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.

“Phoenix Rising”

EPSON scanner imageI can’t believe it’s been a full year since we’ve been in print.

On September 1 of last year, my house got hit by lightning. The strike blew the top four feet off my chimney and fried my computer. I count myself as incredibly lucky that my house did not burn to the ground. But the damage to my computer has made for a long and tough come-back. Issue No. 105 and its contents were lost with the strike – and with that, the loss of advertising revenue. Insurance replaced the computer but the magazine would have to be rebuilt from scratch.

The first challenge was having to deal with a new computer with a new OS and updated versions of the software to learn. The second challenge was trying to get the advertising back on track.  The former proved a lot easier than the latter. Print ads may be a thing of the past. Many (most?) major publications have had to adjust to the fact that print media is losing ground. Why should our small trade magazine be any different.

So welcome to the future of Llama Life II online magazine.

We will continue to offer the “news and views” of the llama industry; and, maintain the same mission as we always have. We’ll continue to be a subscriber-based publication. Most pages will only be accessible by subscribers. Since we want to encourage growth of llama ownership, many pages that would serve beginners will be available to the public.

As a new online enterprise, there will be some bugs to work out. Please be patient as we find our footing. The layout and organization will likely need adjusting as we get used to the new format.

To start, we will be offering advertising opportunities in three sizes. A new advantage for LLII advertisers is that A. Your ads will be in color and 2. They can be linked directly to your web page.  If you’d like to sponsor us through advertising please email me at Paigeink@aol.com.

A lot has happened while we’ve been away. We’re working hard to catch up. Look out! We’re going to be bigger and better than ever!

Llamas Attend Wisconsin Farm Technology Days

The following is about the 2013 event. This article was included in the lost issue No. 105 but is still worth reporting here.

This is a banner the Midwest Lama Association had made for use at its display at Wisconsin's Farm Technology Days.
This is a banner the Midwest Lama Association had made for use at its display at Wisconsin’s Farm Technology Days.

Members of the Midwest Lama Association sponsored a live animal display at the 60th Wisconsin Farm Technology Days held July 9-11, 2013 on a huge Barron County dairy farm in the northwestern part of the state. The event, which has grown to be Wisconsin’s largest outdoor farm show and one of the largest in the nation, is held on a different farm each year in various locations throughout the state. Attendance at this year’s three-day event was 40,000.

Wisconsin Farm Technology Days provides visitors the opportunity to see and talk with more than 600 commercial and educational exhibitors in Tent City. Virtually all activity at the host county level is coordinated and managed by the county’s University of Wisconsin Extension office in cooperation with the county’s Farm Technology Days committee and 700 to 1,000 volunteers.

DSC03273
Julie Mazac of River Falls, Wisconsin, had a skirting table, drum carder and spinning wheel set up in the Midwest Lama Association tent during Wisconsin’s Farm Technology Days and answered many questions while she demonstrated fiber processing.

A pen of llamas anchored each corner at the entrance to the Midwest Lama Association tent, and different members provided animals each of the three days. A four-foot tall novelty llama stood guard outside the entrance and served to attract passersby into the exhibit. Once inside, visitors were treated to a colorful array of fiber in all forms—from raw fleeces, batts and roving to a wide variety of yarns and finished products.

Brenda Harting and Becky Willhite of Iowa demonstrated spinning and knitting at the Midwest Lama Association display.
Brenda Harting and Becky Willhite of Iowa demonstrated spinning and knitting at the Midwest Lama Association display.

Fiber processing was demonstrated with the use of a skirting table and drum carder, and spinners showed how to use both a traditional wheel and a drop spindle. In addition to Midwest Lama Association members with skills and interest in using their llama and alpaca fiber, members of the Indianhead Spinning Guild provided additional demonstrations and support. Finished fiber items included those that had been felted, knitted, crocheted and woven.

Free brochures and other handouts provided visitors with takeaways on general camelid care as well as more specific information on use of their fiber. A wonderful fiber display created by Midwest Lama Association member Danita Doerre explained the various types of llama and alpaca fiber and how they are used to make different kinds of yarn.

