Coniferous Llamas

llamas eating cedar bark

Any llama keeper will tell you that camelids absolutely adore eating coniferous trees.  Pine, spruce, larch, hemlock and even cedar trees are all a favoured element of the llamas diet.llamas eating pine and spruce

In winter, they crave the spicy greenery which droops down under a heavy snowload, encouraging the herd to head off into the forest each day in search of ‘llama candy’.

Pine and spruce needles are probably the favourites, but even cedar is on the menu for llamas, which is considered toxic to some small animals.  They will also eat the bark, but fear not, we have never seen a tree of any species girdled by their nibbling.llamas eating cedar bark

Why do they eat such potent needles, when they are so sensitive to odours?  We don’t really have an answer to that, but they often eat it as humans suck mints to clean the breath.  We frequently see a llama searching for pine needles after a spitting match!  The bark might be desired for improving digestion, since llamas and alpacas need hard fibrous material in their diet.  First-cut hay in the winter is coarser and preferred by the herd in the sanctuary.llamas foraging for coniferous trees

Finally, ask your friends to donate their christmas trees to your llamas and alpacas; they make short work of stripping the needles!

Narrow Back Roads

llama gangs, llamas inthe snow


These narrow back roads really make life difficult in deep snow.  Being held to ransom by gangs of marauding llamas is not uncommon in this neck of the woods.  Thankfully, the llamas are not so fast off the shoveled path, so in emergencies we can dodge around them!llama gangs, llamas inthe snow Now that the weather is warming up, they are not getting the full winter rations and some of them are peeved.  The simplest solution though, is to lay a halter and lead in the top of any bucket.  One look in the bucket and they keep their distance, if they know what’s good for them!llama halter

Llama Escort

llama security force, cold weather feed for llamas and alpacas

Another week of cold weather, where the mercury struggles to rise above minus ten Celsius during the daytime, means that extra high protein rations are doled out to each and every member of the llama herd.  Left to their own system, the stronger and more dominant llamas and alpacas in the herd would push the weaker ones away, so Lynne ensures that they all get their fair share and that takes a lot of time …and not a little pushing and shoving! llama security force, cold weather feed for llamas and alpacasThankfully, Group of 4 Security Services’ ensures that the deliveries speedily reach their destinations without hassle and they swiftly deal with any attempts to hijack the buckets!

Of course, there are perks to the job and occasionally a little bit falls off the back of the truck.

feeding llamas in winter

This year, the llamas in the sanctuary are experimenting with a mixture of reconstituted beet pulp, rolled oats and soaked alfalfa cubes.  Llamas have such efficient digestive systems that they can easily become over-weight on high protein feed, but since they do not store much fat, these cold winter days can easily drain their reserves.  Feeding can be a delicate balancing act.

Help With Feeding

feed a llama

If only there was an easy way to feed the llamas and ensure that each and every one of them received their fair share.  Unfortunately, the strong, the demonstrative and the long-range spitters end up with everything, leaving the weak and elderly;  the sick and the small, out in the cold with nothing.  Therefore, all of the llamas and alpacas with special needs, whether pregnant, or ill, receive special attention.feed a llama Feeding a winter mash of oats, reconstituted beet pulp and chopped alfalfa takes a lot of time to prepare, as well as to ensure that each animal receives their meal.  Thankfully, Rambo is on hand to help  ….or maybe not!

Enjoy this short video as Rambo tries to assist Lynne with the feeding!

Rambo, who is getting on in years, arrived at the Llama Sanctuary in 2012 after his keeper tragically died in an accident.  He has been suffering from a serious illness, but is making great progress thanks to homeopathy.  The swollen glands under his jaw had completely gone by the following day.  Now we just have to build up his strength once more.

Evening Walk

walking with llamas, foraging llama

It’s not often that the llamas want to go for a walk in the evening, but they obviously appreciate the milder temperatures as much as we do.  You can almost smell the excitement of the grass waiting to grow beneath the snow  ….or maybe I just stepped in something icky.

Anyway, the llamas can sense Spring in the air and they keenly search for the tiniest patches of earth and and vegetation, such is their innate urge to forage for food.

