All posts by Paige McGrath

I am the owner and publisher of Llama Life II. Our family has been raising llamas since 1986 at our Lower Sherwood Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia. My areas of interest include breeding, showing, training, trekking and fiber arts.

Plans for a Restraining Chute

Chute plansHE0One of the most important tools you could have for your llamas or alpacas is a restraining chute.  It can makes tough jobs like medical work, shearing, trimming toes and grooming a lot easier – especially when dealing with nervous animals.

While most commercial chutes  are great, they can be quite expensive. Here are plans for building your own.

Click here:  chuteplans  (pdf)

Halter Training

by Jim and Amy Logan

Haltering is a basic behavior that should be taught to every llama in your herd. Happily, by following a few simple concepts easy haltering can be an attainable goal for everyone.  Here we cover one of the most traditional ways to halter your llama.

How Beats When

Effective haltering skills can be taught at any age.  Fortunately, when you train is not nearly as important as where and how to train, so if you haven’t made it out there right at weaning time, don’t worry.  First, set up a reliable, consistent training area.  Make your schoolroom easy to herd your llamas in and out of.  Allow your llama to settle in by himself, and once he is comfortable, you can begin.  Talking to your llama is very important not only for bonding and trust building, but also for the future use of  verbal commands

Start in a small catch pen around 10’ x 10’. Stand quietly in the pen with your llama until he is comfortable with you being in the pen with him. When he accepts your presence as “no big deal,” then start moving closer.  If he moves, then stop, immediately give him the command “stand.”  The llama must associate verbal cues with physical actions.  Llamas don’t know what “stand” means; so in early training when the llama is standing, you say “stand.”

One of the most common mistakes owners make is to say the word “stand” while the llama is still moving. This makes the llama associate the behavior of moving around with the cue to “stand.”  Work on getting closer to your llama, then begin the next step of slowly reaching out to him and stroking him on the neck while he stands. Then practice putting your right arm around his neck while he is standing, as if you were going to halter him.  Your goal is to put your right arm around your llama’s neck without him pulling away from you. If he does, concentrate on releasing the pressure, because the more you pull, the more he will pull.  Note – don’t forget to use your verbal rewards and praises.  Once your llama stands, talk to him while petting him on the neck and then release him.  Always try to release when the llama is not pulling away from you. Remember: to instill good catching habits you must show your llama that being caught is no big deal.

Short Sessions

The age of the llama is important when considering how long to make each  lesson. Younger llamas have shorter attention spans;  10 to 15-minute lessons are fairly basic when teaching catch and halter.

Try to catch your llama as described for several days in a row. By doing consecutive training sessions, the llama becomes more comfortable because  he knows what to expect. After several days, this will create a more relaxed atmosphere.  Each to the vet or for doing toenail trimming, shots, etc. In the beginning it is important to just catch and release.  If you put a halter on and go to the vet  every time you catch your llama, he may associate negative activities with being caught.  Remember, you may know what you are going to do with your llama and where you are going, but he doesn’t!

Fits is Important

     After your llama is easy to catch, you can start desensitizing the nose for haltering.  Put your right arm around the llama’s neck and run your left hand up the neck to the cheek and slowly drift your fingers over the bridge of the nose. How far and fast you progress depends on the llama’s reaction as you do this.  Most llamas will sier.  Do this three or four times and end the lesson.

        When you are ready to halter, be sure to choose a halter that is plenty big enough for your llama.  You don’t want to get to the haltering and then find out you can’t even fit it over his nose!  First, smoothly catch your llama just as you have been practicing previously.  Stand with your right hip into your llama’s left shoulder, facing the same way that your llama is facing.  Hold the halter in your left hand.  Then put your right arm around the llama’s neck with very little pressure on the neck.  Raise your left hand, (holding the halter) with deliberate speed upwards, parallel with the neck, just under the chin.  Grasp the unbuckled strap on the halter with your right hand. Now you are holding the halter with both hands, this allows you to position the nose band so that it is upright and wide enough for your llama’s nose.