A fairly new organization, the Midwest Lama Association was formed this past year when members of both the Wisconsin Organization of Lama Enthusiasts and Lamas of Minnesota voted to dissolve their respective groups. People from Wisconsin and Minnesota make up the bulk of the membership of the new group with a goodly number also coming from Iowa. In addition, individual farms from as far away as Kentucky also are members.

Sheila Fugina, reporting

Llama Beans Are Used to Clean Water

submitted by Sheila Fugina

Llama manure is being used to treat run-off from a tin and silver mine that pollutes the main water supply for La Paz, Bolivia. According to National Geographic Today, researchers have been developing a low-cost way to neutralize the acidic, metal-laden water by filtering it through llama droppings.

In a pilot study the scientists used llama beans to treat run-off from the Milluni mine, a tin and silver mine that has killed organisms in an alpine lake and also polluted the La Paz water supply. Their low-tech “bioreactor” system harnesses microbes living in the manure to neutralize the acidic water and remove most of the dissolved metals.

After successfully testing a dung-based filtration system in the United Kingdom using cattle and horse manure, researchers tried the method in Bolivia using llama manure. When the mine water is filtered through ponds and lagoons filled with the manure, the acidity of the water changes from something equivalent to vinegar to a neutral state close to that of drinking water. The treated water was almost neutralized and the level of many of the metals were reduced to quantities declared safe by the World Health Organization.

Funding is now being sought to implement creation of large-scale bioreactors to treat the water from the Milluni mine.

See the full National Geographic News article.

18 Things a New Owner Should Know

by Jo Ann McGrath

We have placed no copyright protection on this list. Please feel free to copy it, circulate it, publish it and, above all, heed it. If you wish to download it from the Internet, it is a mainstay on our web site http://www.llamalife.com.

