The straight scoop about breeding:
Companion llamas

What is most essential about a good companion llama?

A companion llama must be FUN to be with! Companion llamas may perform one or more other tasks at a moderate level, but in all cases, the overriding desirable features are handle-ability and a desire to relate to humans. This requires that the breeding stock (both male and female) have outstanding personalities and that the breeder has both the time and expertise to guide the development of the offspring.

Who buys a companion llama?

Many people who have some land become interested in having two or more llamas as companions.

Frequently these people have no experience with llamas and are unlikely to understand how much work it is to earn a llama's trust (even a trained one).

Most of those who do buy llamas further sink their proverbial ship before launch by purchasing the wrong llamas (translation: cheap, untrained, and too young), purchasing too fast and purchasing for the wrong reasons. They either repent for the 20+ years their llamas live, or get rid of the llamas without thought (or knowledge) of what usually happens to unwanted, marginally-trained llamas.

Even those buyers who find well-trained, enjoyable companion llamas can lose interest well before the end of a llama's natural lifespan.

What do companion llamas sell for?

Companion llamas do not sell for very high prices, and there is a lot of competition for the primarily uneducated buyers in the form of llamas that did not make the grade for other uses (particularly fiber use and packing) and who are now being dumped in the "pet" market at even lower prices — or at auctions for as little as $5-$10. This, coupled with the intensive training that good companion llamas require prior to sale ensure that even unscrupulous breeders will make negligible profits at best.

A complicating factor in the companion llama market is that looks sell ... and fashion changes with the wind. It's impossible to guess what will catch a buyer's attention today, let alone anticipate what sells a year from now ... as if it were even possible to order up baby llamas with particular markings and colors.

Ethical considerations specific to breeding companion llamas

There are losses of life directly caused by every person who allows another "pet-only" llama to be created. Every time a llama is "disposed of" instead of finding a home (and homes are limited), llamas in general and pet llamas in particular are devalued until they are considered worthless. Until there are no more llamas going to slaughter, there is simply no such thing as conscientiously breeding companion llamas.

What are the essential requirements for a good therapy llama?

Therapy llamas are a subset of companion llamas. Their ranks cannot tolerate certain quirks that normal handlers might be able to work around, so they might be more accurately considered an "elite" companion llama.

Both therapists and private individuals will purchase a therapy llama. Very few llamas are purchased specifically for therapy, and their long lives ensure that the market will remain very, very small. In fact, most people who use llamas for therapy already have the llamas, and actually use the media attention to attract buyers for their other llamas (rarely therapy material).

Those therapy-trained llamas who cannot find a therapy home do make outstanding companions — however, their selling price is no higher despite the significant additional handling, training, and testing costs. If they are reasonably attractive, they are more likely to compete successfully for a home than the typical companion llama.

Is there any room for more companion llama breeders?

The answer is "no," even though you will hear the opposite from the breeders in that market (notice, too, how many llamas they have for sale ... to you, such a deal!). That answer might change for companion llamas and therapy llamas if the llama "industry" finally matures and loses the cria mill producers (but only after the llamas they flooded the market with have passed on).  Best case scenario would be another fifteen to thirty years … realistically … well, good luck with that one.

Is there any room for more therapy llama breeders?

Not as long as it's cheaper to take the money that would have been spent on breeding stock and select ideal candidates from what's currently available for sale. A person who is truly savvy about llama handling and training will do better buying the best behaved packing and show washouts that already have enough handling for a basic assessment.

Of course this presumes that the aforementioned trainer-individual has a waiting buyer, serious enough to put money down. To repeat, this market (as a market) is exceptionally tiny.