Trust Building

Move the halter from beneath the chin all the way up on the nose. Then take it off just as easily as you put it on.  Depending on the llama’s reaction, it’s usually good practice to repeat the above procedure, including catching, haltering, and releasing three or four times before you buckle the halter.  Save the buckling for another lesson.  In the first session or two, we are just showing the llama that the approach, catch, halter, and release are no big deal.  As soon as your llama accepts this procedure, do the approach and halter and then add the buckling.

When you do buckle it, you may leave it on for a 5 – 7 minutes, so that the llama can get used to how it feels.  A proper fitting halter will not squash the llama’s  nose or work up into his eyes. After the halter has been on for a few minutes, approach and release the llama.

When working with your llama, be sure to avoid the chase game. This inevitably  causes more stress, making it more difficult to create a positive learning atmosphere.  Limit your llama’s mobility.  Smaller pens allow for more intimate interaction.  If you are using ropes, bribes, or extra accessories, remember!  There is nothing wrong with finding different ways to get the desired results. But all of these helpers must eventually be faded away in order to get your finished behavior, stress-free haltering.

The more you use a crutch or a bribe, the harder it will be to get rid of it later.

Keep safety in mind. While it may be easy for you to use force when working with the younger llama, physical force with an adult llama is a different story.  Llamas of any age are extremely strong, it is better to use your head instead of depending on your muscles!  It is important that you put in your time percur during the process.

They Have Their Reasons

This building of trust will only help you in future training, particularly when introducing new and potentially scary things.  The llama with haltering problems has a reason for his behavior. His behaviors are in place today because they have worked well for him in the past. Raising a nose up high in the air to avoid the halter, flinging the halter off and running away as soon as the halter is unbuckled, or running away from you as soon as he even sees a halter, have all been effective behaviors for him to avoid unpleasant situations in his previous life.  It is your job to teach him that haltering can be fast, easy, and tolerable, if not pleasant.

Again, use your environment to your advantage.  Don’t get into trtable with you, and realizes that raising the nose is no longer effective, you can lower your step stool object and height until you are eventually catching a normal llama at a normal height.  It just takes a little time and patience to gradually reach the desired behavior.

Use Slow Hands

For those halter-flinging llamas who love to fling their heads and run away the moment you are even thinking of releasing the halter,  take it slow. Be prepared for what you have experienced in the past, you can sense and feel the muscles changing in the llama’s neck and face before he flings his head. Keep adequate pressure on while releasing the halter, and release it as quickly as possible, retaining control of the llama for just a moment after unbuckling, and before removing the halter.  You know what is coming, so just start slowly, accepting a millisecond of control after unbuckling, and slowly increase the amount of time you retain control after unbuckling.  Eventually, you’ll be able to release your llama and retain control for several moments after removing the halter.

So how long does all this take?  The speed of your progress is directly related to your approach and how your llama responds.  Most llamas can learnroaching, catching and haltering and get it down and very familiar before you progress to adding a lead rope, or going for a walk. You don’t have to put up with poor haltering habits.  Show your llama that there is always a better way!

This article originally appeared in Llama Life II Issue No. 53, Spring 2000.

Barn Maintenence: Using Litter Boxes

It’s no secret to llama owners that llamas use communal dung piles – often multiple piles – but communal just the same. However, many are surprised to learn that llamas will use litter boxes. Most don’t believe it until they see it.

Training your llamas to use a litter box not only helps keep your barn clean, it can also reduce the amount of time and energy you use to keep it that way. Our llamas have been using litter boxes for about 15 years. And, with 100 llamas, this poop manage ment tool is a life saver.

Freshly cleaned litter box with fresh pine saw dust.
Freshly cleaned litter box with fresh pine saw dust.