  1. Don’t buy ‘bottle babies’. Unweaned crias (baby lamas) are not suitable pets. If you have inadvertently obtained one, bottlefeed it 20 percent of its weight daily with plain homogenized Vitamin D milk (reinforced with nutrients if it doesn’t gain daily) and don’t cuddle it. Offer it a coarse sweet feed and free choice quality hay at an early age. It will start to nibble when it is ready. Naturally raised crias, not normally weaned until six months, should gain a half to a full pound daily. Provide it with another animal for company – preferably a lama – but keep physical human contact to a minimum. An adult lama bonded to a human from near-birth without proper herd socialization can be a danger when the animal treats the human as another lama. Seek information from knowledgeable reputable breeders or veterinarians. A reputable breeder will not sell you a cria under four or five months of age. Bottle fed babies/hand raised SHOULD/MUST be gelded (lamas and alpacas) sooner rather than later. ‘
  2. Lamas left haltered are in peril. Because many owners don’t train their animals to haltering, or provide a catch-pen or stall for doing so, they leave the halters on all the time. This results in abscesses, ulcers, unsightly calluses….and, if the halter is caught on something, a broken neck. And because haltering has not been mastered, some owners leave the SAME halter on a growing animal. Some have been found with the flesh growing around the nose band or with malformation of the nasal passages.
  3. Lamas should not be tied to trees or posts unattended. Don’t leave your lama tied to any ungiving object. Some have tried to accustom their animals to a halter by leaving them tied to a tree. The too-often result has been a broken neck when they have tossed their heads to break free. Use a bungee or other elastic extension, firmly secured, if you must tie an untended lama.
  4. Deworming and vaccination. Lamas need to be on a regular schedule of deworming. Panacur™ or Safeguard™ paste and Ivermectin™ subcutaneous shots or pour-on liquid have been the recommended dewormers. Ivermectin™ will not take care of tapeworms – use Panacur™ or Safeguard™ paste. Yearly vaccinations (CDT and killed rabies vaccine) are standard. Babies are vaccinated before weaning at five to six months. Young animals are more susceptible to coccidia infestations than older ones; diarrhea is a symptom. Coccidiosis presents a danger of dehydration as well as debilitation that can lead to death. Treat with Corrid. (See Llama Life II, Issue No. 43).                                  *Update (10/5/15):  While deworming is still a very important part of husbandry, resistant parasites can become a bigger problem.  It is now recommended using dewormers “as needed”. Where you live, and the size of your herd, will greatly affect how often you’ll need to deworm. Checking fecal samples is a great way to monitor parasite loads. Newer deworming products are also available.  Check with your vet.
  5. Lamas frequently choke on concentrated pellets. Not every one of them will choke, but if you feed straight pellets to your lamas, ultimately you are likely to have a case of choke – particularly when animals are in competition for food. A coarse feed, even mixed with pellets, is preferable. In an emergency, acute episodes of choke may be r=esolved by passing a tube into the side of the mouth and gently feeding the length of it down the throat to clear obstruction. Examination by vet should follow any emergency treatment and an antibiotic administered to ward off pneumonia in the event partially masticated pellets are sucked into the lungs. If the airways are totally closed, time is short. Check with your vet and have a first aid plan as a contingency. Numbers of lamas have died from asphyxiation from spectacular clogging of their airways by saliva-swollen pellets.
  6. If you do feed pellets: To discourage choke, spread pellets in a wide pan or put large smooth rocks in their bowl so they must “lip” around them. This will keep them from gobbling too fast. Non-breeding lamas fare very well on free choice hay, adequate pasture, fresh water and free choice loose minerals. If they are breeding, underweight or lactating, supplement them with a feed formulated for lamas. Goat or cow formulated feed can be used – even horse feed has been used. They CANNOT be fed rabbit pellets even though the pellets may look like other pelleted feeds.
  7. They need a source of minerals/salt. Whether or not you feed grain or pellets, do be sure they have free access to a source of salt and minerals–including extra selenium if you are in a selenium-deficient area. Check with your Extension Agent to learn the selenium level in your state or county. Your agent can take a core sample of your hay to assess its nutritional content.
  8. Heat and Humidity: Lamas, native to the dry thin air of the South American altiplano, do not handle heat and humidity well. They need to be sheared in the spring and cooled by hosing their bellies and under their tails when the heat is oppressive. They must have shelter from direct sun and some kind of air movement if their shelter enclosed.
  9. Open-mouthed breathing can be dire. In the heat of summer, never ignore an animal that is breathing with an open mouth. While they will do this if they were recently spat upon, it is an extremely abnormal way to breathe. Conclude that they are in heat stress and cool them IMMEDIATELY and thoroughly. Males in heat stress will have swollen testicles. A normal adult temperature is 100 to 101 degrees….sometimes 102 can be normal for your animal. 103 and higher is trouble. lamas should be sheared in the spring. (See Llama Life II, No. 38 for detailed heat stress information.)
