"The most common malnutrition in llamas is obesity".
Don't let your llamas get too fat!
The llama's nutritional
program is very important for a healthy, good producing herd however
this program will vary a lot between different areas of the country,
what the animals are being used for, and what kind of pasture you have
for them. Their nutritional program can effect their breeding, their
birthing, the health of their crias, milk production, stress in the
animals, heat stress, their conformation, and the wool quality.
The llama's dietary need consists of Energy, Protein,
Fiber, Salt, Calcium and Phosphorus, and Vitamins, and Minerals. A
very important factor in the diet and feeding is regularity and
consistency. Suggested daily feeding proportions for each animal are l
lb. llama supplement (some people call it grain), 5 lbs. from hay and
pasture, plus free choice trace minerals. A good diet is especially
important in the hot humid weather and gives the animal the strength
and energy to fight heat stress. Additions to the supplement may be
added in late gestation, early lactation, or in extremely cold
Energy and Fiber - Pasture and Hay are a major
contributor of energy and fiber to the diet. The start of a good
nutritional program should begin with an analysis of your pasture and
your hay. A good leafy grass hay, not moldy or dusty, generally
provides the necessary energy and fiber needed. Corn, a grain,
is also a high energy source and may be added to the diet under
certain circumstances. Animals in early lactation or in late gestation
may have 3/4 lb. cracked corn added to their diet for energy. In
extreme cold weather, 1/4 lb. of cracked corn per 100 lbs. of body
weight for every 10 degrees below 30 degrees up to a maximum of 2 lbs.
per head. A second feeding with the addition of cracked corn
(breakfast) may be added to the expectant mother's diet about 4-6
weeks before her delivery date and then continue with the additional
feeding after birth. Especially if the mother is prone to losing a lot
of weight after giving birth and having the nursing cria at her side.
This is a good time to use your "body scoring" and/or keep a monthly
record of her weight. Grains, such as corn or oats, should only
be used as supplemental high-energy sources and are normally not given
during hot humid weather.
Protein - The llama's protein requirement is rather low and in most
cases a good grass hay will provide adequate protein intake. When
protein supplement is necessary, 50% alfalfa hay may be added for cold
weather or lactation. The protein content in alfalfa hay is excessive
and is better fed only as a supplement and not as a routine daily hay.
Alfalfa hay is likely to be the cause of fat pads in mammary tissue
and can do damage to the crias by putting on excess fat in their
primary growth period. For herd maintenance, 10-12% protein is good.
Geldings are fine at 10% protein. Protein content and quality of the
pasture is much higher in the spring when plants are growing actively.
The same pasture will test much less in August and September. Caution
should be taken against overfeeding protein. Excess calcium in the
diet from alfalfa hay will upset the calcium-phosphorus balance which
is crucial during the rapid growth period in crias.
Salt, Calcium and Phosphorus, and Vitamins - A good
llama supplement (feed) can provide the necessary grains, salt,
calcium and phosphorus, minerals, and vitamins. This supplement can be
compared to a daily vitamin pill necessary to their well being.
Regularity of this supplement in even distribution is very important.
Feeding the supplement by way of a pellet is the most efficient way to
feed and to control all their immediate dietary needs. Mixing the
vitamins and minerals by way of powders, pellets, and loose grains
does not make for the most consistent and controllable diet as much of
it falls to the bottom of the bag and all ingredients are not
distributed evenly. A small 1/8" pellet, somewhat hard in consistency,
is the most preferable to prevent choking. Not all llamas in the herd
will choke, but a certain few will be more prone to choking due to the
makeup of the esophagus (or how fast they chow down). It is my
opinion, however, that a choke problem is as much a herd management
problem as it is a feed problem. If fed from a long trough, the food
will be spread out and animals will not be able to get enormous
mouthfuls of food and therefore this method of feeding greatly lessens
the possibility of choke. With the pellets spread out, they have to
work harder to pick up the pellets with their lips. Once an animal has
choked, do not offer the pellet again for a couple of days. Then
introduce it back slowly. Even though the llama supplement may have
all the needed vitamins, minerals and salt, it is also necessary to
offer a loose free choice trace mineral mix. A salt block does not
provide the necessary ingredients and they all will not use a salt
Most of the midwest area is very selenium and
phosphorus deficient. Abnormal bone growth such as bowed legs are
usually the result of deficiencies or imbalances of calcium and
phosphorus. Excessive alfalfa hay can upset this calcium-phosphorus
balance in crias. The lack of selenium, a trace mineral, can be the
cause of white muscle disease, weak crias, or interference with
growth, reproduction, and lactation. Selenium levels should be
randomly checked in the herd when blood is drawn. Above 150-200 is a
Llamas have a high requirement of Vitamin E - one of
the most important ingredients of their diet. Since it is quickly lost
in dried forages, it is necessary to supplement Vitamin E. The lack of
sufficient Vitamin E in their diet can be the cause of weak crias and
also crooked legs.
The nutritional needs of the llama are somewhat like a
sheep than any other livestock animal. Never feed a llama any type of
horse feed with copper as high copper levels can be toxic. Some
breeders report that fescue in the pasture can be the cause of
abortion or perhaps death.
Llama nutrition can be extremely complex and more than
a little confusing, but good nutrition is essential to a relatively
problem-free herd. Even though the animals will eat a lot of different
feeds and appear to be getting along just fine, the problems will
eventually show up and result in costly veterinarian bills, birthing
problems, or even death. Having blood tests done occasionally and
randomly checking selenium levels, calcium/phosphorus and protein
levels with a CBC, doing an IgG, and checking levels of copper and
zinc can keep you aware of the general overall health of your herd.
Equally important is a periodic weighing and/or body scoring.
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