IMG_2389The Birth of the Litter Box

For the first three years we owned llamas – back when we had about a dozen – we tried everything to manage the manure in the barn. Coming from a horse background, the thing that made the most sense was shavings but we were afraid of the mess it would make in the llamas’ coats. So we tried straw and hay to soak up the urine, but found it inefficient and tended to produce a worse odor than the urine alone. Then we tried sand… which produced yet a bigger mess. Although sand was nice in the summer because you can wet it down to cool off the llamas, it was backbreaking to move and managed to get deep into the llamas’ coats. Eventually, we broke down and decided to try pine shavings/sawdust.

It worked great! It soaked up the urine, was lighter to shovel and the pine made the barn smell good. (I’ve always loved the smell of a freshly bedded horse barn.) But the llamas were kicking and tracking the litter all over. So we kept sweeping the loose litter into a corner but found that the llamas followed the pile. So we installed a retaining rail to keep the litter in the corner and thus created our first “litter box.”

How To Train Your Llamas

Start by spreading pine saw dust or fine shavings over their dung pile area. This will soak up the urine. Sweep the tracked litter back into place. Replace with fresh shavings after each cleaning. If the llamas continue to use the same dung pile with the shavings/sawdust and you’re satisfied with the location, construct retaining “walls” with 4” x 4” wooden boards (or two 4” x 4” securely nailed on top of one another to create your “wall”). Then fill the area 4” deep with shavings/saw dust. The smallest box we use has an area of 3’ x 6’ – this has worked well with small groups of llamas (one to four). Our largest litter box is 8’ x 8’ and takes two wheelbarrows full of sawdust (or two bales of shavings) to fill. There can be as many as four llamas using this box at one time (including babies who quickly emulate their mamas’ toilet habits).

After you’ve been using shavings for a while you’ll find that your llamas will associate the smell of shavings with their dung pile. This makes it very easy to assign the location of the litter box in new barns.IMG_2317 IMG_2318

Our barn was a six-stall, center-aisle stable. The llamas were using the stalls to poop and kept the aisle clean. So the litter boxes were located in the stalls. When we added a 30’ x 30’ extension on the barn (about 14 years ago) we put an 8’ x 8’ litter box in the corner and filled it with saw dust. The llamas instantly knew what it was for and promptly christened it. While we have the occasional “miss” just outside the boxes, the rest of the barn has remained poop free ever since.

Labor Saver

We now have a herd of 100 and spend less time cleaning than we did when we had twelve. Our main barn houses about 60 females using two large litter boxes. Four of the six stalls are assigned to herd sires each having a pasture and a private smaller litter box. The boys’ boxes usually require cleaning once a week or less. When the weather is nice, the girls’ boxes get cleaned out one to two times a week. In hot or rainy weather, the barn gets cleaned out as often as every other day.

We use a front end bucket on our tractor to clean out the litter boxes. The bucket gets dumped into a manure spreader. The stripped stalls then get sprinkled with Sweet PDZ Stall Freshener® and then filled with fresh pine sawdust. A full barn cleaning takes about two hours.

A dump truck full of fresh pine sawdust is delivered from a local mill about twice a year. The “dust” is relatively coarse and very fragrant. Bagged kiln-dried shavings are used in a pinch – and is kept in store during the winter “just in case.” While bagged pine shavings are usually absorbent and light, the quality can be inconsistent ranging from really fine powdery sawdust, to curled shavings, to wood chips. The powdery dust will turn to a paste; the curls get caught in the llamas’ coats; and the wood chips offer little absorbency. We prefer to stick with the fresh sawdust.

Now that you have your llamas litter-box-trained you should have a cleaner barn, fewer flies and more time to play with your critters. On the down side, your llamas may now see sawdust-covered show rings as a giant litter box. A small price to pay for a clean barn.

Archive: This article originally appeared in Llama Life II, Issue No. 71.

