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The straight scoop ...
about breeding llamas
People breed livestock for:
• specific by-products (meat, fiber)
• economic gain based on the above products — that is, animals are sold to others for their meat or future fiber production
People breed companion animals for different reasons:
• specific, personal end-uses (work, sport and competitive endeavors; show; and harvest of non-lethally acquired by-products such as fiber)
• aesthetic pleasure and personal gratification
• economic gain, most often economic recuperation of expenses incurred in some end-uses such as showing and competition, and speculative investment
Although llamas are legally classified as livestock in some parts of state codes and laws, they are in fact used as companion animals. [The original purpose in having llamas designated as "livestock" was to remove them from exotic animal restrictions and also bring them under the protection of laws such as those addressing dog attacks. Llamas were clearly not horses, so they legally became "livestock."]
Llamas are not selectively bred for any specific uses by the majority of breeders, but instead have been bred primarily for aesthetics, economic gain, and — during the 1980s — speculative investment. The llama industry has been and currently remains a breeder's market. What that means is that the predominant reason for breeding llamas has been to produce more llamas to sell to others so that they can produce more llamas to sell to others. In virtually all cases, "breeders" who produce llamas just to sell are only selling to each other in order to obtain tax benefits — there is no actual profit generated. In addition, the type of llamas currently being promoted as "high-quality stock" and the parameters that define "high-quality" have been based on and still remain dependent on aesthetics and popular trends.
Practices to maximize investment return have become "industry standard." This means that llamas are commonly (mis)managed in a number of ways despite the clear damage to the llamas in the long run. For instance:
Immature female llamas are commonly impregnated as soon as they can carry a pregnancy to term. [see: female breeding age]
Males are often not castrated, both to save money and to possibly gain a better price as a "stud quality" male from a naive "newbie." [see: castration]
All fertile females are kept pregnant for maximum production — even those who are not breeding quality and thus produce a continuous supply of difficult-to-place and even unwanted crias. [check out: rescue and rehab]
Buyers are told to pack immature males and geldings. [see: suitable ages]
Untrained llamas who do not have the attractive features that allow them to sell quickly in an overcrowded "pet" market are dumped (sometimes for pet food) when they become management problems — at sexual maturity, or when they simply stop being cute and are only cutting into the food budget. [check out: rescue and rehab]
These practices, along with encouragement to breed llamas to "enjoy the cute little babies and a wonderful investment at the same time" are presented to prospective llama buyers — some of whom have never handled an animal larger than a dog before. Care to guess what happens?
+ pregnant immature females and mature female culls (often without disclosure of known problems)
+ untrained, nonbreeeding quality male llamas (often just discovering their hormones)
= expensive problems.
And, tragically, more generic (read "mutt") crias who deserve decent lives in at least decent homes but may never have them.