The straight scoop about breeding:
Show llamas

What is most essential about a good show llama?

Halter llamas absolutely have to be in fashion. There's also rules and guidelines that the show associations say must be met, but as most observers will readily tell you, networking and connections can overcome quite a few of those guidelines ... or make a llama "superior" when other factors are equal.

Performance class llamas must be exactly matched to the mental and emotional rigors of the alternate reality that is the show scene. Contrary to what you may hear, performance class llamas do not have to be athletes — the physical demands of showing are simply not that significant. What is necessary is mental suitability to training, the emotional stability to take traveling and the chaos of shows in stride, and to be "politically sound" (certain types of disabilities, although causing no detriment or pain in the show ring, are targeted for disqualification by judges to create the appearance of concern while other, more serious disabilities are ignored).

Who buys a show llama?

Very few people actually purchase llamas to show at halter — halter classes are instead the realm of breeders (primarily those on the bottom of the "trendy" pyramid) trying to get an edge on selling llamas or stud services.

People who don't breed but want to buy a halter animal have the luxury of observing carefully and buying a llama that is already a winner. These people are often friends of breeders, go to shows to socialize with their friends, and so they typically buy from those breeders.

The vast majority of performance class llamas are bought by friends of breeders or others who show llamas in performance — it's like necessary party attire. For those who can't play at the "advanced" level, that means the novice animals are turned over every few years and new ones purchased. As with halter animals, these sales are for the most part "inside jobs".

What do show llamas sell for?

Perhaps a better question is whether YOU (yes, you specifically) can even sell a show llama, period. Those who have the necessary connections required to sell show llamas sure aren't reading this page.

These days it's common to find several llamas for sale at shows for a few hundred dollars. That doesn't even begin to pay the expenses for a show or two, let alone the cost to produce the animal. Sometimes these animals are mediocre at halter; others are ribbon winners, even champions in their respective classes. Yes, really!

The high-rollin' show llama trendsetters are happy to sell you this year's trendy llamas, at a very high price. BUT! By the time you produce offspring (even if you follow their sickening example and breed your llamas at ages equivalent to nine- and ten-year-old human children), they've already set new trends with the progeny THEY chose to retain. In other words, although a few do succeed in this game, most can play only at the bottom of the pyramid. The higher asking prices are not reflective of what YOU can sell a show llama for.

And, finally, there is a segment of show llama producers who buy eash other's "show breeding stock" for the mutual tax write-offs. Those who already know that trick aren't reading this page. Those who want to break into that game, um, good luck.

Ethical considerations specific to breeding show llamas

Like all fashion trends, halter llamas come in and go out of vogue at the whims of a few people. The difference is that although trend-setting breeders do have a delayed influence on show ring choices, judges and the show associations that certify them have the greatest influence on what will be in demand. Those judges, in turn, are influenced by a variety of factions, most of which focus on aesthetic features and none of which are concerned with function. This means that a halter class llama may have a very short career before becoming obsolete — or a very long wait of many years before becoming a trendy flash-in-the-pan. An additional complication is that the proportions of immature llamas are preferred by a number of judges, so some llamas will never see the winner's circle after they reach adulthood.

You can easily see that although participating in halter classes does not harm llamas directly, breeding llamas primarily for exhibiting at halter is not a practical nor ethical goal.

The primary ethical consideration for attempting to breed performance class llamas is the lack of a real market, and the high percentage of washouts among those few that handlers try out in the showring. And, too, intentionally producing performance showring llamas without already being firmly planted in the necessary political niche is simply not possible at this time — meaning that any attempt is only adding to the oversupply of unwanted llamas.

Is there room for more show llama breeders?

See the above.

If you still aren't convinced, attend a few shows. Notice how many llamas are for sale and what the advertised price is. Notice how most of the halter llamas are shown by the same few breeders. Llamas are shown at halter in hopes of attracting a buyer (if not for that llama, then for future offspring). Nobody is buying a llama for the purpose of showing at halter; that's backwards.

Performance class llamas, at most shows, are usually non-breeding animals (because they're easier to handle). Notice that the Novice classes are usually filled with the same 4H and youth handlers from the youth classes (they already have their llamas, for better or worse — they're not in the market, and incoming youth often buy a llama from a departing club member).

After attending a few shows, you'll quickly discover that the small number of entries in the advanced performance classes are the same people every time, and they use the same llamas. These folks hang onto the few llamas that make the grueling cut to place at the advanced level. These people aren't buying, either. When they do, they already know which llamas (from their small circle of pals) will be the best risks for them to buy.