Llamas are foragers and even though though might have a barn full of hay, they still feel the need to wander from place to place, so as not to deplete one particular area.  Maybe there is a lesson in there for humans!

walking with llamas, foraging llamaThe Llama Sanctuary is dedicated to caring for homeless, abandoned or neglected camelids.  The Sanctuary is funded by generous donations and by income derived from the fiber arts.  (see Fibre Arts Bootcamp  display – right)


Llama Forest Highway

walking with llamas, browsing

Llamas love browsing in the forest, especially in winter when they are desperate for some fresh greenery.  They are particularly fond of spruce, pine, larch and hemlock, but cedar will do when the others are in short supply.  It’s rather peculiar that the llamas eat such potent substances, when they are extremely sensitive to odours.  Some of them won’t even touch a bowl of oats if another llama has breathed on them!walking with llamas, browsing

Traffic build up on the Llama Sanctuary Forest Highway after a tree fell, blocking the route.

Congestion grew even worse when some inconsiderate llamas stopped for a picnic in the highway!llamas eating hemlock spruce pine cedar larch

Wean a Llama

weaning llama, llama humour

Weaning young llamas and alpacas is almost always traumatic and involves much crying and running around by the youngster who has just been separated from his or her mother.weaning llama, llama humour

Weaning occurs naturally in llamas, anytime between 6 to 10 months.  It is not unusual though, for youngsters to occasionally suckle at eighteen months of age.  With the boys however, that doesn’t happen, since they have other things on their minds.

Young males can show signs of sexual activity from an astonishingly young age.  We even had a three day old male orgling one of the young females in his herd.  Three days old!  Thankfully, he was ‘all talk and no trousers,’ so he remained with his mother in the female herd, until he was about six months old, by which time, he was trying out every position in the Kama Sutra and he had to be weaned/removed before he stumbled upon the right way!baby llama trying to mate, precocious llama

Weaning is actually the process of getting the young animal accustomed to food other than his mothers milk.  Llamas and alpacas are usually nibbling at solid food when they are just a few days old and they are fully fledged grass and hay eaters within a matter of weeks.  Weaning is therefore not strictly the best term to express separating a young llama from his mother.  It is separation and it involves emotional pain and an end to the free milk bar.  The chances are that his mother will be chasing  him away fairly soon, in any case.

Pure Mountain water

llama drinking, water, heated water trough

A fully grown llama will drink between four and eight pints (2.5 to 5 liters) of water every day during the winter months.  In this part of the world, the animals at The Llama Sanctuary will be eating hay from  October through to April and all dehydrated feed needs to be re-hydrated somehow, usually in the body.llama drinking, water, heated water trough Although we managed to water the herd in the cold north of Canada, without the use of heated water troughs, they certainly make life easier!  They do however, require regular cleaning, since the warm water can quickly become a pond of bacteria that can impose a heavy burden on weaker individuals.

We made the conscious decision to ensure that naturally pure water was a priority wherever we chose to live.  Water additivespure mountain water, danger of fluoride to animals like chlorine and deadly poisons like fluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid – possibly the most dangerous acid known to man) do have a profound impact on the health of animals over the long term).  The evidence is out there if you can cut through the fiction generated by the major media outlets.

Don’t believe everything you read and hear, especially if it comes from ‘cancer research’ organizations!  Forgive me if you find that offensive, but the truth hurts sometimes and it does not imply that the people working on the ground level in these organizations are deliberately misleading us, they are merely at the bottom of a hierarchy that has less than good intentions.

Remember that illness derived from the consumption of miniscule amounts of a substance may take many years to manifest and it is easy to ignore the real source of illness.

All In a Day’s Work

feeding oats llamas, llama text

As anyone who works with animals will tell you, there are never enough hours in the day!llama barn, winter

Severe weather adds to the workload, with each of the llamas and alpacas requiring extra food in the form of oats, alfalfa cubes or Text ration.   The sick, the elderly, the pregnant and any lactating mothers require special feed and since some of the animals are timid and others are bold and bolshy, all the llamas are fed individually.  That takes  time!  Rambo has to have his food pre-soaked after suddenly losing most of his teeth, Angelina requires special care for a jaw problem,  Georgia appears to be suffering from morning sickness, Chiisai has bouts of conjunctivitis; all these are usually treated homeopathically, along with the myriad other acute situations that crop up.

feeding oats llamas, llama text….and of course, the snow needs shoveling on a daily basis, the barns need mucking out, the hay has to be distributed to eight separate feeding stations and without the luxury of automated watering, twenty five gallons of water needs to be carried to the various heated water troughs.

Is it worth it?  Absolutely!