The straight scoop ...
about breeding llamas

Can I breed llamas?

Anyone can make more llamas as long as they have fertile specimens of both sexes. Breeding, however, is different.

Breeding entails purposeful selection and results in desirable offspring.

Breeding takes knowledge, and also carries responsibilities such as:

• limiting propagation to genetically healthy animals;
• using all available knowledge to be as certain as possible that offspring will be suited to a purpose and will have good prospects for placement
• not breeding at all when there is a flooded market for the type of animal being produced, and
• a lifelong commitment to the lives the breeder was responsible for creating.

The latter includes careful placement and, if errors are made, repurchase and replacement or rescue when necessary. Guardian llama breeders have an even heavier responsibility because a failed placement may mean injury or death for the llama.

One important segment of knowledge involved in responsible breeding choices is a sound understanding of basic genetics, known and suspected heritable conditions within the species, and careful, off-the-record research regarding which llamas carry or may be suspected to carry genetically inherited flaws. The latter can be very difficult, particularly because those honest owners and breeders who can and would give you valuable information are likely to be threatened by the unscrupulous segment who stand to gain as long as the truth can be suppressed. And it's also true that many people see "full disclosure" as a good thing until the subject is their own llamas.

Another important segment is use-specific knowledge. If you are breeding for usable fiber, you should have an excellent understanding of what constitutes superior fiber — and then learn what the genetic components are and how they are inherited. If you are breeding for performance llamas, the requisite education includes biomechanics, the specific demands of specific performance tasks — and how each individual physical trait is inherited. If you are breeding performance llamas specifically for packing, your success and respect will also be dependent on the quality (not quantity) of your actual trail experience and packing knowledge.

Breeders of all kinds of llamas also need to understand the components of mental and emotional health specific to llamas so that they can make careful matches that will result in the most handle-able, willing, and pleasant dispositions.

Breeders should also be successful llama trainers — they will be the ones to handle the crias during their most impressionable time, to make choices affecting the crias' social structure, and also will be responsible for assessing young llamas' maturity and readiness prior to placement. Breeders can literally make or break a llama for life.

Breeding llamas also carries ethical responsibilities to customers (who mete out consequences when they feel "ripped off", true or otherwise). What will you be able to offer as compensation if one of your customers buys a breeding llama that subsequently proves to be genetically defective? How about if a genetic defect is uncovered in a close relative? Will you be able to offer full guarantees of your working stock? Will you have the time and expertise to ensure that each llama makes a smooth and successful transition to your buyers?

Only you can honestly answer whether you can breed llamas after you have owned and handled llamas for several years. Most problems (and monetary losses) occur because people were rushed into llama multiplication based on economics or a sales pitch (including those cute little babies, of course) without adequate background and no one to turn to except other multipliers who themselves frequently lack adequate backgrounds and/or information.

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