Saturday, June 7, 2014

Llama Shearing Time!

It’s that time of year! 

The days are getting warm enough and all the boys need to get haircuts for the summer.  While they do fine in the winter for the most-part, summer has dangers for llamas… namely heat stress.  Llamas do not do well in very hot temperatures and wearing a winter coat through the summer is not a healthy thing for them (did you know that llama wool is 6-7 times warmer than sheep’s wool?).

Some people have fancy facilities for their llamas, with great big barns (with running water!), big fans and misting systems – they don’t have to worry as much about shearing their llamas.  My boys were not that lucky to be adopted by any of those people.  The best I can offer them is shady fields, a couple of kiddie swimming pools and a good haircut in the spring.  And they seem OK with it  smile

I was kind of excited to shear this year because I have a new pair of shears – Jakotis, which were recommended on a forum I frequent.  The recommendation was well-founded… I love my new shears!  They were wonderful to work with – much easier than the Fiskars scissors I was using last year.  And no blisters either!  Someday, I might be able to fork out the $300+ for electric shears, but for now, cutting by hand is fine.

I finished up the last guy yesterday and they all did relatively well for their haircuts:

Merllin went first – he had the thickest wool - and did great.  There was a little complaining and a tiny bit of dancing around, but over all he got a gold star!

Allbus went next.  He was giving Merllin attitude about his haircut, so I wanted to bring him down a notch  rolleyes  Amazingly, he did better than Merllin.  Last year, Allbus did NOT want his haircut and obstinately laid down (that’s what llamas do when being stubborn)  Little did he know that he made my job that much easier last year  lol  This year, he stood like a pro.  I was able to get him done pretty fast!

Next came Dalai – he had a ton of wool like Merllin.  I was expecting Dalai to be the easiest of everyone and he ended up being the second worst.  He was really good until I went trim his butt and back legs – he didn’t want anything to do with that…  I ended up putting him in the chute (just a some T-posts with 2x4’s attached on the sides to make kind of a restraining stall) to finish him up.

Olliver was next.  Again I wasn’t anticipating any problems with him, but just like Dalai, he did not want his butt and back legs trimmed.  I ended up putting him in the chute to finish him up and he was absolutely horrible – he wanted out of the chute in the worst way.  It was definitely a challenge to finish him up.

And lastly was Indiana ~sigh~.  I left him for last because I was really dreading working on him.  Last year was a nightmare trying to give him his haircut.  Being the biggest of all the boys and much bigger than me, it’s very easy for him to push me around if he so chooses (fortunately, he rarely chooses to do so!)  I think last year it took me two or three days to get him done, shearing areas in bits and pieces.  However, this had to be done, so I gritted my teeth and got started.  I cannot tell you how surprised/amazed/awestruck/dumbfounded/astounded I was when, after trying to push me around twice, he stood like an angel for his whole haircut  blink  I still cannot believe how good he was!

I think they are all funny-looking without their coats – but of course I would never tell them that.  With their egos, if I did, they would never let me cut their hair again… But I’m sure I’ll get used to the new looks shortly.  Here are the Before’s and After’s:


Merllin - before    Merllin - after


Allbus - before    Allbus - after


Dalai - before    Dalai - after


Olliver - before    Olliver - after


Indiana - before    Indian - after


At the end of April I had attended a fiber clinic that a nearby farm had offered (if you count an hour’s drive as ‘nearby’), which was a  lot of fun and very informative.  While I am giving a lot of the wool away to a friend, who’s sister spins wool, I’m going to keep a big pile for me to play around with…

The smaller bags contain the ‘good’ wool, which is mostly from the barrel of the llama’s body.  The big bag has all the pretty much unusable wool – matted and full of dirt and hay that I couldn’t blow out.  Can you tell which bag belongs to which llama? 

Six bags full!

Saturday, May 17, 2014


I am beat.

Yesterday was a very busy and exhausting day…  the vet came out for the Boys’ yearly checkup and to take care of ‘stuff’ that needed doing.

