The first in an ongoing (we hope) series of profiles of TDCAA members and their out-of-the-ordinary hobbies and passions. Know someone who qualifies? Email the editor at [email protected], and we may feature that person.
Hum, pronk, kush, snoot! So why would anyone have a camelid? Over two decades, we tried beef cattle, but they tore down the fences, and boer goats, but they had serious parasite issues. And both ate enormous quantities, could be noisy, and left dung wherever the feeling overtook them. Llamas and alpacas don’t test the fences, cope with the parasites, don’t each much, and are simply serene.
Besides, working with camelids requires learning a different vocabulary. And even if languages are not one of your strengths, you can soon pick up the lingo. “Camelids” include camels, llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas; “crias” are their young; “coffee beans” are their by-product (considerately deposited in communal heaps); they “hum” to communicate, “kush” when they lay with their feet tucked beneath them, “squeal” when alarmed or fighting, “spit” when very upset, “snoot” when expelling air at both ends simultaneously, and “pronk” when having fun by bouncing stiff-legged.
Alpacas (short, roundish, and with straight ears) produce fine fiber that is sheared annually and relished by spinners. Llamas (taller, longer, and with banana ears) produce great fiber too but can be trained for packing, hunting, and carting. They can even serve as guard animals to sheep and goats. Both alpacas and llamas can participate as therapy and companion animals. Some homo sapiens eat them.
On our small patch of land, we have raised llamas for over a decade and currently run 15 llamas and nine alpacas. We breed, medicate, and shear them ourselves. Three Great Pyrenees stay out in the pastures, four Border Collies roam, and two Jack Russells entertain from the house yard. When we retire, each one of the menagerie plans to join us in the Colorado Rockies.