Misty Morn Llamas joined forces with our local 4H group to offer members an 'up close and personal' experience within the wonderful world of Llamas. The programme had a number of sessions each focusing on the many positive attributes of Llamas as well as their health maintenance, breeding and conformation. A number of special projects and judging elements were introduced throughout the sessions scheduled including hands on experience working with our yearlings.
Getting underway we introduced our enthusiastic 4-H members to our Llamas and facility. We included breeding pens, pastures, barns and overview of our birthing area. Some history of the Llama in North America as well as their recent status in the United States and Canada was discussed. Various phenotypes and a viewing of a video on what to look for when purchasing a Llama. "IN SEARCH OF THE IDEAL LLAMA' is one of the first video's produced on the subject of conformation but is still my favourite on the subject.
For our next meeting we introduced a judging element by selecting four yearlings to be judged given the information revealed in the ‘Ideal Llama’ video. A Llama Conformation Checklist was prepared giving each member a list of descriptions that might best fit the animal. Topics included Backs, Front and Back Legs, Chest Width, Head Set, Bone Size, Pasterns and Body Balance. Each member was to place the yearlings in a first, second, third and fourth positions. Winner of the day by majority. Misty Morn's Metal Fusion. During the judging process many of our 4-H members as evidenced, received a multitude of Llama kisses.
The following week we set out to introduce members to one of the many uses of Llamas. THE FERTILIZER CHALLENGE. Do Llama Beans really make a difference in plant growth? Each member received two planters along with seeds, watering pitcher, llama beans, and identifier (a Llama pick to place in the planter to be watered with Llama Bean Tea). The other planter was to be watered with plain water. Yes Llama Beans are considered the best of all animal manures. A brochure was handed out at the end of the session covering how to pot plants, take care of them and how to make Llama Bean Tea. The brochure also included information on the nutrients and advantages of Llama Beans. Each member took their planters home to nurture their experiment.
A session on how to walk and handle a Llama was presented along with a review on Llama behaviour and communication. With all of the information in hand to practice their skills, our eager members took a yearling of their choice for a hike/walkabout.
For our next meeting we wanted to introduce yet another of the many 'uses' of these magnificent animals. We focused on their beautiful fibre. THE FIBRE CHALLENGE. Our project was to build bird nesters that could be filled with Llama fibre. Not only a wood building project but one that had a purpose. Helping our feathered friends build strong, warm and cozy nests. Just in case members wanted to build another bird nester at home, a brochure containing the supplies needed and the instructions for putting one together was handed out.
Then the most fun of all. Walking the yearlings and an opportunity to be 'up close and personal' with 'man's best friend.' Well maybe next to or alongside our fuzzy canine buddies or feline lap sitters.
Our next meeting included a very informative talk given by our regional Large Animal Vet...Dr. Laurie Jeffrey. Topics under review included proper nutrition, housing, care and health issues. A welcomed question and answer period followed. We extended our appreciation to Dr. Jeffrey for taking the time out of her busy schedule to provide such insightful and valuable information.
As record keeping is a very important element in Llama Health Maintenance we provided each member with a printed booklet providing all information over a six year period of one of our Llamas. Specifics such as vaccinations, dental care. deworming, shearing and toe trimming as well as any medical intervention provided over the period under review was all recorded in the booklet. All reproductive activity of the Llama was also highlighted. In preparation of our next meeting a brochure on Llama Breeding, Birthing and Newborn Care was handed out for review at home.
Our final close for the evening - THE SHOWMANSHIP ATTIRE CHALLENGE. Four outfits were on display, each with varying degrees of correctness. The members were asked to comment on the most befitting given their understanding of favourable dress attire for a showmanship competition. Perhaps an easy challenge. Everyone got it right.
Our last meeting in the programme was jammed packed. We started with the LLAMA HANDLING CHALLENGE - In search of the 'gifted' handler. Our members were divided into groups of 4. Of three groups, two evaluated the one up. Members were to put in practice what they have learned over the last number of weeks working with our Llamas. For the challenge we provided eight points to look for when seeking a 'gifted handler'. After each group had a chance to do a walkabout with their Llamas, points were tallied for each member and the notables with the highest number of points were noted.
The HAY CHALLENGE followed. In keeping with Dr. Jeffrey’s overview on nutrition and a brief summary on what to look for in hay best suited for Llamas, four different selections of hay were displayed. Each of the members were to evaluate the best down to the least desirable. Congrats to the members - all seemed to be spot on.
Our next meeting scheduled - THE BREEDING CHALLENGE. Each member received and reviewed copies of our breeding records for one breeding season. Each Sire and Dam were listed with the actual dates a breeding took place. Each member was to determine when a cria might be expected given the breeding dates and details. A Llama Gestation Chart was provided for reference. Upon completion of each member's list we reviewed the actual results.
It was explained that our breeding charts were somewhat askew as once we reached the number of ‘spitting and running’ females that indicated a potential pregnancy (the number of crias we wanted on the ground the following year) we discontinued the breeding process for the remaining females. Therefore many females in our review did not receive a second breeding and should not be considered at fault in any way for not producing. There are some females that take on the first breeding and some that require a second breeding.
We then reviewed the data of live births from this breeding year there were two noted problems. One of our ladies had complications with a retained placenta and one cria did not survive - cause unknown. The cria born in the first instance mentioned was bottle fed - now is a striking robust yearling. Twenty Llamas of various ages were included in this breeding study/review. Members were somewhat surprised on the amount of work involved in the process when hand breeding. Unfortunately not all easy sailing for breeders as evidenced by the loss of one cria. The review brought forward a thoughtful pause on the reality and sometimes hardships and heartache that a breeder can experience along the way.
We selected this particular breeding year as it was from those resultant breedings that the crias born were those that the 4-H members were now working with as yearlings. Now familiar with each of the yearlings emanating from our breeding efforts participants were more connected to the results.
At the end of the day Certificates of Achievement were handed out by Misty Morn Llamas as a token of each member's accomplishments throughout the programme. Sad goodbyes ended the programme but on a more joyous note - an ice cream birthday cake was presented to one of our members in celebration of their special day. A yummy closure to a fun programme.
A few thoughts. In our area we are basically a farm community with a focus on dairy and meat cattle, horses and sheep. While there are a few Llamas scattered throughout used as guards there is little familiarity and knowledge of Llamas. Yes a few pockets of Llama lovers and enthusiasts but simply not enough. Perhaps with more exposure to programmes such as this - onlookers will be enlightened and be eager to learn more about the wonderful attributes of our most precious - Llamas. Hopefully initiating interest and encouragement to include Llamas in their lives to .......’ Be Part Of The Experience.’