TL 6



TL 6: More Talking Llamas...

 Archers role models - Archers convert - Hairy Archers
Lla-mating -
Fibre, facts and fiction -  Guarding Dr Doolittle's friends 
 "Sit Fido, sit!"  -
Time to ...shear   ...mate  ...chop

I am fascinated by Wolfgang and Constanza in The Archers! May I ask are they based on two real llamas or are they entirely a figment of the script writers imagination? A.E Wolfgang and Constanza might be described as 'composite' characters in that as far as our advisory role is concerned their behaviour and adventures are based partly on our general experience of all our llamas and partly on specific experiences we have had with particular llamas.

Currently, for example,  we have two pet gelded male llamas called Scooby and Dooby and they are perhaps archetype models for both Wolfgang and Constanza's general character. The recent adventure where Wolfgang pops his head through the window and starts to eat Jill Archer's apples is based on a similar incident with a female llama called Chimu. On the whole, however, if we had to choose one llama that represents the inspiration for these two now infamous Archers' characters it would be our much loved and much missed Lucy Llama - a beautiful llama who would enchant all who met her by giving them fuzzy kisses!

All that said, of course W & C are first and foremost the creation of the production team and script writers at The Archers and they decide what the llamas will do and how they will behave - so continuing llama drama is likely to be the order of the day...

Well I confess that I was quite bewildered by The Archers sudden enthusiasm for llamas. On visits to the zoo as a child and latterly with my own children I had always thought them rather ugly and useless creatures! My curiosity at the Snells love affair with them took me to The Archers website and from there I found your web pages. The llamas you breed seem to be an entirely different species to those I've met in zoos! Are they? And the pictures of them with dogs, children, pulling carts, giving rides, trekking etc are quite remarkable. Not only am I now hooked (as you put it) on the idea of having llamas but having shown your website to my husband to my astonishment he agrees! J W

I am delighted that you are converted. Whilst of course our llamas are not - scientifically speaking - a different species, in reality they are certainly very different to zoo llamas both in appearance and, most importantly,  in character. Llamas for the most part  do not enjoy  zoo life (and who can blame them?) and much zoo stock comes from lines that simply should not have been bred from in the first place! We have spent a decade and a half importing the type of stock we want and selectively breeding to achieve the results you see on these web pages, so it is heart-warming to  have the results so appreciated!

Huge fun to hear llamas on The Archers but why do they keep referring to their hair? When they talk about grooming Wolfgang and Constanza's hair I can't help thinking of the period wigs that Mozart and his wife wore! I thought you always refer to it as fibre? R.T I do agree! Although 'hair' is sometimes used, it is not really an appropriate description for llama fibre. I did point this out at the scripting stage but it would seem that someone in the production team is keen to keep it as hair (perhaps he or she is also keen on period costume!).
Can you tell me about llamas seasons and when they come into heat, how you know etc. F.H Llamas do not have heats or seasons. They are induced ovulators which means that an empty female is receptive to the male at any time and it is the act of mating that induces ovulation. This means  that a female can be mated at any time of year, and if you wish to avoid winter births the male should be separated from the female for those months. It also means that artificial insemination is extremely unlikely to succeed as it does not stimulate ovulation.
I read in TalkingLlamas that llama fleece can sell for 10 per pound and that if it is under 28 microns it is counted as alpaca. But on the International Alpaca Association site ( it gives the current world market price for adult alpaca as $5 per kilo! How can 10 per lb be sustained and how can fibre be a viable reason for investing in alpacas or llamas? I personally do not think that one should expect selling fibre to do any more than help defray costs.

Owning your own llamas, shearing them and producing your own textiles from the fibre, however, could offer   substantial added-value.
Remember that the prices quoted by the International Alpaca Association per kilo are based on tonnage at the mill - you cannot buy a few ounces at those prices! For small quantities, home grown, it will inevitably cost -and be worth- significantly more!

So far as "investing" is concerned,  buying livestock of any sort to generate income should be considered with caution  -  anyone proposing you buy their livestock as an "investment" might well be breaking the law unless they comply with very strict rules. I seem to remember that a few years ago some Ostrich breeders were fined heavily for using the term!

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We have a few sheep, two goats, and some ducks, geese and rheas, not to mention an overlarge "miniature" pot-bellied pig and a tortoise! We are particularly worried if hunting stops in this area that the foxes will get out of control and our efforts to protect our stock which are all pets will be in vain. Would a llama really help? D.L Forgive the frivolity but your menagerie and initials  immediately brought Dr Doolittle to mind: no doubt it was his Pushmi-Pullyu that kept all the other occupants of his residence safe... Yes, providing you have sufficient grazing an appropriately selected (one-headed) llama would be a wise precaution in addition to other more traditional methods (as well as a delightful and fun companion) , although I cannot vouch for how strongly his bonding instincts will transfer to the tortoise. Further info is on our Livestock Guardian page and an answer to an earlier TalkingLlamas question -see TL1

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I am keenly interested in the training of llamas, spending an hour a day with one of my geldings, and  I wonder if anyone has ever been able to train one to kush in response to a verbal command?( It was easy teaching two of my four to lift their feet up on command.) Or is there any known physical contact, eg rubbing the backs of their forelegs, which  is likely to result in my llama sitting down? I cant find anything about this in my training books.T.C



Llamas kush, or sit down, for much of the time that they are not grazing. Generally of course they do this at will, in their own good time! But from the point of view of training them to kush when you signal, it is relevant to note that llamas do kush naturally on command... i.e when a stud llama jumps on the back of an "empty" (non-pregnant) female llama, she will sit down; equally when dominant males jump on submissive males, playful youngsters jump on each other, and occasionally adult females on adult females... Indeed experienced females will often sit down as soon as the male approaches... 

