We set off just after 14.30 as planned, in glorious autumn sunshine and trekked along the usual route for the majority of the walk. I was able to vary it slightly, although we didn’t tackle the steep disused railway embankment this year, so it was challenging but not quite as daunting as last year.
We arrived back at the house a little late at 16.50 to partake of the Tea, Sandwiches and Cake prepared in our absence by my partner Neil. Around another 15 people turned up to experience touching and admiring the llamas, and to join us for tea where we collected donations for Macmillan Cancer Support. The figure raised was £322.00, which is much appreciated and makes the organisation of the day so rewarding.
As we did this year, we will hopefully be having two treks in the East Midlands area in 2014. We are very happy to welcome members from other areas with or without llamas, and we can sometimes provide a llama for them to lead depending on numbers. Please come and support us especially if you want to see how we do things, before you venture forth with your own animals.
If any of our members feel that they would like me to organise a different function, then I would be delighted to hear their thoughts. I do find it little soul destroying that only two members/families are willing to get involved in the events we have each year.
A couple of weeks after the Trek, Katy Williams, John & Vivienne Ives and myself got together to discuss the lack of interest in our activities. We plan to have at least two treks next year, and really would welcome constructive criticism from members to indicate whether these activities meet their expectations, or would they like us to come up with alternative functions? (All suggestions welcome!)
East Midlands Co-ordinator
A subject considered by BLS members Caroline Pembro and Caroline Champion. There opinions follow :
"Having been training cria for many years now, I firmly believe llamas do in fact watch and learn. I had a devil of a job getting my first pair of llamas to accept a halter; they (and I) were totally clueless. These days, a cria’s first lesson in haltering is to watch an experienced llama have its halter put on and walked around and I have found this gives the cria an inkling of what to expect when I then approach them with halter and lead rope.
However, one event that springs to mind as the ultimate proof that llamas watch and learn, happened at the beginning of December, when I had three of my boys (Felix, Ollie and Bullseye) gelded.
Although all three are well-trained and perfectly calm llamas under ‘normal circumstances’, since Felix has had a fairly recent sedation for dental work and Bullseye is probably the most nervous, it was decided that the vets would split into two teams, (the two vets whom I had been expecting turned up with five students between them!) with Felix and Bullseye going first, followed by young Ollie. Ollie was orphaned at birth and subsequently hand-reared by me, which means he is now absolutely un-phased by anything that life happens to throw at him.
Plan of action formed, the operations began and I must admit I was feeling really proud of my boys. Felix and Bullseye were anaesthetised without any problems, their operations were completed without any fuss and they were up and standing, albeit a tad wobbly, less than twenty minutes later. Ollie, meanwhile, just stood calmly to one side, held by one of the student vets, and watched the whole proceedings with interest.
And then it was Ollie’s turn.
As the vet parted Ollie’s neck fleece, Ollie wriggled a bit, the vet grunted something, drew back and stood up. As he did so, I watched Ollie slowly close his eyes, drop to his knees and stay there for a couple of seconds, before slowly and rather dramatically falling onto his side.
“Oh” I said in surprise, “I’ve never seen it work that quickly before!”
“It hasn’t” muttered the vet, showing me the syringe, “I couldn’t get any into him!”
At this point, I looked back at Ollie, who was still lying prostrate on the ground with his eyes shut. I jiggled his lead rope and called his name. As soon as he realised he’d been rumbled, he got back up to his feet again! Having watched the other two close their eyes and fall over, I think that’s what Ollie thought he had to do! I’d give him an Oscar for his acting ability. Fortunately his operation too, then went off without a hitch."
Many thanks to Caroline Pembro.
"I have long been of the opinion that llamas can be reassured into accepting something worrying
if they first see another llama accept it placidly. I use this technique regularly whilst halter training,
nail clipping and so forth.
When my two geldings were a little younger, I would often have a day when one of them decided not to have a lead rope round his neck, his nails cut or a halter on. My standard practise was to fetch another llama, do whatever it was to that one a few times in front of the reluctant llama, whereupon the problem normally disappeared immediately I tried again. This technique has worked again and again – for introduction to neck collars, shearing and so on. It has only failed for me when it comes to trying to get one of them to go somewhere he would rather not, such as into the horse box or down a steep, slippery slope.
One of my females would really rather keep her distance from people and has spent the year since she arrived, watching from a distance as I handle the other three llamas daily, doing the same things most days and dispensing treats as a reward. A few weeks ago this female finally came to join the group unasked and let me put a halter on her whilst unrestrained (I had previously had to pen her and catch her). After a few turns for the whole group (halter on, halter off, treat, next llama) she was pushing her nose forward into the noseband of a halter held out to another llama. I am not sure that this compliance will last when the spring grass materialises, but for now, some six weeks later, she continues to come willingly to have an arm thrown round her neck, a lead rope round her neck or a halter on. She even comes at a trot when called. Had I not had three other llamas that I could handle easily, I suspect that I would still be tempting and tricking her into being handled.