  10. Poison plants and trees: Lamas are browsers – they like to eat a variety of things. A number of those things can be lethal: Rhododendron and wilted cherry are among the most well-known examples of vegetation that have proved lethal. There is a list available of toxic plants and trees – check with any one of the associations devoted to camelids, or your Extension Agent – who is a good resource and whose services are paid for with your taxes….use him!
  11. Lamas don’t like to be alone. Even responsible purchasers, who have listened to responsible owners and bought a pair of lamas, can run into trouble. As long as the two are together….they are content. If you choose to take one of them for a walk, expect the one remaining to become extremely agitated. So agitated that he may jump the fence or do damage to himself in an attempt to join you. Even in herd situations, lamas show concern when one is separated from the group.
  12. Shelter – Fencing:  Many lamas live without any shelter but trees. It can be done, but it isn’t an ideal situation. Some protection from wind, sn©ow, rain, sun and lightning should be afforded them. Fencing for any kind of livestock of similar size should be adequate. Barbed wire is a poor choice since they rub against fences and poke their heads through the wires and the barbs can easily injure their prominent eyes, or rip into their skin.
  13. Males close to 1 year should not reside with females.  And young females should not reside with males – young or old. Since most are sexually precocious and fertile, it is not uncommon for pregnancies to occur in females at four months. By six months, a young male is sufficiently practiced that he can encourage adult females to ovulate–and some may even be capable of penetrating a female. If you have a brother and sister together, don’t rely on them to understand the taboos of incest. When animals are in unnatural confinement nature doesn’t require them to recognize the finer distinctions of family trees. In the wild, s∂ome natural mechanisms mitigate against this.
  14. Trim males’ fighting teeth. By the age of at least two, impressive, curved and very sharp upper and lower fighting teeth will have matured to a point where serious damage can be done to other males–and to an uncooperative female. And, if you leave breeding males together, expect injury or heat stress. Even in 100 degree weather a male will chase a rival till he drops. One enraged male can render another emasculated with his front teeth. A full set of fighting teeth aren’t necessary to inflict great and lasting damage. Consult veterinarian about removing tips of fighting teeth. (See Managing Males, Llama Life II, Issue No. 39)
  15. You need a chute or some safe restraint. Trying to cut toenails, (and, yes, toenails need to be cut or lameness will result–although some animals rarely or never need trimming) or administer shots, or handle an injured animal can be dangerous for the anvimal and you unless you have a reliable, SAFE restraint. Some have used a horse trailer in place of a chute. (See Plans, Llama Life II, Issue No. 39).
  16. Prolonged labor is not natural. Once hard labor has begun (active pushing), a nose or a foot should appear within an hour (preferably sooner). Don’t let an animal struggle for hours without producing anything. If, prior to actively pushing, she lies down on one side and then the other frequently, – or up and down constantly – or if she is flat out with her head on the side, call your vet. If you don’t have a vet you can call, learn what is, and how to resolve, a dystocia (difficult birth) before you have to.
  17. Keep colostrum and plasma on hand. Some new mom’s won’t have milk or it will be slow to come in. Some new crias are weak. Colostrum (first milk) needs to be in a baby’s belly within 12 hours after birth to ihelp insure a passive transfer of antibodies, and to give the baby strength. Don’t wait until you have a problem. Have at least a quart, preferably a gallon, (frozen in six- or eight-ounce freezer baggies or containers) of goat or cow colostrum (from animals that have been vaccinated) on hand – along with a nipple that works (recommended is a flutter valve available from Caprine Supply – 1-800-646-7736) and a soda bottle that fits the nipple. There is nothing sadder than an owner calling around to distant lama neighbors at midnight in search of life-saving colostrum. Keep two units of plasma in your freezer along with the colostrum. Deep frozen, it will last a long time. (See Colostrum, Llama Life II, Issue No. 39)
  18. Don’t keep ‘stuff’ in their pens. Lamas are curious. They explore everything. Don’t leave potentially dangerous lumber, wire, wheelbarrows, baling string, tractor parts or brooms and shovels where they can reach them, get tangled in them, or chew on them. Take a tip from the Boy Scouts. Have a plan for every contingency. Talk to your vet or an experienced friend who can tell you what to have in a first aid kit. In an emergency, “panic” will be your first reaction. You can control this by knowing you have searched out good information–and are prepared with the tools you will need. It could save your lama’s life. Lamas have amazed veterinarians and practiced livestock breeders with their hardiness and resistance to disease. However, since they are stoics, as well as being hardy, when a lama manifests symptoms of distress, it’s usually serious.

