LlamaI ran into a neighbor at a gathering, who asked about the llama, conveying that another neighbor was asking her about our llama. I guess ol’ Dolly Llama (aka Tina for those who like to call her that) is pretty well known around here! She hasn’t been in the pasture for a few weeks, I had her up in the barn. I decided to sell her, and she went to a new home last weekend.

My reasons were these. First, she is not that strong of a guardian animal in a big pasture. She does have a distaste for dogs and is threatening towards them, and is also protective of her sheep flock. But in our big pastures and with a lot of sheep, it’s too feasible for coyotes to split some sheep away from the llama and take them down. Guardian dogs are much more effective for our setup. I suspect she may be an useful guard for a few sheep in a small corral; and that’s where she ended up going.

She still saved the lives of sheep for me a couple of times. When I was working in Seattle, during the winter, I only saw the sheep in daylight on the weekends. But the loyal llama would stay with a sheep that was “down.” I have too many sheep to count, so I can’t tell if one is missing for breakfast or dinner time. But the absence of the llama is noticeable, so when that happened, I’d go look for her. Once she stood next to very pregnant sheep stuck upside down in  swale, who would have surely died with her triplets inside her. Two other times, she waited next to a butcher lamb that was sick and down in the field in the cold rain. I could always tell she was very concerned about her herdmate in trouble, standing next to the sheep, humming and stretching her neck to offer consolation.

I had envisioned she might be handy to have around to keep company with orphan lambs, or sick sheep in the barn. But it turns out Larry, the Proposal Lamb, is much better at this. He is more cooperative about going where I want him to go, and is littler and cheaper to feed. While I was still gaining trust in the guardian dogs, I felt some security in knowing I’d hear the llama’s unique call if there was any danger afoot that the dogs didn’t have handled. But these days, I have high confidence that the dogs have everything under control.

Llama1The llama is some overhead to maintain, needing feed during winter, occasional toenail and teeth trimming, and semiannual shearing. Now that I work normal hours, I no longer need her to look out for sick animals so much. So, I felt I could no longer justify keeping her around. She’s only middle aged, and has a lot of good years left in her. But, when you have a lot of animals, you always think about the fact that someday, they’ll die. That’s an awful big hole to dig. Winking smile

I genuinely considered butchering her for meat. Llamas aren’t known for being productive meat animals, their feed conversion rate is not optimized like sheep, cattle and hogs; but they can be used for meat, all the same. I met someone once who does butcher their llamas and reported that they taste great. But, we already have a freezer full of cull ewe sausage. And, I figured she has enough fans that I’d run into somebody who was horrified to learn that we ate our llama!

So, I advertised her, and sold her quickly to a nice home- a couple building a small herd of sheep. Their pastures are cleaved up into small sections and fenced with chain link, so I think she’ll have a much better chance of guarding there. They’ve had some coyote predation on their chickens, so are looking forward to having an anti-coyote presence around to deter that.

Incidentally, I had a couple of inquiries about her prior to her sale, where people were really fishing for a freebie or cheap pet. I never quite grasp this mentality. For people who are keeping a large ruminant on small acreage as a pet, there is some cost involved in purchasing winter feed- probably several hundred dollars a year. And a vet farm call is minimum $100. So if they are quibbling over fifty bucks on the purchase price, I can see that they’ve never done the math on the overhead costs. And this tells me that it might be marginal whether they can even afford such an animal, if they are so price-sensitive.

Better to ask a little more and wait for a buyer who doesn’t bat an eyelash over the investment; then you know they can definitely afford proper care of the animal and want it for the right reasons! Besides, I had put some work into her, and had her nicely trained to be caught, to lead and load, tolerate maintenance duties, and follow a grain bucket anywhere. It seemed unfair for people to ask me to just give her away. And, I preferred her to go to a home where she actually had some kind of value and duty, rather than just being an entertaining pasture ornament. So I was glad about where she ended up, a perfect fit for both parties!