably caused by the aggressive, and most likely inexperienced, male deciding that he should breed the female. She will naturally spit at him to let him know that she is pregnant and definitely not interested. An inexperienced male doesn’t understand a simple “no”.

Obviously you don’t want to turn your back on this llama, a male that age can really injure you. When ours suddenly attacked me in the corner of the shelter, I luckily remembered something our vet had mentioned. After whacking him in the face, I threw myself across his back and reached down and grabbed his testicles. That totally surprised him, he screamed and backed off and I went over the fence. When male llamas fight each other they go for the rear end as their fighting teeth are designed to try and castrate the other guy.

Jim Krowka and Gwen Ingram have a llama farm in Oregon called Lost Creek Llamas and they specialize in working with this type of problem. Read their section on “Misdirected Territorial Aggression” and also the section on “Handling Young Llamas”.

I am afraid that your boy is not trustworthy at all and that the problem will only get worse, especially after your female has her cria. The male will want to re-breed her right away and is likely to get even more aggressive about his territory.

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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 Page Fifteen (Present Page)
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