Victory for Llamas in Alaska

From Phil and Linda Nuechterlein, Eagle River, Alaska

See Anchorage Daily News video and article links below. The actual printed newspaper article headline says “Pack llamas get OK after proposed ban in Alaska national parks – Fear of disease transmission to wild animals appears to be unfounded” and “Llamas: Nuechterleins and their pack animals can continue to traverse park”

http://www.adn.com/video/video-pack-llamas-alaska-national-parks

http://www.adn.com/article/20150327/pack-llamas-get-official-ok-after-proposed-ban-alaska-national-parks

Our sincere thanks to all of you that commented and assisted us with overcoming this proposed llama ban. This could not have been accomplished without all your support from the lower 48. Very few comments came in from Alaska because there are so few of us up here that pack with llamas. NPS was quite surprised by the quantity and quality of the comments that they received from the lower 48.

Special thanks to Scott Woodruff (Lander Llamas) and Stan Ebel (Buckhorn Llamas) who were very knowledgeable and helpful.

 

 

Dan Milton Publishes Historical Mystery

Long time llama owner and former president of both LANA and ILA,  Dan Milton, has published his first novel.  It’s available at Amazon (www.Amazon.com/DP/150863470x).

Dan and Marilyn Milton retired from raising llamas several years ago. They were very active in the showing and auction communities.  Their breeding program at Highland Llamas, in Oregon, was well-respected for producing top quality show animals that were sought after at the National auctions.

To learn more about Dan and his novel “Roll Over and Play Dead” by visiting his website www.danmilton.com

Letters: NPS Proposes to Ban llamas from Alasaka’s National Parks

Greetings,

My name is Phil Nuechterlein and my wife Linda and I have been packing with llamas in Alaska on public lands for more than 30 years. The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing to ban llamas from most of the National Parks in Alaska because of a perceived risk of disease transmission to wild animals. If we allow this to happen this will most certainly set a precedent and we can expect public land managers to follow the NPS lead to ban pack llamas on both federal and state lands all across the United States. If you care about being able to pack with llamas on public lands anywhere in the US, then this NPS decision could eventually affect you. The NPS proposal to ban llamas is currently open to public comment (until February 15, 2015). The NPS website to see their proposed ban and the link to make comments is as follows:

http://www.nps.gov/akso/management/proposed_compendiums.cfm

When you comment, please note that 9 separate identical submittals are necessary to cover all of the NPS parklands affected by the proposed llama ban (See 1-9 below). This is so that each of the 9 different NPS Superintendents will see your comments as they relate to their park. I suggest that you “copy and paste” to submit for each of the 9 parks to make things easier.  By submitting identical comments for each of the following NPS parks you will have covered all of the areas encompassed in this NPS proposed llama ban.

1)      Denali National Park and Preserve

2)      Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

3)      Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

4)      Kenai Fjords National Park

5)      Kobuk Valley National Park (Western Arctic National Parklands)

6)      Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

7)      Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

8)      Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

9)      Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve

Here are some of my thoughts and opinions with respect to this proposed llama ban. Feel free to use my ideas (below) when commenting if you agree but it would be best to edit them to your tastes  as opposed to using the material verbatim. When commenting, I suggest that you  make it very clear that your comments pertain only to llamas (South American Camelids (SAC)) because domestic goats, sheep, and Bovidae are also included in this NPS proposed ban. These other animals are much harder to defend from a disease transmission risk standpoint.

–          No one has ever documented the transmission of any disease from a llama to another species of animal, wild or domestic.

–          The NPS and the Alaska Chapter of The Wildlife Society (an organization referenced in this NPS proposal) have not provided any scientific evidence of a llama disease transmission risk. All of their assertions are hypothetical.   (The Alaska Chapter of The Wildlife Society web address ishttp://drupal.wildlife.org/Alaska/sites/wildlife.org.Alaska/files/red_disease_risk_statement.pdf)

–          To date, I am not aware of any public lands in the US where pack llamas are prohibited on the basis of a disease transmission risk. If they are prohibited it is for other reasons.