Three of the boys – Allbus, Merllin and Olliver – were all gelded.  They are all at the right age (you’re not supposed to have it done when they are too young, as it affects their growth) and I could see signs of the hormones emerging.  While it kind of fun to watch them wrestle, it’s easy to see how things can get out of hand and someone getting hurt.  It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ear (or a testicle – I’d rather the vet take care of that)…

While I am not one that enjoys watching the shows on TV that show surgeries (ick!), it was kind of interesting to see how the gelding was done.  It wasn’t as gross and bloody as I had imagined it to be, but at the same time I didn’t really want to take pictures of the procedure either  rolleyes

It was kind of funny seeing them knocked out and laying all over each other…  In this picture, Merllin was just waking up:


I love how Olliver made sure he passed out on his best friend  laugh


Merllin is like “Who are YOU?  And what the hell just happened???”:


While these guys were knocked out, they got their worming shots and I was able to touch up their nails - their nails looked pretty good from before, but I was able to give them more professional looking manis and pedis  smile


Allbus and Dalai both had their fighting teeth removed.  Allbus only had two come in so far, but Dalai had all six

As boy llamas get older, their fighting teeth grow in – see how they are hooked towards the inside of their mouth?  It’s easy to see that if an ear or testicle gets grabbed when wrestling, how ‘parts’ can get ripped to shreds  - which I suppose is the whole purpose of them  blink




Basically, the teeth get filed down to the gum line.  They will grow back and they need to filed down every bunch of years.  Even though they were knocked out, it did not look like a pleasant experience.  But then again, I’ve always hated going to the dentist…


All done!




Indiana was always very watchful of ‘HIS’ herd and even tho’ he can be a brat sometimes, it was so sweet to watch him checking up on Dalai to make sure he was OK


Even today, when I gave everyone extra treats to help ease their hurt, Indiana was very respectful and did not try to steal anybody else’s treats.  I am so proud of him  heart


Everyone got their yearly rabies vaccine and now I am just waiting for the results of their fecal samples…

Out of everyone, Indiana had it the easiest – he just needed his rabies shot.  Allbus had it the worst – he had everything done… poor guy   sad 03

Everyone seems to be doing well – although it looks like Dalai is feeling the worst of the bunch.  I’m not sure if it’s because his teeth are really hurting or his ego…  But that being said, no one is really doing much moving around today – including me laugh

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Being such a cold winter this year – it makes me really appreciate the few sunny warmer days we’ve had. I especially appreciate the days when I don’t have to chop ice. Not having a barn or fancy facilities with electricity and running water, I have to carry water out to the Boys twice a day – once before I go to work and once again when I get home. It’s not really that horrible of a job, but when you get used to chopping ice every day, things just seem *so* much easier on those days when I don’t have to… that being said, summer is much better when I can just run a hose over and top off the trough  laugh

Depending on the time of day and how cold it is out, I’ll bring out anywhere from four to nine jugs of warm water out. On the really cold days, I just dump everything out of the buckets and give them all warm water instead of just warming up the cold water that was already left in the bucket. I don’t think the Boys really care one way or the other, but it makes me feel better.

Loading the sled...


I had a bit of an experiment running this winter dealing with their water – I was trying to find a way to keep the water from freezing as fast. In one of the forums I frequent, someone had mentioned that they used tires lined with hay to help insulate the buckets for their animals. As it happened, I had two old tires handy, so I thought I’d give it a try. Olliver and Merllin got the insulated bucket, while the rest of the guys didn’t. I was really amazed at the difference in the amount of ice that accumulated in each of the buckets… granted, the uninsulated bucket was up off the ground, which I am sure helped freeze the water a bit quicker, but there was still a really big difference between the two. When the uninsulated bucket had ½ - ¾” of ice on top, the insulated bucket only had 1/8-1/4” – which is quite a difference. Also, the uninsulated bucket would freeze along the bottom and sides while the insulated bucket never froze anywhere except on the top – and we’ve had multiple week-long stretches of temperatures that were in the single digits… I am definitely going to dig up a couple more tires for the Big Boys’ water for next winter.


 Insulated  Not Insulated


I love the soft-sided buckets I use – especially for the uninsulated water. When the ice was getting thick along the sides and bottom, it was really easy to break the ice by tapping on the outside. Being rather rubbery, I didn’t have to worry about the bucket cracking in the cold along with the ice.

Who would guess that you could mix llamas and science?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


It’s been a cold winter, but we’ve had it warm up for a day or two here and there.  I’m still surprised to see the Boys sleeping outside when it is so cold out.  Allbus and Olliver are both very good about having their coats being put on and taken off.


Look Mom - no halter!


I took advantage of the relatively decent weather we had this past weekend to get everyone’s toenails trimmed. It’s still a little scary because I haven’t done it enough yet where it’s old-hat. They are all great when doing the front legs – it’s the back legs where everyone gets touchy. Mostly l worry about Allbus kicking, which he did - but it was kind of half-hearted, so it wasn’t too scary. Olliver and Merllin were pretty good – Olliver danced around more than Merllin, but I was able to get the job done with them within a reasonable amount of time with minimal drama.