So much for being reassured, but what about copying? For that, my only real experience has been having llamas that never previously raided the shed, but that were able to watch a visiting alpaca (which shall be nameless - but the guilty one knows who he is!) turn it upside down daily (and sometimes get tops off feed or treat containers) and were then able to continue with this behaviour after the departure of the said alpaca. Five years of leaving the shed alone, one visit from a mischievous (but ‘oh so cute!’) troublemaker and I am now left with my llamas, one of which has learnt how to pick up tubs weighing up to 5kg and throw them across the shed, in the hope that the lid will come off! Is that copying? Or just bad luck?!
Ollie’s story is much more dramatic; I was flabbergasted when Caroline related at a board meeting, what had happened. There are two lessons here – the first is that we should not, perhaps, assume we know much at all about llamas ... and the second is that you never know what you will miss if you don’t come to a board meeting! "
Many thanks to Caroline Champion
Our East Midlands Co-ordinator Brian (the one in the middle !)
“Countryfile” decided they wanted us to be part of their Borderlands programme, it has huge viewing figures and we wanted to do right by our species! We know we will be a bit of a joke item, llamas always are and whilst we hoped for Adam, the serious farming presenter, we got Julia and Matt who were great. They seemed to get on really well with the boys and girls, asked great questions and really got involved.
We covered cria training, haltering and grooming, fibre and weaving and agility.
We were so proud of how the llamas rose to the challenge, they behaved beautifully.
You can currently watch the item on the BBC Iplayer by copying this link into your browser bar : (Amanda and Robert are about a quarter of the way in !)
The National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh can be found in the members area of the Forum. All interested llama owners (or potential llama owners !) and persons with an interest in llama welfare are invited to attend.
The British Llama Society maintains a register of Llamas in the UK together with vicunas, guanacos and camels. A part of this registration process is that we register the death of an animal and the cause of death. It seems the average age of a llama at death is around 18 but llamas aged up to 25 at death have been notified.
Now age 28 could indeed be the longest lived llama in the UK, but as it is apparent that less than half of the llamas in the UK are actually registered we cannot be sure whether this is a record.
Do you have a llama in it’s twenties ? Let us know by emailing the Registrar at email@example.com and help us find the oldest llama in the UK.
PUNTO - aged 17
Meet Bella - the bionic llama.
When she got in to an accident, they decided they could rebuild her – they had the technology.
And that’s when Michael Carlson, a prosthetist with Hanger Clinic stepped in.
And now the three-legged llama from Newcastle, California, is standing on her own feet once more. Well, mostly.
The dire llama crises was averted when she got a new rear limb.
A specialist at creating prosthetic limbs for people, built what may be the first artificial limb for a llama. The new fake leg means that every morning, when her owner straps the prosthesis on Bella, the first thing she does is scratch.
The black-and-white llama steadies on her two front legs and the new prosthesis – and she uses the remaining back leg to scratch her belly.
It's sweet relief to Bella and brings a smile to her owners, Chuck Robuck and Trish Brandt-Robuck, who have about 40 other llamas in addition to 13-year-old Bella.
"I barely get that leg on and she goes to scratch," said Brandt-Robuck. "They are lovely animals. After a stressful day, watching them allows you to totally unwind."
About two years ago, Bella stepped into a gopher hole, breaking a back leg. After more than two years of trying to get the leg to heal, signs of infection began, requiring amputation about half-way up the leg, a local paper reports.
Initially, Bella tried to use three legs, but after a while, the show-quality animal didn't get up, which meant the llama would have to be euthanized.
That's when Brandt-Robuck decided to walk into the Hanger Clinic offices of Michael Carlson in Auburn.
Carlson usually works with humans, but he went to the Brandt-Robuck property week after week, sometime staying all day with Bella. He developed three prototypes before the third one worked.
The llama was lifted with a tractor and harness, and a mould of her remaining hind leg was cast.
She had to learn to accept the prosthesis, which is held in place by a waist belt for six to eight hours a day, depending on how long she can tolerate it.
"She was a pleasure to work with," Carlson said. "No bites and no spits."
Founded by a Civil War amputee, Hanger Clinic is the same nationwide company that made a prosthetic tail for a bottlenose dolphin named Winter that was featured in a film called "Dolphin Tale." Winter was injured in a crab trap in 2005 but now can swim again thanks to a tail fluke fashioned by two Florida-based Hanger experts.
