This article was the 11th in a series of columns under the heading Observations from the Pasture in the GALA Newsletter. It was originally published in October 2001.
It is Labor Day Weekend as I write this and summer will soon give way to fall. We have just opened a new pasture which doubles the space available for our female herd. We left a number of trees standing in this new pasture which not only provides the llamas shade and shelter, but also affords the opportunity for them to browse. The pasture also has a large sandy area in which the llamas can roll. Needless to say they have quickly made themselves at home in the new pasture and it is a joy to watch them frolic and relax amongst the trees.
Editor's Note, April 2010: Llama's are browsers by nature and prefer to browse on brush and trees in lieu of grazing on pasture. Browsing is a natural form of parasite control because most parasites are ground dwelling. If you decide to provide browse for your llamas, you should familiarize yourself with plants/brush/trees toxic to llamas.
We have just returned from a three day stay at the Windsor (Maine) Fair. We took three of our young males. We look at these events as opportunities to share our love and knowledge of llamas.
We encountered the usual questions and comments about llamas spitting. The questions do not bother me nearly as much as the loud comments by passersby, usually uttered by young ‘macho’ males for the benefit of any young females in the vicinity. Since they do not even bother to stop and look at the llamas, there is no opportunity to engage them in any meaningful dialogue. Meanwhile their comments do not go unnoticed by other passersby.
Unfortunately these young men are not the only ones to disseminate misinformation. A woman with a young son (I suspect he was about five years old) entered the tent and were looking at our llamas when the young boy, noticing some fresh llama pellets, turned and asked his mother if they were eggs. She replied, “Oh no! Llama eggs are much bigger!”
Ignorance is not benign. Zoning ordinances and animal regulations are enacted by both informed and misinformed individuals. We need only look at recent dog legislation to see what can happen when people are not informed. Breed specific laws and regulations are becoming common in reaction to dog attacks when the real problem is not the breed but the human beings who have bred, purchased or trained them.
It is disturbing that this year we have encountered a disproportionate number of people asking us if llamas bite.
It is also very easy to inadvertently create misinformation. Several years ago at a MARICO show Jeanne and I were setting up our stalls the evening before the event was to open. A young woman who was setting up a snowmobile exhibit on another part of the grounds came by and chatted with us. In the course of our conversation we mentioned that llamas were fiber animals. I also mentioned the very positive effect that llamas have had on my life (within a month of acquiring our first llamas our grown children told Jeanne that I looked ten years younger). The next day the young woman returned with her parents and excitedly told them that llamas were very good for one’s health, i.e., they provided dietary fiber.
This misadventure not withstanding, I believe that for our industry to flourish we need to take every opportunity to educate the public.
In the last issue of the GALA Newsletter I mentioned that I used of my gardens. Several years ago I planted corn and most of it was enjoyed by the deer and a mischievous woodchuck. This year, after shearing each llama, we put aside that wool that was not useable to use later in our garden. I liberally placed the collected fiber all around our corn patch and we have not had any deer or woodchuck damage. We have had plenty of deer damage in those areas of our gardens where we have not used either the fiber or llama tea. Dog hair and human hair can also be used for this purpose. The hair will eventually decompose and add to the health of your soil.
For us this summer, for reasons unrelated to llamas, has not been particularly serene. Our brief sojourn at the Windsor Fair provided some sorely needed forced relaxation (while we manned the tent) and some unexpected serenity at night when we slept in the tent with the llamas. We placed our sleeping bag up against the panels we had set up for the llamas. During the night the llamas quietly chewed their cuds. It is a very relaxing and comforting sound. If you have not tried it, you may wish to give it a whirl.
Unfortunately, we were within 30 yards of the
Poultry Barn and our serenity disappeared at about 3:45 AM in a cacophony of