|Llama Owner Information
Care and Feeding
Sutter's Mill Llama Ranch
Bill & Sandy Chickering
Care & Feeding
If you are familiar with the care of other domestic livestock, you will find llamas comparatively easy to maintain, with a minimum of veterinary assistance required. If you are uncertain of the health of your new animal, consider isolating it in sight of but separate from your other animals for the first two weeks to prevent accidental introduction of any illnesses, and to give you both a chance to get acquainted. Make sure it is eating and ruminating, as well as eliminating pelleted feces. If you have not already done so, this is time to locate a veterinarian in your area. If he or she is inexperienced with llamas, information is available through ILA to handle problems, which may arise. It is recommended that you have your veterinarian give your newcomer a general health check, and take a fecal sample to determine if worming is necessary.
Although llamas have been arid land dwellers, they thrive in a wide array of temperate environments throughout the United States and Canada, including Alaska. They are highly adaptable feeders, being both grazers (grasses and forbs) and browsers (shrubs and trees). Because of a relatively low protein requirement due to their efficient digestive systems, they can be kept on a variety of pastures or hay. They eat about 2% to 4% of their body weight in dry matter every day. Without pasture, a 100-pound bale of hay will last an adult llama for ten days to three weeks - good news, indeed, to experienced horse and cattle owners! If you are going to graze your llamas, plan on about three to five animals per acre on a moderately producing pasture.
When good hay is available, grain is recommended only for working pack animals and nursing females. Sheep mineral and salt blocks (with selenium wherever necessary) should be available free choice. Granulated minerals are somewhat more wasteful than mineral blocks, but are easier to eat since llamas can't lick. High-protein grain mixes prepared for other livestock should generally not be given to a healthy llama on a good diet, unless it's a female nursing or close to giving birth. Llamas are not prone to bloat, but have been known to do so if they get into a grain bin. Avoid over feeding llamas.
Llamas require less water than most domestic animals, but should have an unlimited, fresh, clean supply at all time. They tend to drink less in winter and when on lush, green pasture, and more when working or lactating, especially in summer.
Unless your llamas are pastured on hard or rocky ground, you may have to trim their toenails once or twice a year. It's easy to do yourself with horse hoof trimmers or sheep toenail nippers, but consult available literature or your veterinarian before your first attempt.
Llamas are amazingly hardy animals and have very few problems with disease. But to ensure good health, you should establish a regular schedule for cleaning their dung piles, and a preventative medicine program, which may include protection from enterotoxemia, tetanus, leptospirosis and internal and external parasites. They should be dewormed at least every six months. Be sure to check with your veterinarian or agricultural extension agent to see if any vital trace elements or minerals are deficient or present in toxic amounts in your area. Consult your veterinarian or local ILA affiliate for other preventative medical suggestions, or to see if any special circumstances (e.g. meningeal worm, selenium levels, toxic plants, etc.) are problems in your area.