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The straight scoop ...
about breeding llamas
Wow, what a downer ...
Yes, it is, and it has only gotten worse in the last ten years. Increased cutthroat politics, dishonesty in marketing, $200 llamas for sale at shows when that's what it cost to get them there, enter the age-appropriate halter class class, and reserve stalling space. Can you say "they need to stop the bleeding"?
People buying a $20 woolly mutt female at the auction (with who-know-what diseases and parasites) that think they will breed pack llamas and want to breed to your (merely local) stud in trade for something you don't want, like another $20 mutt female they couldn't get pregnant or last year's out-of-control male yearling. Uh, tell us again how this is going to lead to a positive bank balance?
If much of the preceding seems like a pretty glum picture of llama breeding, you're right. It's certainly not unique to llamas, either.
Making a profit (or just breaking even) by breeding horses or dogs (or any other animal, domestic or exotic) is tough too. You have to either be a trendsetter or produce absolutely top-of-the-line animals bred for and meeting the criteria of specific uses in those markets in order to make a consistent economic gain. You also have to start with enough capital that you can afford to be ripped off because, guaranteed, if you are buying breeding stock of any kind, you will get ripped off sooner or later. Facts: There's only room for a few players at the top of the pyramid. And llama poop rolls downhill ...
The llama "industry" currently differs from most animal breeding markets, however, because it is in the "big crash" after the initial multiplication phase — that is, supply has predictably exceeded a previously "insatiable" demand in a big way, but with no corresponding curtailment of production, particularly of the generic, no-purpose llamas (who don't deserve to be unwanted, but have landed in a world where that big risk is fact). This oversupply is compounded by llamas' relatively long lifespan. Only after it finally hits home with the majority of cria-mill style multipliers that this practice results in significant monetary losses with little or no returns will the wanton production cease. After that point, genuine llama breeding can proceed to a more mature, healthier position (as a small minority) within the llama-owning community as a whole.
You won't lose out by putting off a decision to breed llamas, and there's always room for more education and experience before taking the plunge — if you do.
We did not begin breeding until more than six years after getting llamas. We have never been sorry that we waited (although we did get impatient on occasion — particularly because so many people openly looked down on non-breeding owners during that time). We also started out with an unusually sound foundation of genetics and function. We have produced less than 10% of the crias that any conventional multiplier would have produced with the females that we have. We chose instead to put our llamas' health first, and we also chose to not breed any llamas — male or female — who were not likely to produce highly desirable offspring.
Breeding is not (and will never be) a road to riches for us, but instead is a commitment to producing what we value (and have discovered has become very difficult to find) — trained, high-quality classic llamas for real-world packing and other serious, mentally and physically demanding performance pursuits. We fully expect our primary customers to be ourselves until the huge surplus of generic llamas diminishes and most serious backcountry users have finally learned their lesson the hard way: It takes an exceptional pack llama to meet average human demands on the trail.
Finally, we don't claim to be perfect or even experts (despite both positive and negative accusations!), but we will always be striving to learn more so that we can guarantee our crias good homes when (if!) they leave us at maturity. Matching llamas with humans and the process of bridging the "savvy" gap for first-time buyers are complex tasks that we take very seriously.
If you've read this far, you're probably not going to be part of the problem. Thanks for sticking with us, and good luck to you, whatever road you choose to travel with llamas.