Frequently Asked Questions...
Do llamas make good pets?
Yes, providing you have sufficient grazing for them. They are gentle, fascinating, fun and undemanding "field pets", whether they are to be used for walking, packing, carting or "just to graze and grace your land". Naturally house-trained, llamas can even be allowed to make brief house visits!
What do llamas eat?
Grass principally, supplemented by hay if needed. Special Camelid mixes are available and can be given as a treat and supplement. A coarse mix such as for ponies or goats would also be suitable. They also enjoy vegetables and can be given your carrot and apple peel, cabbage leaves etc.
How are llamas with children?
Llamas get on well with people generally and appear to have a particularly good rapport with the young and the elderly. In the U.S they are used in therapy work, even visiting inside hospitals.
How are they with other pets ~ dogs, horses etc?
Llamas will live happily with horses, donkeys, and in fact all field stock, making excellent companions for the lone pony or horse. They accept dogs readily provided the dogs are sensible with them!
I have been told that a llama makes a good "guard dog" for sheep! Is it true?
Yes: provided the llama is carefully selected, an adult male or preferably a gelding llama will protect sheep, goats, even free-range poultry from foxes and marauding dogs.
Can you ride them?
They are not really robust enough to be ridden although young children would be OK on a properly trained adult llama. They are used to pull or drive carts. It is more common for them, however, to be used for trekking whereby the trekker walks with the llama which carries his or her gear.
Are llamas friendly?
Shy but curious is a fair description: the independence of a cat in the field with the trainability of a horse when haltered…
Are they noisy?
No, not at all! Llamas will sometimes hum gently but whether 3 or 30 in a field, if you can't see them you would not know they are there. They do have an alarm call, an “oynk” like bray, which they may sound upon the arrival of an "intruder" such as a fox. The male may also make a loud gurgling sound as he mates a female!
Are llamas easy to train?
Yes. All Breeders who have signed up to the BLS Breeders Code of Conduct supply llamas halter and lead-trained and some offer advance training to trekking standard. Even for the inexperienced it is not difficult to carry on from there...see the page on training.
Are they easy to breed?
Llamas invariably calve on their own without needing much in the way of help. Gestation is 11½ months, and females usually have a calf, a 'cria', each year of their lives from 18 -24 months of age. Males become fertile usually rather later, around 24 - 30 months.
What age do llamas live to?
They can be expected to live until around 20 years of age, and many live into their twenties and some into their thirties.
Are llamas hardy?
Thousands of years domestication in the Andes where survival of the fittest has been the rule, has resulted in a very hardy, relatively disease resistant, breed.
Are they costly to keep?
No. On a weight ratio basis they eat less than sheep, they rarely need veterinary care, and are gentle on fencing, housing and land.
How much land do llamas need?
A minimum of 3/4 of an acre is recommended, and an acre will support 3-4 llamas although paddocks should be split up so that the llamas can be moved around to rest the grass.
What about shelter and fencing?
Strictly speaking shelter is unnecessary but a shelter that they can use at will is beneficial and useful for management. In general circumstances standard stock-fencing is sufficient.
Do llamas need to be dipped?
Llamas are very clean and have a lanolin free coat which does not attract flies to any great degree and fly strike is a rarity, so dipping is not required.
How often do you need to shear llamas?
Llamas do not need to be sheared at all if you do not plan to use the wool. However if you do want the luxurious wool then this can be done every other year or possibly annually. If not sheared the wool simply stops growing! An occasional groom will keep the coat looking good on the short coated Ccara Llamas and a little more regular grooming is suggested for the long coated Tampulis.
What about hooves?
Llamas do not have hooves but toes. The toenails may need a rare trim depending on the type of ground and the individual llama. Many llamas have toes whose nails have never needed trimming.
At what age should we buy our llamas?
To ensure llamas are properly socialised, we recommend that youngsters should not leave their herd until they are at least 12 -15 months old if going singly to a home where there will be no other llamas, or 8 to 10 months if to be with other llamas.
Are llamas farmed for meat?
Llamas are not farmed commercially in Europe for their meat. In Bolivia llamas are eaten while in Peru it is the alpaca that is often served.
What colour are llamas?
From white to black with many shades of brown and grey in between; solid, patchy and spotted…
The wide variety of natural shades is one of the great attractions for hand spinners and knitters.
Do we need a licence to keep llamas?
Not in the UK or anywhere else as far as we know. Llamas are considered domestic livestock and require no licence. They are also wonderfully paperwork and bureaucracy free in terms of DEFRA requirements! The wild cousin of the llama, the guanaco, has required a license until recently but they are also now license free. A license is still required to keep vicunas and camels.
Llamas sound so nice, yet I've been told that they can spit! Is this true?
If you mean will the llamas you buy spit at you or your family, friends and visitors, then the answer is almost certainly NO - unless you have a rare, rogue animal!
Just as dogs can bite and cats can scratch and horses can kick, so llamas can spit. The vast majority will only do so at humans, however, if they have been incorrectly reared (i.e hand-reared), or they are badly treated, or are put through situations that they find excessively stressful.
Llamas do use spitting among themselves to maintain a pecking order and to maintain their own space.
It really is a much over-hyped characteristic, mostly found in some zoo or farm park situations where they are all too commonly hand-reared or over-handled as youngsters. It is usually irrelevant to owners' day-to-day experience of their llamas.
Is it OK to keep a single llama?
Llamas are a herd animal and we believe a happy herd begins with two or three.
However if the llama is to be kept with other field stock, particularly as a guard llama, he or she will usually bond with them and then a single llama is not out of the question. This should be an adult, not a youngster, and should be discussed with the seller.
How do vets deal with llamas?
Llamas do not suffer from any unusual illnesses unique to llamas, or different to those occurring with other breeds of livestock kept in the UK. Most "large animal" or farm vets will be happy to take on your llamas and these days many vets already have experience with llamas or other camelids. Although llamas can, like any animal, become ill, they tend to be far hardier than most.
What if I have more questions?
Feel free to email your question. If we cannot answer it, we will forward it to the person at the British Llama Society who is best able to respond to your particular query.
This set of FAQs has been adapted from those created by Paul Rose, one of the founders of the British Llama Society, with his permission. These FAQs and other information can be found on his website at www.llamas.co.uk and on the British Llama Sociey's website www.britishllamasociety.org