What Is The Purpose Of Raising Llamas?
Llamas or alpacas can be a good addition to a farm or ranch—alpacas as an alternative livestock enterprise and llamas as guard animals or recreational animals. Th ey fi t well into a diversified farming operation. Marginal pastureland is suitable for raising llamas and alpacas, with some supplemental feeding under certain conditions.
Th ere are currently more than 158,000 llamas and more than 170,000 registered alpacas in North America.
Both llamas and alpacas are members of the Camelidae family. Modifi ed ruminants with a three-compartment stomach, they have cloven hooves and chew a cud like sheep and cattle. The young of both llamas and alpacas are called crias.
Although they were previously classifi ed under the same genus as llamas, the alpaca genus was changed from lama to vicugna in 2001 following genetic analysis showing that the alpaca descends from the vicuña, not the guanaco. Other members of the family, guanaco and vicuña, are wild animals classed as endangered species and protected from hunting in South America.
The llama and alpaca have been domesticated in South America for many centuries. Th ere the llama is used as a beast of burden, as a fi ber source, and as a meat source. Th e alpaca is used primarily for fi ber production but is also a meat source in South America.
Llamas and alpacas are quiet, intelligent, easily trained animals that can provide fl eece and potentially a variety of services to the owner.
Th ey are adaptable to diff erent climates and terrains. Alpacas and llamas off er a comparatively low-impact livestock alternative. Th eir padded feet do not have the same eff ect on the ground as hooves. In addition, they have effi cient digestive systems and tend to consolidate feces, helping to control parasites and ease manure collection.
Before starting a llama or alpaca enterprise, it is advisable to visit as many existing llama or alpaca operations as possible, to pick up ideas and learn about options. Pay particular attention to regional farms because care and feeding may vary in diff erent parts of the country due to climate, parasites, and terrain. Each llama or alpaca operation is unique. Gathering many ideas will help in creating an operation that suits a producer’s particular situation.
Previously, when starting to raise either alpacas or llamas, the initial capital investment in breeding stock was fairly substantial. Th ough stock can still be expensive, since the mid-1990s the price of most llamas has been reasonable, and the price of alpacas has decreased as their numbers in the United States have grown.
Raising llamas or alpacas is considered a high-risk enterprise by banks and other agencies and, consequently, a large owner investment is usually needed to obtain a loan.
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