Are llamas easy to keep ?

Well, yes and no. Certainly not as easy as I was led to believe when I first set up with llamas.

Their basic needs are a fenced field, companionship, access to water, supplementary feeding in winter, access to a shelter (which they never seem to use!) and access to shade in summer.The stocking rate is about four animals to an acre.

Basic care involves annual injections for clostridial diseases, regular worming and, more recently, annual vaccination against Blue-tongue, a disease carried by midges.

But, even assuming injecting and worming is easy ( which for some it certainly isnt!), there is more to it than this: llamas grow toenails and many animals need these trimmed regularly else they grow too long and can push the foot sideways, causing distortion. Trimming nails is often easy but with many llamas it is a nightmare, particularly trimming the rear ones. Indeed some llamas simply refuse to have their feet handled, no matter how much time is spent in desensitization.

Then again, many heavily wooled llamas need to be shorn in summer. Having read the work done by Jim Krowka and Gwen Ingram of Oregon on the subject of heat stress in llamas, I am convinced that there are far too many llamas in UK that remain unshorn. Afterall, summers in UK are not that much cooler than those in Oregon. Professional shearers are hard to find and doing it yourself can be difficult. I have one that is virtually impossible (and dangerous) to clip and constantly feel I should resort to anaethetisation, by my vet, to do this.

Control of obesity is a problem now. No llama can remain obese and healthy for ever. In grassy UK, it is virtually impossible to imitate the terrain of the altiplano of South America. I have seen the vegetation out there myself, and was amazed that the species could survive on such sparse vegetation.

These are one or two issues to consider when one discusses whether or not the llama is easy to keep. And this is without touching on such problems as TB which is around in some parts of UK and the Foot and Mouth virus which, whilst it seems not to affect camelids overmuch, nevertheless requires them all to be confined to their farms everytime there is an outbreak. easy animal to keep? Yes and no!