–          Historically, llama bans based on a risk of disease transmission have been proposed by the government agencies to include the US Fish & Wildlife Service (KOFA National Wildlife Refuge) and the National Park Service (Canyonlands and Glacier National Parks). After looking at the science, these agencies dismissed their concerns.

–          Alaska hunting regulations effective beginning with regulatory year 2013-2014 imposed a ban on the use of domestic goats and domestic sheep as pack animals for Dall sheep, mountain goat, and muskox hunting. Llamas were specifically excluded from the ban after the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) studied the science of llama disease transmission risk and concluded that the risk was insignificant. The Alaska Board of Game agreed with ADF&G’s conclusion and adopted the new hunting regulation that allows the use of pack llamas for hunting.

–          NPS states that they are not concerned about any disease transmission risk from horses. Horses can carry some of the diseases that NPS has identified as diseases of concern in their proposal. Is NPS not concerned about horses because they are not ruminants, more distantly related to the wildlife, and therefore less likely to transmit disease? If so, llamas are also not ruminants. Llamas are not even pseudo-ruminants according to “Medicine & Surgery of Camelids” third edition 2010 by Dr. Murray E. Fowler, DVM. See chapter 1.

–          “Medicine & Surgery of Camelids” third edition 2010 by Murray E. Fowler, DVM dispels myths with regard to llamas and disease transmission. See chapter 7.

–          The diseases of concern identified in the NPS proposal are either rare in llamas, not transmittable from llamas to wild game, or they do not occur in llamas.

–          Any decision by the NPS should be based in science, fact, and truth. NPS offers no scientific evidence of a disease transmission risk. NPS offers only hypothetical risk scenarios. NPS concerns are misguided.

–          If NPS chooses to take a zero risk policy with regard to disease transmission, this is unrealistic in today’s society and would serve to undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the decision-making policy.

Please let me know your thoughts, share any advice that you may have, and let me know if you think I am mistaken in any of my observations or conclusions.  Please comment to NPS before the February 15th deadline. Maybe it would help to contact your US Senators and Representatives.

Thank you!
Phil Nuechterlein
Eagle River, Alaska
Ph. 907-694-4136

Obituary: Art Kennel

Arthur J. Kennel, M.D., 85, died peacefully at Charter House on December 12, 2014, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was born to John E. Kennel and Anna Mary (Summers) Kennel on April 26, 1929, in rural Gap, PA. Arthur is survived by his wife Lois and sisters Naomi (Sol) Yoder of Amsterdam, and Leah Magal of Portland, ME. Also surviving is his daughter Susan Harrison of Toronto, Ontario, and son Kurt (Betty) Kennel of Rochester; five grandchildren: Andrew and Leila Harrison and Simon, Naomi, and Caleb Kennel. Preceding him in death were his brother, Calvin, and sisters Edith Graybill, Alta Stoltzfus, Erma Kauffman, Ruth Glick, Gertrude Yoder, Ann Mast, and Salinda Smucker.

Lois Kennel, Niki Kulklenski and Art Kennel at Hinterland's final Walkabout.  Photo by Kay Patterson.
Lois Kennel, Niki Kulklenski and Art Kennel at Hinterland’s final Walkabout. Photo by Kay Patterson.

Arthur (Art) graduated from Lancaster Mennonite High School in 1947. Although born into a long line of carpenters and skilled in the trade, he embarked on other employment adventures as well. In 1946 he contributed to alleviating post-war conditions in Europe by going to Poland as a sea-going cowboy. Again in 1951 he sailed with a shipload of heifers to Israel. In the summer of 1953 he drove with two friends from Pennsylvania to Alaska for work and adventure.

Art did undergraduate studies at Penn State and graduated from Eastern Mennonite College where he met Lois. He completed his M.D. at Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia in 1957. From 1958 to 1963 Art practiced general medicine in Jefferson, NC and Stuart, VA.  In 1960 he and his brother-in-law, Dr. Ivan Magal, established Stuart Clinic. From there he moved on to do Internal Medicine training at Mayo Clinic and a Fellowship in Cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania (1969).