Dalai is funny when it comes to his back feet – when I start touching them, he crosses his legs… kind of like how a little kid does when they have to use the bathroom  laugh  But even with crossed legs, I was able to get him done pretty quick.

Indiana was being a brat when I was trying to do his back feet. He’s big and fat and he knows it…  And he knows how to throw his weight around if he wants to. I ended up putting him in my homemade chute. Once he couldn’t throw his weight around, everything went pretty smooth. I used the chute to touch up Merllin’s back feet too – I didn’t think to use the chute when I was trying to get him done.  I think that was the first time I had him in there – he didn’t seem to mind it at all.

I did end up slicing my thumb open – I thought I was being smart by leaving the clippers open in my pocket so that they would be easy to grab once I got a foot in position… unfortunately when I went to grab them, I sliced myself really good – I really didn’t think that they blades were *that* sharp! I saved myself some stitches by using some crazy glue to hold the cut pinched closed and to stop the bleeding – it worked like a charm smile I need to devise some kind of holster for the clippers so that I can keep them out of the way, but handy when I need to grab them quick…

I feel so much better knowing that they are all trimmed up. I don’t think the Boys appreciate me telling them that they all have pretty feet now rolleyes


Oh my - what pretty feet!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


So it’s been a bit chilly here lately.  The weather-people were calling it The Polar Vortex.  I called it winter.  Albeit a wee bit on the nippy side, but it’s winter - it’s supposed to be cold.  However, when I wake up one morning and the first thing I hear on the radio is that the temperature outside is only one degree warmer than the South Pole, I wondered if I should be concerned…

The three ‘normal’ shaggy guys seemed fine – the cold weather didn’t seem to be affecting them much at all.   I did notice Allbus, one of the suri llamas, was shivering a bit, which started me worrying.  I suppose it made sense – he didn’t have the really thick wool that the other guys have, so the cold would affect him more.  Strangely tho’, Olliver didn’t seem to be bothered by the cold, but I kept an eye on him.

What I ended up doing was making coats for the two of them.  Allbus got one made of two polar fleece blankets I picked up at the Salvation Army sewn together for lots of warmy-goodness and Olliver’s coat was made out of an old comforter I had.  Allbus was the first priority and therefore the guinea pig of my initial llama-blanket-making experiment.  Thank you so much to Dragonfly Llama for the pattern to get me started – it was perfect for someone (me!) on a limited budget.

What I learned from my first try:

- I learned that I love Allbus more and more every day  heart  As usual, I was expecting the worse and tried to head off any possible fight/rebellion/resistance…  I let Allbus look at the coat.  He couldn’t care less about it.  I let Allbus smell the coat.  He couldn’t care less about it.  I kind of plopped it on his back so he could feel it on him.  He cared for about three seconds and then ignored it.  I figured at that point I would just go for it and put the thing on him.  He stood still for me the whole time I was figuring it out – I was very pleasantly surprised at how good he was  smile

- I learned that Velcro just doesn’t cut it with llamas.  I has sewn almost 2-foot strips on each strappy part, thinking that they would great for adjusting and being able to fit different size llamas if needed…  Not.  Even though I picked up the Heavy-Duty-Industrial-Strength Velco, it didn’t hold more than five minutes after Allbus started moving around.  I ended up temporarily using safety pins until I could find something better.  I finally decided on some cam-lock buckle thingies, which I found out are mankind’s greatest invention since the wheel.  They are so easy to thread and adjust – even with gloves on and they hold tight… I love these things!  I am so glad I picked up a bulk bag of them (cheap!) – I’m going to be using them for a lot of things in the future.

- I learned that Allbus must have a longer body than the llamas the pattern was made for.  I had to sew some extra onto the back of the coat so that his butt would be covered.  There’s nothing worse than having a draft on your butt.

The coat definitely helped and I honestly believe that he realized  after a short time that the coat was a really good thing to help keep him warm.

Olliver didn’t get his coat until a day later than Allbus.  Unfortunately, the weather had turned rather nasty and he didn’t get the luxury of having the option to decide if he would like the coat or not.  I pretty much just put it on him – I think I did it so fast, he didn’t even realize what happened  laughing

The weather had warmed up since then (it went up over 30 degrees in two days  rolleyes ) and the coats came off, which allowed to me make a couple minor adjustments so they would fit a bit better.
The temperatures dropped again the other day (this morning they said on the radio that we were colder than Fairbanks Alaska…) – I was glad that I was prepared this time and I think Allbus and Olliver were glad too.  They almost seemed happy to get their coats on  smile

Here are my GQ Boys sporting their toasty new look: