management and resources
Fiber from llamas
Our llama family
Just for fun
If you don't rescue ...
If you don't rescue ...
A "goat person" was deriding llamas
on an internet chat list. "They're good for nothing! Nobody
wants llamas anymore -- why, my neighbor is buying them up for
Anyone who has had their own llama friend
can guess what happened next -- unbridled outrage and determination
to find out where the llamas were and to save them. Unfortunately
for us, the ten llamas turned out to be in our area, and so we
dropped everything to negotiate for their lives.
The "llama owner" turned out to
be the owner-operator of a pair of small auctionyards in the
area. Any llama who did not sell (virtually all of them), he
bought -- most of them intact males. At first he had tried to
turn the llamas over for a profit. He initially sold a few out
in Eastern Oregon as sheep guards, but as anyone with llama savvy
knows, not all llamas guard, and all intact male llamas will
mount and crush ewes in heat. Nobody wanted the remaining llamas,
and they just kept eating and taking up space at the auctionyard.
So much for "turning a profit."
After losing a few llamas to starvation and
parasites (all were lice-infested), the auctioneer then decided
to "fatten" the llamas on a friend's pasture and then
slaughter them. He claimed to have buyers for the hides (to be
made into rugs) and that the meat would become saleable jerky
(the latter we doubted, but then again, once it's in the white
wrappers, who's to say where it came from and whether it really
was inspected?). The end result was that he would not take less
than $200 apiece for the llamas -- a total of $2000. Who can
In less than a week, donations totalling $1200
came together from all over the United States, we and an acquaintance
each chipped in $400, the acquaintance borrowed a huge stock
trailer and a tow vehicle, and after a terrible day of wrangling
wild llamas, we had a small paddock filled with scrapping males
(and one weak gelding) of various ages, sizes, colors, and types
-- all underfed, undernourished, and infested with parasites.
In return for our $400 (not to mention our
time and effort), we chose two llamas from the group to keep,
and the acquaintance did the same. Jim had picked out one young
llama based on his physical potential when the llamas were running
around in the pasture; we also decided to take on Shadow
once we realized what weakened condition he was in, even though
we knew we'd never see the $200 he supposedly represented. Of
course several distant kibbitzers felt that for us to select
and keep any llamas was "gleaning" -- and of course
they were "too far away" to offer any help whatsoever,
let alone select any llamas to keep themselves (and they hadn't
sent any money, either -- gee, what a surprise ...). The next
week, newly-named Chief Grey Blanket, barely 28 months of age,
was castrated (at our expense, of course) and our real work began
-- his coat was not a coat but a fleece (and it was a mess),
he didn't lead or halter, and he was STRONG! So much for "gleaning"!
Over the next three years, we put a LOT of
work into Chief. He was hard to catch (meaning that anything
we did with him was guaranteed to be time-consuming from the
start), and although he finally learned that "leading"
means that the human does the leading (and not an opportunity
for him to run sideways in front of his handler), for a couple
of years, Chief not infrequently bolted out of our grasp if we
had him anywhere that was not relatively enclosed. And because
Chief was in fact a light-wooled llama, not a classic,
we had to shear him ... but Chief's two years of learning to
distrust humans and the fact that shearing isn't something we
can practice frequently meant that shearing Chief was anything
but a popular activity each year.
With time, maturity, and a lot of patience
and persistance on our part, Chief came around. Despite his compromising
fleece, we felt it was worth putting the time into training Chief
for packing -- his build and movement were superior for the task.
Although Chief took predictably longer to train to load into
vehicles and accept the pack saddle and panniers, when he finally
"got" something, he would do it well. His first pack
trip included crossing a river and snowfields (that was an unusually
heavy snow year and if we'd known, we wouldn't have done Chief's
"rookie trip" then!); his second was a highly unpleasant
experience for all because there were many bugs (Chief's shorn
fleece exposed a lot of attractive area for 'skeeters) and his
llama companion on that trip gradually and inexplicably lost
her temper, then her coordination, and finally her ability to
stand at all -- Kiowah,
we later figured out, could not tolerate DEET, and we'd been
covering her with the stuff all day long. Chief not only put
up with Kiowah's spitting, but managed 14 miles that second day
Chief put in a few more pack trips that summer,
and as a result, a friend and forest ranger working with the
Willamette National Forest decided she wanted Chief in particular
to be her second llama. Judy could no longer carry a pack because
of her back surgery. Camas, her first llama, was not physically
an ideal choice for a pack llama, and although he was doing an
adequate job with Judy's gear, he couldn't handle packing as
much garbage out of the wilderness as Judy needed him to. Chief
would handle the additional loads and perhaps provide Camas with
some incentive to move along a bit faster, too.
When Camas broke his leg in a freak accident
the following summer, Chief picked up the slack and packed all
the gear -- and the found garbage -- for Judy. That's exactly
the exceptional pack llama we thought we saw in young Chief all
those years ago. Although Chief is not the "greeting committee"
and "public relations specialist" that Camas is, and
although he's not the kind of llama Judy can trust to stick around
when she just drops the lead (Chief has to be tied; Camas always
sticks around), Chief is much appreciated just the same -- and
having a shorn fleece instead of an all-weather classic coat
doesn't matter too much when you're always within a short few
hours' walk of the trailhead and the nice warm van!
Now, don't you agree Chief would have been
wasted as a rug?
Judy leads Chief (front) and Camas (before Camas's
accident) along the trail.
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