The lesson here is not that you should try jumping on to the back of the llama that you wish to kush - in fact "please don't try that at home..." What you can do however, is adapt this knowledge...  

This method is best tried out on young adults (over 18 months) - males, geldings, or females who are not yet mated. It is best not to practice on stud males who will "naturally" resist any lessons, until you are experienced at it, and not at all on pregnant females .

Firstly enlist the help of someone tall and strong!

Then, having attached a sufficiently long but not too long, strong lead rope to a well fitting halter, lead a young or gelded llama that is already well lead-trained, calm and biddable, to a strong post-and-rail fence or equivalent, with a low bottom rail. 

Pass the lead under the bottom rail to your helper who is on the other side of the fence. The helper then pulls up on the lead rope so that the lead is effectively in a V formation (the top of one side of the V is under the llama's head in the halter ring, the bottom of the V is under the fence rail and the top of the other side of the V is being pulled high by the helper). As the lead rope is pulled upward, the llama's front is being brought downward with his front legs coming to a kneeling position.  Whilst this is happening, firmly press both hands down along the llama's back toward the tail, exerting as much pressure as is reasonably needed.

Although this may sound very physical, do not allow the lesson to become a fight or stressful for the llama or you. Whilst some physical pressure is required for the upward pull on the lead and the downward pressure on the llama's rear end, it should be used more to firmly encourage and guide than to physically overcome.

 It is quite possible that it will not work the first time - do not try for too long, but repeat at intervals (the length depending on the reaction of the llama). As with many new lessons, they sometimes object the first time or two and then suddenly co-operate obligingly the next time.

If it becomes very physical then perhaps the llama is not ready for this sort of "advanced" lesson.

As the llama begins to respond, issue the command "Kush" loudly and firmly. Depending on the llama, you should find that after a few lessons, the llama will respond to the verbal command whilst giving just a simple tug downwards on the lead.

... Do adjust your timing and persistence in relation to your llama's acceptance of the exercise. And don't forget a small treat as a reward for effort!

Paul.. I am totally amazed!  Less than 24 hours after we began your instructions to the letter, I have a llama that I can, single-handedly, with a minimum of downward pressure at both ends, and standing not now by a fence but in the middle of a field, require to fold right down. I thought it would take weeks, if at all. Yes I was heavy with the single, repeated, verbal command ...and the verbal and material rewards on each of the twenty or so drops. I think I am on the way to getting it by voice alone. THANK YOU! T.C

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What is the best time of year to shear a llama and is there a minimum age for doing this? My nine month old cria is getting a very long coat and will be awfully hot in the summer.T.C

Generally if we shear at all we do it in early Spring, but have sheared right up until September on the odd occasion. If shearing just a few llamas it can be done quite quickly with hand clippers- rather than electric - and this makes it easier to leave on a thicker blanket. You could shear your nine month old cria, (and younger down to just a few months for super fine fibre)  but remember that the coat protects from heat as well as from cold and close shearing, especially on white llamas, can lead to sunburn in intense sun. Llamas can take pretty hot weather and are affected more by high humidity - albeit something we do not get too much of in the U.K...

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I have two fifteen month old female llamas (unrelated) and had thought to bring them down to you for stud service when they are ready for breeding. But recently I have been offered the chance to buy a beautiful 5 year old stud who I understand comes from your CrackerJack line. Would it be all right to put him to the girls now or are they still too young? F.G I would want to wait at least another five months and possibly longer - depending on how well grown on the females are. If you do not want to lose the opportunity to buy the stud, then keep him in a separate paddock until then. (I am assuming you have facilities which offer the opportunity to separate your stock as you will need to be able to do this in the future, when the offspring begin to mature...) When it is time for mating, and even if you buy CrackerJack's grandson, you might still consider mating one of the girls to another male so that the offspring are unrelated...

(see also "The mating game" -  TL5)

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We bought three boys from you a while ago and are now thinking about gelding just two of them and keeping one entire to breed from. Is this a sensible plan? R.L.R

I have a group of male llamas and plan to geld all except one who I might choose to breed from in a couple of years time. Will it be too late to geld him then if I change my mind? P.G

Those that you plan to geld could be done any time from now but I would leave it until April when they will be about 20 months or so, and if they are all getting on well perhaps leave it a couple of months longer (or until just before you introduce the females if that is sooner).

As perhaps you are aware, however, once you introduce females to the entire male  it may not be possible to put him back with the geldings.

The older the male llama, the longer it will take for him to lose his stud "characteristics" and if used as a stud for several years might always adopt the attitude of an entire male. However the timescale you mention should not pose any problems. Remember too, that entire male llamas are not like stallion horses or bulls and (assuming they were of good temperament in the first place) owners often  choose not to geld them at all - even if not being bred from.

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