Many of the referenced back issues will soon be available for purchase directly from this site. If you would like to purchase any back issue not listed yet, you may contact me at paigeink@aol.com.

Obit: Dr. Murray Fowler

On May 18 of this year, we lost a dear friend, LLII contributor, advisor, mentor and amazing human:  Dr. Murray Fowler of UC Davis in Sacramento.

Shortly after, I received the following letter from another long time friend and LLII contributor, Eric Hoffman: 

You’ve probably heard that Murray Fowler died on May 18 after first suffering a stroke on May 9. There won’t be another Murray Fowler. He was an original with a positive way of doing things. For me personally Murray was a big deal.

My first contact with him was 1979 when I phoned UC Davis to find someone to talk to about conditioning a llama for a arduous trek. I still remember his advice: “Run three miles a day with the llama to get in shape and get to know how well you’ll get along.”  We worked on the screening protocols together (adopted around the world by every alpaca registry at one time or another) and more things.  As you know he was integral to stressing conformation in show standards. And, we wrote The Alpaca Book together. Murray was a giver, pivotal to many people in how their lives went forward. I last ran into about the Camelid Health Conference at OSU in Corvallis last July. He was hanging out with LaRue [Johnson] and proudly presented two papers to all veterinarian audience (except me).  [I was asked to join] Murray and LaRue [and one other vet for dinner]. We had a good time: many old stories and laughter. I’m glad I went, because I will remember how he was still so engaged in learning. He and LaRue were debating the pros and cons of one of the speakers that day and we discussed his help to Bob Frost who had died from cancer.

I’m sending you an article I wrote about him for the SF Chronicle Sunday magazine in 1984. This puts his contribution to zoo animal medicine and nonstandard animals in context of his bigger than life reputation he had which many camelid owners may not have realized.  In the course of the last week I ended up talking to Murray’s family when he was being moved to rehab. I communicated with them to offer support. A few old friends had remembered the Chronicle article and suggested it be resurrected. I asked Tricia, Murray’s daughter if she remembered the article and did she think it was a good tribute to her father. Audrey, Murray’s wife, had sent the article to all of their kids and the family really liked it.  At the time we were thinking Murray was in for a long arduous rehab (he couldn’t talk) and putting the article in print again might help lift his spirits. Shortly after my exchange with Tricia I received notice from her that Murray had died —  The tribute turned into a tribute-obituary. I ended up writing an addendum to the SF article describing in more detail Murray’s specific contributions to the camelid world and about his special qualities as a human being. Both will run in ICQ and it just went to press yesterday.

I’m sending the SF article for you to use if you want it. I know Murray had a relationship with Llama Life II for many years. Feel free to use the attached article.

Thank you, Eric!  We at LLII miss him, too!  To view the article, click here: Best_Vet

Camelid Community’s “Fiber as Business” Conference Is Huge Success

by Sheila Fugina and Barb Baker

cc-logo-web“Awesome!” “Electric!” “Outstanding!” Those attending Camelid Community’s first ever “Fiber as Business” conference were full of positive superlatives in social media in the days immediately following the August 9-10 event. More than 130 people from 20 states and Canada packed the Arden Shisler Conference Center in Wooster, Ohio, eager to learn how to generate an income flow from their llama and alpaca fiber and take our industry to a new level. “This was just what I needed, everything altogether that I needed to know,” said one participant who was ready to start doing something with her fiber by the end of the conference.

Designed to provide fleece producers throughout the camelid industry with the information they need in order to benefit from services currently available in the industry, the conference featured presentations from representatives of five fiber organizations and two fiber mills on the services and products they offer alpaca and llama owners. They included: Wade Gease, Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA); Paul Egan, The Alpaca Blanket Project; Chris Riley, New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP); Robin Kuhl, Natural Fiber Producers; Larry McCool, Pacific Northwest Llama Fiber Cooperative (PNLFC); Heather Dee, New Era Fiber Mill, Gallatin, TN; and Allison Kazupas, 84 Alpacas Fiber Mill, Eighty Four, PA.

Panel_discussion1
Wade Gease (AFCNA), Margaret Van Camp (Blueface Leceister Union), Chris Riley (NEAFP), Larry McCool (PNLFC), Craig Estep (84 Alpacas Mll), Robyn Kuhl (NFP), Paul Egan (ABP), Heather Dee (New Era Fiber Mill)

The fiber speakers seemed to agree that there is a place for everyone’s fleece—whether alpaca or llama, low micron count or higher, older animal or young one. Over and over attendees heard, “Do something with your fiber!” And they were presented with plenty of options and opportunities to do just that. Camelid owners were advised to do what works best for them and their individual situations, whether they just want to get a check for their raw fleeces and be done with it, or whether they want to go farther up the value added chain with roving, yarn and finished fiber products of all kinds.

