Ethics Posted 7-26-06
by RMLA members
Lama is the term used to identify the genus of South American
Camelids, which includes the two wild species, guanaco and vicuņa, and two domesticated
ones, llama and alpaca. The camel family
originated on the plains of North America (flourishing as recently as 10,000 to 12,000
years ago) after a couple of mass migrations South & back North, some Camelids crossed
the land bridge near present day Alaska, and evolved into the Bactrian and Dromedary
Camels. Others moved South into South America
and evolved into Guanaco & Vicuna. The llama, a domesticated beast of burden, is
regarded as the premier symbol of pre-Hispanic South America. The alpaca was domesticated for use of its
wonderfully soft fleece. The llama was domesticated
for it's ability to carry goods for long distances over the rugged terrain of South
America, where the wheel was never invented and would not have been very useful in
the rugged terrain.. Lamas were among
the worlds earliest domesticated animals, having been associated with humans for
nearly 6000 years. The first llamas were
imported into the United States in the 1920s, but the national herd started to grow in the
1970s and now numbers about 200,000. Alpacas
made their debut in the US in 1983/84 and now number about 300,000. The imports have come from Bolivia, Chile, Peru
Lamas communicate their moods with
tail, body and ear positions, and with a variety of vocalizations. They will spit at each other as a gesture of
displeasure, but will not spit at humans unless handled in a rough or cruel manner. They rarely bite or kick. They are highly social
animals and need the companionship of other lamas or other livestock. Their intelligence and their pleasing, diverse
personalities provide challenging opportunities for use and training. Llamas are aristocratic and regal, yet llamas and
alpacas are both easily trained and have a rather low key, cooperative disposition.
Llama adults weigh 300 to 400 pounds and stand six feet or more at the tops of their ears.
The newborn llama cria weighs about 25 pounds. Adult
alpacas weigh 150-180 pounds and stand about 5 feet tall at the tops of their ears. At birth the cria weighs about 15 pounds. The lama lifespan is about 20 years. The female is an induced ovulator, and so, if not
pregnant, may be bred at any time of the year. Breeding,
when managed properly, can be productive and profitable.
Alpaca gestation is about 340 days; llamas deliver the cria normally in about 350
days. Births usually occur in the daytime and are usually single; twins are rare. The
extreme temperatures (27 degrees F at night to as high as 90 degrees F at mid day) of the
Alti Plano of South America has caused the females to adjust birthing so that the
cria can warm up and dry off before the cold of night returns.
crias quickly stand to nurse and are bounding about within a few hours. Weaning is done at about six months.
Lamas are unique among mammals in that they have a long, elliptical blood cells rather
than the normal saucer-shaped cell. This
allows greater adaptability to many environments. Their
evolutionary history has led to lower feed and water requirements compared to other
livestock. Their diet is simple and
inexpensive. Lamas require a good grade of
grass hay, fresh water, and a salt-mineral mix. Some
owners add a grain mix, such as small alfalfa pellets or corn for working animals, older
animals and nursing females. They can easily
become overweight in the lush North American pastures, monitoring weight is important.
Lamas are usually disease-resistant; however, like all
living things, they can and do become ill and require occasional care. The loss rate in properly cared-for herds is
amazingly low. Proper hygiene in pens and
stalls, regular de-worming, and a simple and relatively inexpensive preventative medical
program under the direction of a veterinarian is recommended.
Lamas do not require a large space. Three to five adult llamas or eight to ten alpacas can easily live on one irrigated acre of pasture. Most standard 48-inch fences are adequate, and barbed wire is not needed or recommended. A three-sided shelter for extremes of weather is desirable. Animals kept in a large pasture will probably need a small catch pen. Lamas are clean, essentially odor-free and usually defecate in a communal dung pile. Their pelletized manure is easily gathered and is an excellent earth enhancer.