After the births of his two children Art responded to a classified ad by the Medical Assistance Programs International which resulted in moving his family to Kinshasa, Zaire, from 1970-1972 where he became Chair of the Cardiology Department at the 1500-bed Hopital Mama Yemo (now Kinshasa General Hospital). Upon his return to the US he earned a Master of Science from University of Minnesota (1973). Board-certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease he became a Mayo Clinic Consultant, Assistant Professor at Mayo Medical School and a Section Head of the Division of Community Medicine. He was a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, American College of Chest Physicians, Sigma Xi National Research Society, and President of the Mennonite Medical Association and Rotary Club of Rochester. Arthur retired from the Mayo Clinic in 1995.

Arthur had many hobbies: travel, fishing, animals, gardening, photography, music, reading. The project that would enthrall him throughout his retirement began in 1981 when he began breeding and showing llamas. Kennelllamas, in partnership with Lois, was his passion for 30 years.

Art’s interest in scientific research provided opportunities for him to contribute to the llama industry by way of presentations at the University of Cajamarca in Peru, the University of Gottingen in Germany as well as with “People to People” in Australia and New Zealand. A two-term trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation, he reviewed grant proposals and the research agenda on camelids. In 2013 he was honored by the International Lama Registry for his impact on the llama industry.

Art was a man of faith and a leader in the Rochester Mennonite Church as long as he was able. In 2011 he completed his memoirs, Life, Love, Llamas and Laughs: My Story. (Masthof publisher).

The family wishes to express their sincere appreciation to the staff and volunteers of Mayo Hospice and Charter House for their loving care of Arthur. He has donated his body to Mayo Foundation for medical research.

There was a celebration of Arthur’s life at Charter House on December 23. An additional celebration will be held in Lancaster County in April, 2015.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to Medical Assistance Programs International, 4700 Glynco Parkway, Brunswick, GA 31525; Heifer Project International, 1 World Ave, Little Rock, AR 72202; Mayo Hospice, 200 1st St SW, Rochester, MN 55905; or International Llama Foundation, Box 8, Kalispell, MT 59903.

Submitted by Lois Kennel

 

Running of the Llamas Makes the New York Times

by Sheila Fugina

Running2014Winner
Winning team Nick Meyer and Cosmo.

Though attendance at the 18th annual Running of the Llamas in Hammond, Wisconsin, was down just a bit from last year, there were two people present who gave the event an extra boost—reporter Mitch Smith and photographer Jenn Ackerman of the New York Times. The result was an article and photo in the Sept. 15, 2014, edition of the paper, as well as a short video clip and additional photos on the New York Times website—heady stuff for a small village in northwestern Wisconsin.

The article was well written—fun, informative and with just the right amount of humor. Llama and alpaca owners from various parts of the country, however, were quick to notify the paper that they had misidentified the animals in the photo as llamas when they were definitely alpacas. A correction in the September 17 edition identified the racers as alpacas and included the line, “While the llamas were the stars of the day, one race was designated just for alpacas, perhaps to make the llamas’ kissing cousins feel included.”

Running2014AlpacaWinner
Maggie Carter won first place in the alpaca race with Parker.

In the main event, 12 llamas ran in four heats with the winners of each heat racing against each other in a final face-off to see who took home the biggest basket of veggies. Two years ago organizers added an alpaca heat to recognize that alpacas had become a part of the day’s activities. Winners of this year’s baskets included: first place llama Lightning, owned by Mark Jacobson of Hammond and handled by Nick Meyer of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin; second place llama Cosmo, owned and handled by 4-Her Alyssa Anderson of Osceola, Wisconsin; and top alpaca Parker, owned by Don Dipprey of Comstock, Wisconsin, and handled by Maggie Carter of Roberts, Wisconsin.

