Llamas and Other
WHAT ARE LLAMAS?
Llamas are a South American beast of burden with a soft woolly
fleece. They stand 1 to 1.2m at the back and 1.5 to 2m at the head,
weigh 135 to 200kg and live 25 years. Llamas have a long graceful
neck, erect ears, large doelike eyes and a keen sense of hearing and
smell. The upper lip is cleft with only lower teeth in the front and
upper and lower grinding molars in the back. Llamas can be white,
black, beige, brown or any combination of these. Llamas are
ruminants with three stomachs. They have padded feet with two toes
covered by a hard nail. Other exotic animals include South American
humpless camels, guanacos, alpacas and African pygmy goats.
WHERE ARE LLAMAS PRODUCED IN BC?
Llamas can be found throughout BC. They are mainly kept in the
Okanagan and the Lower Mainland. Their ancestors are from the Andean
highlands so llamas are well suited to colder climates and able to
adapt to any climate or altitude. By evolving at higher altitudes
llamas have a large lung capacity and an ability to use oxygen in
the blood more efficiently than other animals.
HOW MANY LLAMAS DO WE PRODUCE?
There are an estimated 800 llamas on about 150 farms in BC.
Because llamas are often kept as pets, exact figures are difficult
to estimate. Llamas are a growing industry in BC. Many llamas are
being raised as breeding stock.
HOW ARE LLAMAS PRODUCED?
Llamas are intelligent, social animals that do better without any
fuss. They are clean, curious and lie down at night in family
groups. Under normal conditions llamas are calm and stable, but if
provoked they may bite, kick or spit. They are generally disease
free. Their diet consists of good pasture or hay with some
supplemental grain and mineral and salt blocks. Commercial producers
will breed llamas April through December to avoid winter births. The
gestation period is 350 days. The babies weigh 8 to 16 kg at birth.
WHAT DO LLAMAS LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?
Llamas are used as pack animals, kept as pets, or sheared for
their wool. As pack animals, llamas are easier on trails than either
horses or mules and are capable of carrying 30 to 55kg. Llamas are
used as show animals, as part of 4-H clubs or can be trained to pull
carts and wagons. Llamas, with their calm and gentle dispositions,
can also provide therapy when they visit seniors, nursing home or
community centres. Their wool, called camelid wool, is sought by
handspinners and weavers because it is oil-free, lightweight and
warm and will repel water if woven tightly. Llamas can have 10 to
30cm of wool at 2 years of age.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE LLAMAS LEAVES THE FARM?
The llama industry in BC is small. Much of the marketing of
llamas is done by the llama producers. The market for llama wool is
quite diverse in BC.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO LLAMA PRODUCERS FACE?
It is difficult to import more llamas from South America. Foot
and mouth disease, a contagious viral disease of cattle, is
virtually eliminated in North America, but still present in South
America. Strict quarantine laws are in place for the import of
animals from areas where this disease still exists.
WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING LLAMAS?
- Llama producers
- Llama outfitters
- Feed producers
Interesting Fact About Llamas:
Llamas are among the oldest domesticated animals in the world.
The first ones came to North America in the 1930s through the
efforts of William Randolf Hearst who used the llamas to decorate
his estate in California.
- Contacts and other resources:
- BC Llama Association
Canadian Llama & Alpaca Association
Llama Producer's (cooperative effort of llama
producers across western canada)