We have just moved into a large home that is zoned for horses and livestock. We are particularly
excited about this because my husband and I have always wanted to have a pet llama. Every
time we see these animals at fairs and petting zoos, they always seem so friendly and funny. But
to be honest, we don’t know the first thing about them and how to care for them. We've both
had horses while we were growing up – and know that llamas will be just as much work – so
we’re prepared for that. But everything else is uncharted territory. Can you give us some starter
information and point us in the right direction.
Jeanne and Ben
Dear Jeanne and Ben,
You two definitely want to start your life in your new home off with a big change. I am glad you are looking into everything first before diving into it.
Llamas are indeed very fun animals and make great companions. They have lots of personality; they love to play and they live for affection. Once you bring llamas into your home, you’ll wonder why you didn't do it sooner.
But, you are right. They are a lot of work and you really need to know what you are getting into from the start. There are a lot of good informational websites on the Internet, which also provide support group contact info and llama club locations and telephone numbers. I strongly encourage you to read everything you can and to join various llama enthusiast clubs before making a llama purchase.
Through networking with other llama lovers, you’ll be able to find reputable breeders in your area. Believe it or not, there are actually some “puppy-mill” type llama breeders around who are taking advantage of the surge in popularity of these exotic pets.
Don’t let the price of a llama deceive you either. You may think that an expensive animal is well-bred, healthy, and properly trained. This is not necessarily true. Llama prices have come down significantly over the past 10 years and generally don’t indicate whether or not an animal is high quality. On the other hand, if you find a llama that is questionably inexpensive, there probably is a good reason for that. Be very careful.
Your best bet is to visit various llama breeders. Check out their facilities. Are they clean? Are the animals well-adjusted? Are their coats maintained? Are their teeth and feet in good condition?
Llamas should be comfortable being harnessed so that they can be led easily. They should also be relaxed for grooming and shearing. Llamas should be calm when their feet are handled, and their teeth examined. This is basic training that should be done by a breeder before you purchase a llama. If a breeder makes excuses as to why his llamas do not have this basic training, then you can assume that his animals have not been receiving the type of general handling and care that they need.
Also, you should know that Llamas acclimate much faster to a new environment if they have a llama buddy, so you should plan on getting two llamas when you finally take the plunge. Your new llamas should be the same gender. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the main rationale is that they can begin breeding before they are even one year old! As with all pets, the quality of care you can provide is directly related to how many you have. Unless you plan on being home all the time, I wouldn't recommend having more than two, especially if you want their personalities to develop into human-loving animals.
Feeding and sheltering llamas is fairly simple, especially if you are set up for livestock already. Again, all of this information can be found in books, on the Internet, and from breeders. Best of luck to you as you start a new chapter in a new home.