To help owners learn how to sell their fiber and fiber products, marketing expert Tara Swiger, author of Market Yourself, presented sessions on making the most of local and regional events and opportunities and also how to use online marketing and social media to sell yourself and your products. Dave Krebs, CPA and chief officer of the CPA Advisory Group, provided accounting and tax advice to help owners keep the IRS happy while putting as much of their fiber profits as possible in their own bank accounts. Margaret Van Camp, vice president of the Bluefaced Leister Union, explained how that specialty sheep industry has been successful in growing its market and carving out a niche, providing llama and alpaca owners with ideas on how to do the same in the camelid industry.

Randy Hammerstrom, from the USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Office, gave an overview of the pricing information USDA provides to both individual consumers and to commercial operations. He explained how this information, which is reported anonymously, can bring consistency and credibility to the camelid industry. Hammerstrom also met with all the fiber presenters after the conference to go into more detail about how to get the camelid fiber industry on track in order to be included in this reporting. By the end of the meeting everyone agreed to cooperate and start a conversation to take camelid fiber to the next level.

RandyH_USDA
Randy Hammerstrom, Market Reporter for Livestock, Grain and Wool for the USDA, speaking with some attendees about the benefits of anonymous, independently verified pricing for camelid fiber

Conference-goers received a CD that contained all of the conference materials and speaker notes, as well as additional supporting material and resources, eliminating the need for a heavy stack of handouts. Each person also received what turned out to be a highly popular item—a colorful key chain with “Fiber is the Key” on one side and the Camelid Community logo and website on the other. One alpaca owner said her biggest take-away from the conference was that “we’re not competitors, but rather collaborators, with the llama community”. It truly was a camelid event.

The highlight of Saturday night’s dinner was auctioning off the unique felted centerpieces created by fiber artist Laura Harrawood of Leslie, Missouri, for each of the conference tables. Every centerpiece was a one-of-a-kind work of fiber art. Wade Gease showed his auctioning skills by getting the audience to “bid high and bid often”, raising more than $1,600 to go toward Camelid Community’s next educational event. In addition, each of the speakers at the conference received a beautiful hand felted flower fashioned by Debora Galaz of Lana de Flor, Wooster, Ohio.

Speakers had booths in the conference room where they could talk in more detail with attendees during breaks and also show them the wide array of fiber products available from their operations. The Alpaca Owners Association (AOA) also had a booth, as did the International Camelid Institute (ICI). There was almost always activity at the booths as conference-goers picked up additional information, signed on as members of pools and coops and purchased camelid fiber products.

Audience
Conference attendees during a break.

The conference generated excitement about the possibilities and potentials of camelid fiber to generate income for alpaca and llama owners—and not just by 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 do with them. And make no mistake about it, we must have new owners if we are to succeed as an industry.

By the end of the weekend, everyone was exhilarated and there was an almost palpable energy around the conference room. As one owner put it, “I haven’t been this excited about the industry for a long time—after this weekend, I’m ready to get back into it with everything I’ve got.”

Camelid Community is the only national forum that offers the opportunity for dialog among representatives of national, regional and local camelid organizations as well as interested individuals and owners. The first joint llama and alpaca meeting was held in 1998 and later became the Camelid Community. Camelid Community meets every year to discuss a variety of topics that are determined by its participants. The 2013 group felt the time was right for a conference focusing on the business end of camelid fiber, and the 2014 “Fiber as Business” conference was the result. Past Camelid Community groups have also produced a number of brochures and publications on camelid care and uses that are available free for downloading. Check the Camelid Community website at www.camelidcommunity.us for upcoming events and activities as well as a report and photos from this year’s fiber conference.