Llamas are members of the camel family.  They were domesticated in Peru over 5000 years ago placing them among the oldest domesticated animals in the world. Private collectors and zoos started importing llamas into North America in the late 1800s.  Today there are over 100,000 llamas in the United States and Canada. Llamas are classified as domestic livestock in at least 24 states including New Jersey.

Llamas are clean, quiet and intelligent animals. They have a dignified and elegant manner about them.  Because of their curiosity, they have a delightful habit of coming close to strangers and sniffing them.  They are highly social animals and need the company of other llamas or grazing animals.  Llamas communicate with various tail, body and ear postures, and sounds.  The sounds that llamas make include humming at various pitches related to the situation and rarely they may make a shrill alarm call to alert the herd to danger.  Llamas may spit at their own kind after other expressions of displeasure have not been heeded.  If they have been properly raised and handled, llamas do not spit at people.  Llamas are remarkably clean since they use communal dung piles and do not lie down in their dung.

Full grown llamas average between 250 and 375 pounds.  They nearly reach full body size by three years of age and normally live for 15-20 years.  Their gestation period is 345 days and they rarely have twins.

A simple shelter such as a three-sided shed, is all that is needed for llamas to give them some protection from extreme heat, cold, wind, rain and snow.  Fencing may be woven wire, wooden rails or boards, chain link or electric.  It should be at least four feet high.

Pastures may be stocked with up to six llamas per acre.  Thus, two pet llamas will do well on one-third of an acre.   When sufficient pasture is not available, llamas must be provided good quality hay.  Llamas should get a mineral/salt supplement and grain as needed for proper body conditioning.  This is most easily accomplished by feeding a manufactured llama mix once daily.  Of course, clean water must be provided at all times.  Llamas are hardy animals and have very few problems with disease.  Normally, only routine worming and an annual vaccination booster are required to keep them in good health.

What do you do with a llama?  Some of the many uses are:

  • Pets, companion animals – easily handled by young children.
  • Hiking – walks along side you and is usually curious about many of the same sights you are.
  • Showing – ALSA halter classes where animal is judged for conformation, style,
    presence and body movement.
  • Showing – ALSA performance classes where animal and handler compete in performing obstacles.
  • Breeding – raising, training and selling llamas as hobby or business.
  • 4-H youth programs – excellent project animal since easily handled and trained by young children.
  • Therapy – used in handicapped children’s programs and nursing homes.
  • Guard Llamas – used effectively in protecting sheep, goats, alpacas and poultry from predator attacks.
             Click here for more information on guard llamas
             Click here to see guard llamas in action
  • Fiber – soft, fine llama wool is prized by hand spinners, knitters and weavers.
  • Driving – can be trained to pull carts for short excursions or parades.
  • Packing – used to carry camping gear during wilderness treks.

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