The weather has been less than ideal since the new llamas arrived; they have spent most of their time inside the barn. Popcorn finally had to approach them, “Excuse me. Um, you two are supposed to come out and guard us.”
They were not really interested in doing that until today, the wind has finally died down so Thelma took them out for a tour of the pastures and a bit of nibbling. Aibileen was intensely interested in the road construction crew a mile down the road.
Minnie didn’t like the looks of the porch dogs at all. Those are good signs in guard llamas.
Meanwhile Thelma snacked away completely oblivious to anything going on around her.
There were a few intense moments at first while establishing the pecking order. “Hey, they’re eating my hay,” said Aibileen. Thelma is very pleased to have them around now that she realizes she doesn’t have to do anything except eat.
I’ve had mixed feelings about bringing them here; I’m clearly not over the loss of Louise and I’m hesitant to become attached. We’ve made some adjustments in how we do things in hopes of preventing another choking incident. The easiest solution would be to not feed grain at all, but that isn’t possible when you’re working with rescues that need all the nutrition they can get, so a different method of feeding the grain needed to be implemented.
We threw out the plastic grain bins that are sold at every farm store across the country. Just because it’s widely marketed doesn’t mean it’s safe to use, way back when they sold arsenic pills to women so they could have a pale complexion; the bins should be banned just like the arsenic pills in my opinion. Instead, we built trays made from poplar 5 inches deep, 3 1/2 inches tall in the back, 1 1/2 inches tall in the front and about 36 inches long, then attached them to the wall. This allows the crumbles to be spread out in a long line versus a deep well preventing the animal from getting a large mouthful by forcing them to lip along the line slowly.
We also chose to place these at a much lower height in a more natural position for the llamas. The plastic bins we had previously were placed high to prevent the goats from getting to them; I now feel that was the biggest issue in causing Louise’s choke. If you watch a llama or alpaca eat while grazing a pasture, they almost always swallow while their head is below their withers (shoulders), therefore grain should be delivered the same. Of course, we no longer have the goats and we can easily put the sheep in for the night before feeding. However, we did discover we needed to adjust the height of the trays a few times to prevent certain individuals from trying to lick up any stray crumbs. The llama crumbles have too much copper for it to be safe for sheep, a few little crumbs wouldn’t hurt them, but crumbs every day over time might. Now Popcorn can’t reach it anymore and she’s none too pleased.