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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Llamas 101.2

This is Clementine, our first female llama.

Last week I talked about how we got into llamas and about our first llamas. Since then comments have been left about the female llamas. So, this week's post is about the female llamas. Several months after we moved to Split Rock Ranch we decided that we wanted one female because we thought the babies, called "crias" were so adorable. We found a young female named Clementine who was already bred and was due the next summer. We bought her and brought her home to live with us. The gestation period for a llama is 345 days but anything from 340 to 370 days is considered "normal". We have had llamas go 375 days from a known breeding date before delivering a normal healthy cria. It was exciting and educational preparing for our first cria. We built a little shelter (which they never used) in the corner of the newly fenced in llama pen and put straw into the shelter and anxiously awaited the birth. Of course, she gave birth while we were at work/school so we missed the big event. Llamas general give birth only during the daylight hours. We have only had one evening birth (approximately 8 pm) and she had been in labor most of the day so she just didn't get the cria delivered before it got dark.

Crias are usually up and nursing and running around within an hour of birth. The momma llamas are generally very protective and attentive to their new crias, rarely letting them get very far away for the first few weeks. After that first few weeks, they get less and less anxious about their crias going exploring. We try to plan the breedings in our herd so that the females deliver within a few weeks of each other so that the crias have other babies to play with. It is so much fun to watch them run and jump and play together out in the pasture.

We have also discovered that raising the crias is a group effort. Our gelding watches the crias while the moms graze and when the crias go find their mommas to nurse, only then does he relax and rest. For the mommas who have had girls and then other crias, the "big sister" spends a lot of time with the new cria. We had a female die when her baby was 14 weeks old. The older sister took over for momma. She couldn't nurse her little sister but she ate with her, slept with her, hung out with her and did everything else a momma would do. Both of these girls have grown up and become excellent mommas themselves. When danger is sensed, the entire herd will gather together and keep the crias in the center of the herd.

Crias are generally weaned after at least 5 months of being with their mother. Sometimes the momma starts the weaning process herself, pushing the cria away and only allowing them to nurse first thing in the morning and later in the day (more to keep themselves from getting too bagged up and uncomfortable than for any other reason I think.) We base our weaning on how the cria is progressing. If they are smaller and momma is still letting them nurse frequently, we leave them together. We also wean the babies at the same time so they have a familiar buddy to hang with during the stressful weaning process. It is far more stressful on the cria than it is on the momma! By that time most of the mommas are glad to be rid of a cria following them around begging to nurse.

One more thing I want to cover in this post. Another common question about llamas is "do they spit?" The answer is yes, but generally only at other llamas and only when their space has been invaded or over food disputes or territorial disputes. They rarely spit at humans unless you are doing something that is painful or aggravating to the llama (brushing really hard and pulling their fiber, giving shots, etc.) A well socialized llama will very seldom spit at a human. Dogs bite and cats scratch - I would prefer being spit on by a llama to being bitten or scratched any day! I've had a rabbit lay the end of my finger open and a horse take off half the flesh on one of my fingers - I'll take spit any day over those unfortunate events! And, llamas will give warning signals prior to spitting - they will lay their ears back (think of a dog growling or a cat hissing) and if you ignore that signal they will make a clicking noise prior to actually spitting. Anyone who ignores those signals has deserved a well placed spit wad.

More coming next week on llamas 101.__


RE Ausetkmt said...

ooo she's pretty, and she looks like she might be Chocolate Chip's Mom ?

I like the lil markings on her hind legs; kind of like a jewel.
and that's her tail up on her back ?
I read somewhere that they don't really spit unless they are pushed to the edge.

they seem to be really good herders from what I read. do you have sheep or a border collie who hangs out with them ?

how many generations of Llamas do you now have from your first pair ?
and do you have a pic of the first family ? I'd like to see what they look like if they've grown up too.

these Llama stories are so interesting, and educational. Thanks so much for doing the series, as you can depend on my visit, whether I'm in entrecard or not. ; )

We Luv Llamas !!!

Split Rock Ranch said...

We don't have any other animals with the llamas. We have one old horse with the female llamas now because I need her closer to the house where I can keep an eye on her and feed her the soaked concentrate feeds twice daily.

Llamas really aren't like sheep in that they stick together and move together as a herd. They'll split up and create diversions rather than run together as a big herd so herding dogs are really of no use with them. Most people have Great Pyrenees as guards for their llamas if they feel the llamas aren't capable of defending themselves against predators.

I don't have any photos of Clementine's first cria because that was before we had a digital camera. I know somewhere I have printed photographs but our scanner quit working so cannot post those either.

We have one Clementine daughter in our herd - Winona - and she's our best producing female to date. She is the mother of the little black and white cria born last September that we call Hot Shot. Winona is also a Handel daughter so I guess she is the product of our first two llamas! So far Winona has had one female but that female has not had a baby yet so only two generations so far from our original llamas.

So glad you're enjoying the series!

Daisy said...

That is really fascinating. I have to admit that I did not know anything about llamas before. Especially that they could be pregnant for close to an entire year!

Audrey said...

That's so cool!! Llama babies are so cute.

tstreasures said...

Very interesting and informative. I'm really enjoying this series all about llamas.

Pricilla said...

Whoa, that is some gestation! Goats are only 5 months.

She is a majestic lady, isn't she.

Now, the publicist was just walking by a llama pen at a small zoo and one llama let loose a spit ball on her. She has never forgotten it. She did nothing to the llama. She was NOT happy. Not happy at all. It was disgusting!

Meghann said...

Very cool! I thought llamas spit more easily than that, I'll have to revise my scaredy-cat-ness of them then :)
Your female here is beautiful, I love her fibre! I want to snuggle my face in it (though I have a feeling that wouldn't be a good idea, lol).
Can't wait to see more!

Five O'Clock Somewhere said...

Great post. Loved learning about your llamas. Clementine is beautiful!

Stormy Designs said...

Very interesting! Can't wait for the next installment.

Deronda designs... said...

She is beautiful and I am fascinated.