In 1991, we ventured into the llama business, knowing precious little about these animals other than the few things we had read and heard through friends. At that time, llamas were fairly uncommon in Kansas and we had to "dig" hard to find care and handling information anywhere. We relied heavily upon the expertise of the vets at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine...although we even caused some of those doctors and professors to scratch their heads on occasion. Despite our countless blunders, our first dam settled in with us quite nicely and convinced us that we needed more to keep her company.
We found that the care of llamas is very simple and less time-consuming than other farm animals. They are gentle, intelligent, and inquisitive animals which return love for love and are almost totally non-aggressive. In fact, they are pretty much "fraidy-cats" even though their constant snoopiness gets them into lots of predicaments. They crave attention from their owners and can quickly learn commands like a dog. They make very loving and gentle playmates for children - often allowing a small child to ride on their backs or to lay down with the llama as a pillow. As a work animal, some llamas make excellent guard animals for sheep and are strong pack carriers.
Llamas forage on native grasses, some weeds, and hay. They are not nearly as picky about what they eat as are cows or horses, nor do they consume as much. In Kansas, we provide extra hay and mineral supplements to ensure a well-balanced diet. We prepare our own mineral supplement formula right here on the ranch. An added bonus to the caretaker is that llamas, unlike other large farm animals, tend to void in one communal area making clean-up a cinch. Plus...llama offal, because of its low acidity, makes some of the best natural garden fertilizer available. (You should see our friends' gardens!!)
Sometime during that first or second year, we decided to not only raise llamas as pets but to also import top breeds to the heartland...where the market for sheep guarders, show animals, and high-grade llama fiber could be quite profitable. (4-H is strong here and llamas also make great 4-H projects.) We became llama breeders and our business has flourished - our herd now numbers nearly fifty which is just about right for us - and our sires and dams show bloodlines from Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and North America that are impeccable. We've also learned about male cria adoption, llama choke, and lymphocytic enteritis through first-hand experiences. We find great pleasure in providing educational tours and have frequent visitors seeking information about llamas in the midwest.
Today, llamas are not nearly the oddity they used to be in the midwest - and information is much-more readily available. We custom-designed and constructed several pieces of equipment to better handle our gentle, inquisitive friends and manufacturers are beginning to build specially designed llama tools. If you are thinking of raising llamas either for pleasure or for business purposes, we heartily recommend you go ahead. If there's anything we can do or any information we can help you with, please let us know. Remember - we started at "ground zero" ourselves not so long ago so no questions are considered dumb. We would be pleased to help.
Last updated March 10, 2008.