Sunday, February 12, 2012

Supplies...What does it take to run a llama farm?

One of the last times I was home I finally remembered to take pictures...  I was just walking around the barn and pasture, so I decided I would take pictures of our supplies (mostly feeding stuff) and write up a post for new owners (or anyone really).  It's amazing what you can learn from other breeders, even if you have been in the business for years!  Most of our ideas have been borrowed from others that we have visited over the years.

First I'll start with our mineral feeders.  It is really important to feed a loose mineral mix to llamas, not just salt blocks.  Llamas technically can't lick, so they can't consume a block like the loose stuff.  There is some debate about whether they need a mix made especially for llamas and alpacas, or if something for goats or sheep will work, but I like to stick with the special mixes.  Stillwater makes many good blends, you can order it online.  So on the left you will see a plastic horse feeder (TSC) that we use for loose minerals.  You should keep these in a covered barn, as water will ruin them long-term.  We also use these feeders for grain, although we used to use wooden troughs that worked much better for preventing choke.  Now I just got through saying you shouldn't use block feeders, but that is what is shown on the right.  One of our llamas, Bluff, has a bad habit of chewing on wood, so I decided to buy her a mineral block to chew on.  Now most of the llamas love it, but she (and now the rest too!) still chews on the wood.  It's fine to use a mineral block as a secondary source, but loose minerals are more important.  This block is a horse block with low copper (llamas are somewhat copper sensitive).

I think I've mentioned it before, but water is the most important thing you can provide your llamas.  Here we have a simple 5 gallon plastic horse bucket (TSC).  Easy to fill and easy to clean.  We have llamas (and alpacas) that like to stick their feet in the buckets, so we use bucket hangers to keep them off the ground.  In the winter, we use heated buckets (also TSC).  I'd love to have automatic waterers, but now that the llamas will be moving soon it doesn't make sense.

Now onto hay feeders.  Over the years we have come up with several hay feeder options.  This is by far my favorite.  It is essentially a wooden box on stilts, with a wire insert to keep the hay from getting wasted.  It holds almost a whole bale.  There are holes in the bottom to let dirt/dust and small pieces fall through (this would be really important if it was used outside, otherwise it would hold water).

A view from the top.  The wire insert is part of a cattle panel, cut to size.  I would preferably use a panel with smaller holes (hog panel?), as we have had crias get this stuck on their neck a few times.

This is our purchased outdoor hay feeder (TSC).  It is nice, but allows for a lot of waste and the llamas can get pretty dirty.  We normally wire tie a blue plastic tarp in the bottom to reduce the waste, but then it tends to hold water.  This winter I bought some plastic-coated 1cm sq. wire (TSC) and wire tied that to the bottom, so water can get out but most of the hay will stay in place.  Hopefully it will hold up.

These are wooden hay feeders my dad built too.  They hang on a fence (or a barn wall).  The top opens up to add hay from either side of the fence.  There are rebar pieces in front to keep most of the hay in place.  If I were to redo these, I would make the widest part at the bottom and use some sort of mesh (either a hog panel or rabbit cage wire) to further eliminate waste.

One more (make-shift) hay feeder.  One of our llamas, April, loves to lay outside in this overhang, so we started putting hay in this big plastic bucket for her to munch on.  It worked so well that we now take it to shows as a hay feeder.  I have seen others use the same set-up, and some even have wire inserts to eliminate waste.  This also shows one of the plastic feeders we use for grain.

On to the non-food supplies.  These are our stall panels (purchased from Klein Himmel Llamas of Goshen, IN).  Regular cattle panels can be purchased from many livestock supply stores, but these are very lightweight.  Lighter panels can be purchased from llama/alpaca supply places, but then shipping becomes an issue.  These panels really come in handy.  I mostly use them to make temporary pens for llamas that I am grooming or washing, but we have used them in our garage for cold llamas in the winter.  They are great for travel too, especially PR events and outdoor shows.

This is our chute, my favorite supply!  This was made by Double Your Pleasure Llamas, but they don't make them anymore.  There are several different models available though, depending on what part of the country you are in (shipping is nearly impossible!).  We use this for everything from routine medical work (shots and toenails) to grooming to emergency care (treating wounds, delivering crias).  It is extremely heavy, but as we learned even a strong llama can make it move!

And last but definitely not least, our scale.  We went way too many years without a scale, but I finally found a nice one for a good deal.  It is especially nice for crias, as they quickly get too big to pick up and the hanging scales never seem to work as well as they should!

Hopefully this helps.  This is by far not everything that we have in the way of supplies, but it covers the important stuff!


Christine said...

Thank you for posting this. I read about a box feeder like that, but didn't really understand what they were saying, now that I see the picture it makes perfect sense. We may have to try that, although I can already envision my sheep jumping in it. The feeder we are using now is similar to the TSC one, and you are right it wastes a lot of hay.

We got rid of the plastic grain bins. I lost a llama at the beginning of the year and I blame them for it. We're using a wooden tray now.

Emaly said...

I'm really trying to do more educational posts, so if you have any ideas for me I'd greatly appreciate it! I could definitely see sheep/goats sitting in the hay feeder...our cats do! For the feeder you have now, you might try attaching some chicken wire or something similar to the won't help keep them clean, but at least no hay will fall out of the bottom. It is really easy to do. At our previous farm we had trays for feed, and I loved them. Luckily all of our "pigs" have since been sold, so I can safely use the plastic bins. But they definitely aren't a good idea if you have a llama that eats fast and is prone to choke. It's always so scary, I'm very sorry to hear that you lost one. It is never easy.