Racing animals came from Wisconsin and Minnesota as did most of the handlers, but one adventurous runner, who was in the alpaca heat, came from San Diego, California. A number of 4-Hers in llama/alpaca projects ran with their project animals. Little one-year-old Margy’s Tambolicious Bart (who wasn’t even as big as his name) was a crowd favorite. He was the project llama of 4-Her Austin Eberhardt of Foreston, Minnesota, and owned by Joan Dobbert of Princeton, Minnesota.

Mercedes Blas-Day and her husband Paul drove 350 miles from their home in Des Plaines, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, to take in the day’s activities. She grew up in Peru and met her American husband there while he was teaching English and becoming acquainted with llamas. She thought he was kidding a couple of years ago when he asked her, “Do you want to go to the Running of the Llamas?” Now they’ve become regulars at the event.

Running2014Bagpipe
Larry Fraser

The race is always preceded by a quirky three-block-long parade that features the racing llamas and alpacas strutting their stuff. This year’s parade also included unicyclists, hula hoopers, a kiddie car train, a man on stilts and kids wearing llama ear headbands. Leading the parade was the event’s mascot, bagpiper Larry Fraser of New Brighton, Minnesota, playing his bagpipes and decked out in his official plaid kilt and a neon-colored “Llama Security” t-shirt.

Vendors offered a variety of products, many of them llama and alpaca related, and the Hammond Arts Alliance sold the official 2014 Running of the Llamas t-shirts and other event souvenirs. The race was followed by the popular rib fest where five area restaurants served up their own special rib recipes in an attempt to win the people’s choice award, and a live band added to the festive atmosphere.

The Running of the Llamas is always held the second Saturday in September. More information on the event and its history, as well as a photo gallery, can be found at www.therunningofthellamas.com.

Camelid Community Jamboree Targets New Owners

by Sheila Fugina

cc-logo-webCamelid Community’s “Fiber as Business” conference in Wooster, Ohio, in August created a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm about the potential for camelid fiber to generate income for alpaca and llama owners. That income potential is not limited simply to selling fiber and fiber products. A profitable camelid fiber industry would add value to our animals and make them more attractive to new owners, demonstrating why we raise camelids and what we can do with them—and we must have new owners if we are to succeed as an industry.

Just as the “Fiber as Business” conference was designed to provide a format and template for similar fiber conferences to be held in other parts of the country, Camelid Community has developed what we feel is the next step needed to grow our industry, an educational camelid jamboree designed to attract and educate the potential new owners who will insure that our industry’s future is a bright and strong one. The Camelid Community Jamboree also is designed to provide a template for use in future locations.

Target Audience—Young families and newly retired couples living on small acreages are the primary target for an educational camelid jamboree. They and others who are looking for family friendly, easy to care for animals that can generate an income flow are the main focus for such an event. The initial Camelid Community Jamboree will be held Sept. 19-20, 2015, at the Pierce County Fairgrounds in Ellsworth, Wisconsin—ideally located to draw people from a wide area in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and near enough to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area to draw fiber enthusiasts. The event will be free to the public.

Sponsors—Sponsors of the initial Camelid Community Jamboree include Alpaca Owners Association (AOA), International Lama Registry (ILR), International Camelid Institute (ICI) and Greater Appalachian Llama & Alpaca Association (GALA). Additional groups also have indicated interest in becoming sponsors.

Content—The jamboree will include a series of short educational sessions, around 45 minutes or so, that will be repeated mornings and afternoons on both days so that people have the opportunity to attend all or most of the sessions no matter when they arrive. Topics will include camelid healthcare, nutrition, housing, training and handling, camelid 4-H projects, fiber both on and off the animal, the business end of fiber and demonstrations related to many of the topics. There will also be opportunities for hands on experiences with alpacas and llamas for both adults and youth, including animal walks, obstacle courses, etc. Other hands on activities will be fiber related, again for people of all ages. Attendees can leave the jamboree with all the relevant information needed to start their camelid adventure, and they will have made contacts with current owners who can be called upon for mentoring.

