What if my llama is considered too young to castrate, but is starting to act up?

The first order of business is to define "acting up." This includes:

• increased interest in smelling females or other llamas over or through the fence (this does NOT include sniffing llamas where an udder might be found — that's insecurity!)

• repeated challenging, charging, or bumping older males and geldings

• increased fighting (often with increased screaming)

• attempting to mount or breed gelded and intact pasturemates

• shortened attention span during human-llama interactions

• challenging human requests that were formerly "understood" or challenging human "rights" to gates, dung piles, and food

These changes can be difficult to identify — they may creep up on you without you being aware they are on the increase. However, if you perceive a marked increase in some or all of these behaviors prior to 18 months, you can be certain that you have an early maturer on your hands. Hypersexual male crias frequently fall into this category.

There are some less-common behaviors to look for as well:

• masturbating, usually on the ground

• snorting at humans, particularly from high ground, a shelter, or upon approach

• spitting at humans (both to gain something obvious or a sudden, unexplained onset)

• bumping or charging humans

• attempting to block human movement by standing in the way

These behaviors not only indicate that castration without delay is necessary if you hope to recover the llama's former good temperament, but they also indicate that the llama is mentally and/or physically abnormal and not suitable for breeding, no matter how fine the animal may otherwise appear. These undesirable (and in some cases, dangerous) traits are definitely inherited, even though unknowledgeable handling does make them worse than they otherwise might be.

All normal young male crias go through a period in which they attempt to breed cooperative female pasturemates. (Although this is referred to as "play breeding" by many pollyanna owners, the young males are in fact dead serious, and pregnancy can result in some unusual circumstances with crias as young as 6 months of age later proven to be the "mystery father.") Normal male crias may attempt to breed females several times a day for a month or so with interest gradually declining rather than increasing, and interest evaporating upon weaning, when excess energy fueled by milk calories is no longer available.

Abnormal (hypersexual) male crias may begin serious breeding attempts as young as one to four weeks of age and soon consider this their only worthwhile activity whenever their stomaches are full. Hypersexual male crias should be separated from open females, including female crias, as early as is practical and certainly by the age of five months. However, these crias are not considered physically safe to castrate despite their abnormally precocious and persistant sexual behavior.

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