Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You bought WHAT?

This posting is titled after the most common response I have heard from friends after telling them about our latest purchase. Is it really that unusual to spend one's Sunday afternoon purchasing a couple of llamas? I guess it is. But our friends and family should expect that sort of thing from us by now!

We purchased two registered female llamas on Sunday, and they are already well settled in with the goats. They were purchased with a few thoughts in mind:
a) First and foremost, they are well known as good flock protectors. They will be quite capable of dealing a swift kick to any fox, coyote, coon, or possum that dares to lay foot inside our goat/chicken area.
b) Second, they have lovely fleece, which can be sold to artists such as spinners or weavers. Llamas need to be shorn in spring and then their fleece grows back in time for winter.
c) Third, they are a fun new addition to our flocks and we think they are very interesting!

Our llamas are named Hazel and Cabernet. When we bought them, Cabernet was actually named Cle-Cle, but we have fallen into the habit of calling her Cabernet, which is part of her registered name. Her whole name is Cabernet's Carmenere, but we will just call her Cabernet. She and Hazel are half sisters. Cabernet is 5 years old and has both Bolivian and Chilean ancestry. We have her pedigree (part of the fun of a registered llama) and her ancestral family has lovely names, like Skansen's Silver Pheasant (her great grandma) and White Oak Zipizape (her great great grandfather). Some of these are quite well known bloodlines.

This is Hazel.

One interesting factoid about llamas that I learned this weekend: llamas hum. They do not bleat like goats or whinny like horses. No, they are far more original. They hum. Each one has a slightly different tone and style of hum. I can stand by the fence and hum to my own little tone and they will come over to investigate me.

This is Cabernet.

Putting your hand on a llama's back, into the heavy fur, is like putting your hand into a very large, very warm mitten. Everybody should experience this at least once in their lifetime! It is remarkably warm and soft.

The llama ladies are settling in well with their new goat friends, and have also taken an interest in the chickens. The chickens have a tendency to scuffle about in the straw after the goats have finished eating, looking for leftover treats. The llamas were a bit scared of the chickens at first, but now approach them with interest.

This evening, Hazel decided it was time for the goats to go to bed, so she herded them all into the barn. We did not teach her to do this, but she seems to have developed a talent for it already. Zak, our largest male wether goat, decided he did not want to go in the barn. Hazel kept a beady eye on the goats already in the barn, and gently encouraged Zak to join them. She is gentle but firm. Zak pretended to be interested in some non-existent food on the ground. Hazel let it go this time, but I think she is getting wise to his tricks!

Cabernet is a little more stand-offish than Hazel, but is particularly fond of cracked corn. I am encouraging her to interact daily with a small amount of cracked corn as a morning treat. Surely she will come to think I am her special friend as a result. We exchange hums and eye each other daily. I hope she will become as friendly as Hazel in time.

We are delighted with our new girls, and look forward to learning more about llamas as time goes by. One other thing we have learned is that they are not deterred at all by cold temperatures. Here they are this morning with frost on their backs. Oblivious to the cold, but extremely interested in their morning ration of hay.

Oh, of course, one last item of note. Cookie is doing incredibly well. She now has a normal stance and is slightly dragging her rear feet but it isn't that noticeable. She's such a trooper and we are so very pleased at her recovery. Deer meningeal worm IS treatable in goats if you get it early. We welcome questions or comments from other goat owners who have been touched by this disease.

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