Vendors will offer a wide range of fiber and fiber products for sale as well as other camelid related items. In addition to providing a good marketing opportunity for the vendors, it also demonstrates to potential new camelid owners what they can do to generate an income flow from their animals. Exhibitors may have llamas and alpacas on display or for sale, and camelid organizations may have booths and displays to educate both current and future camelid owners as well as the general public. In addition, this will be an attractive venue for fiber mills, pools and cooperatives, as well as livestock related businesses—trailer manufacturers, feed suppliers, producers of farm buildings and equipment, etc. Local food vendors will provide meal and snack items for purchase.

The “workforce” for the jamboree will consist of volunteers: alpaca and llama owners in the region, members of regional and local camelid organizations and 4-H/FFA members and leaders in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, especially those with llama and alpaca projects. Additional details will be forthcoming the first part of 2015, and updates will be posted on Camelid Community’s website at www.camelidcommunity.us.

If you or your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor for Camelid Community Jamboree, or if you are interested in vendor or exhibitor information, please contact Sheila Fugina (bsfugina@frontier.com) or Barb Baker (bebaker@earthlink.net).

What’s the Real Cost of Llama Fiber?

by Sharon Bramblett

After shearing our eight llamas in early May 2014, I was again faced with whether or not it’s worth having the fleeces professionally processed by a fiber mill. I’ve used Zeilinger’s in Michigan several times and am generally pleased with the cleanliness and quality of the returned fiber. Their posted charges, based on weight of raw fiber, are $13/lb. for three pounds or more; but $23/lb. if less than three pounds! Naively, when we first acquired llamas, I wanted to spin everyone’s fiber, even if it wasn’t the best quality. Later I became more discerning (read “cheap”) and only sent fiber from those llamas from which I have experience spinning and producing wearable items. I mailed the fleeces to Zeilinger’s June 6; they were returned October 2.

SharonShear_MissZ
Sharon Bramblett shearing Miss Z.

Because we get about 1.5 pounds of fleece per year from each of our five best llamas, we decided to accumulate two years’ worth before sending for processing. Usually we don’t skirt each fleece, but 2014 was a bumper year for clover burrs that processing doesn’t remove. Thus, Claud and I skirted them by hand, adding about three hours each of our time per fleece but at the same time, reducing the weight. We can’t win.

Most llamas have two types of fiber: down and guard hair. The mill first washes the fiber, allows it to dry, then passes it via a conveyor belt through a dehairing machine that separates the soft down from guard hair and VM (vegetable matter). Clean, dehaired down (clouds) drops into the first bin; guard hair mixed with VM into second and third bins. Less than half of the raw weight is returned as clouds, suitable for spinning into yarn. Having the clouds processed further into roving would have been an additional charge. I like spinning clouds into worsted yarn.

Llama raw fleece weight (lb) processing costs usable fiber (oz) returned(excludes waste) cost/oz
Majic 3.12 lb. $40.56 24.6 oz. $1.64
McArthur 2.38 $54.74 17.0 $3.22
Kimmie 2.97 $66.01 8.2 $8.05
Inti 3.17 $41.21 13.2 $3.12
Miss Z White 2.12 $48.76 12.6 $3.86
Miss Z Brown 2.14 $49.22 15.8 $3.11
total $300.50
shipping $71.00

 

Waste fiber (including VM) is also returned to us. We accumulate several years of waste then send it to Ingrid’s Handwoven Rugs in Paint Rock, TX where it’s woven into rugs. The guard hair in this waste llama fiber makes strong, washable, easily vacuumed rugs.

Note: Because Miss Z is a paint llama with a large, dark brown “saddle” that contrasts starkly with the rest of her white fiber, I divided the colors for processing.