I'm hoping to visit a variety of farms and learn more about how a farm works, as well as collect information on various breeds of farm animals.
I figured I'd do a breed profile for each kind of animal I meet - it'll help me to do some research, and hopefully people will find the facts and photos interesting. :)
Please keep in mind that I'm just researching these animals fairly quickly and compiling facts from a variety of sources; if you see a wrong fact or feel that I'm missing something important I ought to know about the breed, please let me know!
All photos are my own unless otherwise noted.
So...on to Breed Profile #1: Llamas!
So in my last post I detailed my Scotch Collie's herding evaluation at True Colors Farm in Washington, ME. That was the main event, but the owner did give me permission to walk around and take photos of some of her animals. She has at least one horse, a couple dozen sheep...and llamas.
I'll admit that this is an animal I haven't really thought about having on my farm, so it's been interesting doing research on the breed.
Llamas are related to camels, but don't have a hump. They stand around 47 inches at the shoulder, and can weigh 250 pounds or more. They chew their cud like a cow.
They originated in South America, and are right up there as one of the longest-domesticated animals. They have relatives in the wild but do not naturally live in the wild themselves.
In their native countries, their primary use is as a pack animal; they can carry 50-75 pounds over a distance of twenty miles a day. Their endurance, thirst resistance and ability to graze a wide variety of foliage make them very valuable in their native climate.
Their wool is used for making ropes, rugs and fabric; their hide is sometimes turned into leather; their dung is dried and used as fuel; and they can be used for meat.
What possible benefits are there for modern, American farmers in keeping llamas?
-Their wool can be used, though it's not as fine as alpaca wool. Some people are breeding llamas for better wool type and production. The lack of lanolin in the wool is beneficial for people with allergies.
-They make a good pack animal; their hooves don't destroy trails like many other animals.
-They are fairly easy and inexpensive to keep - they only need minimal shelter, they eat mostly what sheep eat, and they don't challenge fencing.
-They can be used for meat.
-They can be helpful in a rotational grazing plan, as they can thrive on poor quality grazing.
-They can be used as a livestock guardian.
Keep in mind that if you plan to use a llama as a livestock guardian, there are definite pros and cons, the number one con being that llamas themselves are prey animals and cannot face down a heavy predator load. For a really excellent article on this subject, click here.
That being said, Brenda at True Colors Farm tells me that she hasn't had coyotes kill any of her animals since she got the two llamas pictured above! When I approached the fence, the llama got to its feet to watch me, and all the sheep gathered behind it. It kept a close eye on my while I was wandering around taking pictures.
So...my take on llamas...well, frankly, I'm not particularly attracted to them at this point, but it was very interesting to research them!
Below are some of the sources I found helpful if you'd like to do more reading: