This article was the 3rd in a series of columns under the heading Observations from the Pasture in the GALA Newsletter. It was originally published in June 2000.
We supplement the hay/pasture/browse our llamas eat with a sweet grain mix. Over the past nine months there have been quality control problems in the production of the supplement. These problems were particularly bad last winter when an excess of molasses caused the bags to become 50-pound bricks. More recently the manufacturer has removed the expiration date from the bags so that it is no longer possible to determine the freshness of the supplement. While pondering these problems it occurred to me that I had not made the effort to communicate my concerns to the producer. I have now corrected this lapse.
If you use grain you might wish to communicate your appreciation or concerns to the producer. In matters such as these I have found that addressing one’s concerns/kudos in a polite but direct manner to the office of the Chief Executive Officer is far more effective than going through customer service. With a little effort on the Internet you can usually track down the name and address of the current CEO.
We do our llamas a disservice when we do not take the time to communicate our appreciation or concern. One letter or e-mail may be ignored but an actively communicating llama community will not be dismissed.
Recently one of our crias was diagnosed as having an ectopic ureter. We will be having this problem surgically corrected. It was recommended, and we concur, that the llama not be bred because the problem might be heritable. Last year we discovered that one of our llamas has an imperforate hymen. Because of our concern about heritability and an increased risk of dystocia we decided that this llama, too, should be a non-breeder.
Editor's Note, April 2010: We acquired the llama with the imperforate hymen from a farm that was closing and the owners wanted to find a good home for their llamas. The llama was given to us. She has a skin condition which we believed was caused by exposure to chemical fertilizer and/or herbicide. Although the skin condition started to ease within a month of arrival on our farm, there have been some long lasting effects including the fact that this llama is now prematurely aging. A second llama from the group was pregnant at the time we received her and she had a stillbirth. She is also now prematurely aging. A third llama from the group was also pregnant and her cria is the one that had the ectopic ureter. We believe that some or all of these problems (other than the imperforate hymen) are related to the suspected exposure to chemical fertilizer and/or herbicide. We do not use such products on our farm and strongly urge that others either not use such products or, if they feel they must use them then to use them only sparingly.
These llamas are permanent residents on our farm because we want to ensure that no attempt be made to breed them. We do not view euthanasia as an option until such time, if ever, that their quality of life has degraded to the point where euthanasia is the humane thing to do. This will, of course, add to our overhead. We view it as part of the cost of doing business. But, we are reminded on an almost daily basis via the Internet of the large number of llamas of unknown heritage that are being acquired at low cost and bred because they are ‘cute’. This results in even more llamas of questionable quality ending up in rescue or on the livestock auction block.
This, too, is a communications issue. We need to educate that portion of the market which consists of potential first time buyers about the value of a registry such as the ILR. We also need to take a look at how we personally deal with conditions that might be heritable. I know that some will disagree with our decision on the llama with an imperforate hymen. I would welcome an open discussion on the matter.