Brandt-Robuck envisions the day when Bella will be a therapeutic animal. Bella is being trained to walk backwards and step through a hula hoop.
"We would like to take her to where kids are having trouble with prosthetic devices," Brandt-Robuck said. "I'm training her to get into my van."
Bella is also likely to be bred again, having already produced two grand champions.
"She has another 10 years ahead of her," said Brandt-Robuck.
Vets Jane Vaughan, Claire Whitehead and Karin Mueller presented seven illustrated and hugely informative talks to an audience of 40 British alpaca and llama owners.
Jane Vaughan performs commercial embryo collection and transfer in alpacas throughout Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. and had flown in especially for the conference. She took the audience through the reproductive physiology of the camelid, and outlined issues surrounding ‘difficult breeders’. Hearing an expert talk on these matters is so enlightening. I had wondered why two of my original five breeding programme females had never become pregnant, and I now conclude the timings of supervised matings were wrong.
Similarly, paddock matings may sound like they are the ‘natural’ and easy approach to breeding camelids, but when males and females are in the same paddock continuously, male libido may decline within a week.
An especially fascinating talk was that on the subject of artificial breeding of camelids. Tremendous work has been done in this field and anything that lessens the chances of spread of disease – the phrase ‘drive-by matings’ springs to mind – by the use of artificial insemination will be a good thing.
The current President of the BVCS, Claire Whitehead established the first referral service catering specifically for camelids alongside other farm animals in the UK at the Royal Veterinary College. Claire gave two presentations – all the camelid owners in the audience were breeders – and her talk on the care of the cria was immensely helpful.
Cambridge-based Karin Mueller works as a consultant in camelid medicine. Karin presented on a matter that will be of interest to a growing number of BLS members – the care of the aging llama. Start to prepare for the aging llama from around the age of 12 – 15 years old. Monitor body condition monthly, check teeth and be aware the older llama will absorb nutrients less well, so be prepared to offer some protein-rich feed.
Claire left us all feeling itchy and had 40 camelid owners gently scratching as she showed a series of images of skin conditions – mange, mites, lice and other lovelies. She demonstrated that often with careful treatment, and by not cutting corners, thorough treatment can really pay dividends with the llama suffering from mites.
It was enlightening that 39 of 40 breeders (I was the one, now remedied) had already supplemented their camelids with Vitamin D this autumn as it has been such a wet and dull summer. Cria can easily be treated with an oral paste, but in this wettest of years, many breeders are supplementing their entire herd.
It is hoped that the 1st annual BVCS Owners’ Conference will be the first of many and that it will become an annual event.
A fuller report will appear in the next issue of Llama Link, the magazine exclusively for members of the British Llama Society.
Golden Valley Llamas
(Member No. 890)
To Llama owners, these articles were read with interest and no little amazement about the claimed use of “aggressive” llamas. Llamas are in fact very peaceful animals and unless very badly handled pose little risk to people. There may have been a little confusion in the NFU survey referred to in the articles, since while llamas are used as guards, this is usually for sheep and chickens against marauding foxes and dogs, certainly not to guard farm property and equipment.
Many farms do indeed use a gelded male llama who can prove to be an excellent guards for sheep in particular. The llama will bond with the sheep and become the herd leader watching out for dogs and foxes and chasing them away while herding the sheep away from the danger. A llama can pack quite a punch and will charge a fox and try and knock it over and stomp it, something witnessed by the Chairman of the British Llama Society himself. The same llamas which by the way, will come when they are called by the Chairman’s wife and sit down in a circle around her for treats!
In fact, there was a recent sad case involving a llama who had been guarding sheep for some years. Eventually things changed on the farm and the sheep were sold off. The llama was so distraught at losing his flock, that he simply pined away.
A small point for interested sheep farmers, make sure you use a gelded male llama, full males can sometimes get the wrong idea!
Oh and do llamas spit? Yes, of course and certainly at each other, it’s a way of maintaining the pecking order in the herd and its an excellent defence. Very rarely do they spit at people unless seriously provoked!
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate is seeking to gather information on the instances of tampered or fraudulent prescriptions for veterinary medicines. A paper has been put together by the VMD with a number of questions in relation to this issue and they would be grateful for comments, in particular from the veterinary profession and pharmacists. They are also seeking suggestions on how to improve this area.
The paper can be found on the VMD website: www.vmd.defra.gov.uk under “what’s new”.
If you would like to send in your comments please send them by 25 May 2012 to: Denise Burge, either: by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: Veterinary Medicines Directorate, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3LS
With thanks to Axel Bührmann, orazal, lucianvenutian, Veronique Debord, quinn.anya for creative commons use of pictures