Join us as we foray into the world of llamas

Let’s start with some updates on our sheep. We have happy sheep! The sheep have been settling in marvelously at Mustang Court. They recognize the humans that visit and feed them, and greet us with a hearty Baaaaaa. The chickens chime in with their cluck-cluck-cluck, adding to the welcoming cacophony of the farm.

Happy sheep


Sheep following Susan around

Sheep and chickens coexisting in harmony

As part of the strategy to acclimate the sheep to Mustang Court when they first arrived in June, we located them in a fenced in area in the backyard of the house. This location has been ideal because of its smaller and more contained size, which enabled the sheep to feel more grounded when they first moved to MCC, rather than letting them straight out into the big open field. Being at the backyard also meant they would get used to humans coming and going at the house, and there was easy access to water for their water trough. We have been feeding them alfalfa in the barn to get them used to their new home and shelter. Our kids have been hand feeding them mulberry leaves, which is like candy to sheep. It has been a great way to have the sheep and humans get to know each other.

Hanging out in the backyard

Eating alfalfa in the barn

Kids and sheep

The next step is to introduce the sheep to the big field, which is the location of Mustang Acres Farm, just adjacent to the main house and backyard. With the rain coming in the fall and winter, and the grass growing again, how awesome that we have sheep to manage the grass growth and fire fuel load. They have an entire grass buffet in the big field! In the past, we have hired people to mow the grass and Susan has also lent a hand in weed whacking. She will be out of a job this round, replaced by autonomous self-driving lawn mowers that do not talk back and complain or require gas!

Grass buffet for sheep in the big field

Susan will be out of a job weed whacking when the sheep take over

A consideration for putting the sheep out into the big field is their protection from predators. For the semi-rural location of MCC, coyotes are a concern. Enter the llama solution! Llamas make excellent “guard dogs” for sheep. When one llama is introduced to a flock of sheep, the llama will bond with the sheep and become king sheep. Llamas will instinctively protect its flock from predators by calling an alarm. The noise itself usually causes the coyote to backtrack and scamper off. The llama will then charge and kick the predator, if it didn’t have the good sense to retreat.

Through our shepherd Sarah of Wild Oat Hollow, we connected with Maria, the lovely owner of Skansen Kennel in Sebastopol, who welcomed us to her ranch to meet her llamas.

The most common question about llamas is, “Do they spit?”. The answer is yes, but they spit at each other as a way of expressing irritation or disciplining lower-ranked llamas in the herd. It is uncommon for them to spit at humans. Llamas are friendly, curious and have a zen-like presence. They will approach people calmly and easily, though they tend to keep a distance bubble until they are familiar with you.

Fun facts about llamas:

  • The llama is a domesticated South American camelid, which is a mammal of the camel family. They are sometimes called the camel’s hippie cousin.
  • Llamas were first domesticated and used as pack animals 4,000 to 5,000 years ago in the Peruvian highlands.
  • Llamas average between 300 and 450 pounds. They can carry about 30 percent of their body weight. If you try to overload a llama with too much weight, they will simply refuse to move!
  • The llama’s lifespan averages about 20 years.
  • Llamas are vegetarian and they eat grasses. Unlike other animals that can destroy pastures when they graze, llamas trim the grass instead of pulling it up by the roots. They also walk gently on the land instead of making gouges or furrows with their feet.
  • Like cows, llamas must regurgitate and re-chew their food to digest it completely.
  • Llamas make excellent guards for herds of small animals. They are very social and will adopt a group of sheep or goats as their own herd.
  • One of the ways llamas communicate is by humming. Mothers often hum to communicate with their babies, which eventually learn to recognize their mothers this way.
  • Llama poop has almost no odor. Llama farmers refer to llama manure as “llama beans”. It makes for a great, eco-friendly fertilizer.
  • Llama wool is water-repellent and free of lanolin. Yarn made from llama fiber is soft and lightweight, yet remarkably warm. The soft, undercoat is used for garments and handicrafts while the coarse, outer coat is frequently used for rugs and ropes.
  • Llamas are used as therapy animals. They are smart and can be trained as professional comforters, working as therapy animals in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.

Maria demonstrating how to bridle a llama and walk her on leash

You might be wondering, but wait, llamas and alpacas look alike. How do you tell them apart? What is the difference between llamas and alpacas?

Llamas and alpacas are both part of the camelid family and are often mistaken as the same animal. A distinguishing feature is their size differences. Llamas are generally about twice the size of alpacas, and their hair and face shapes are also dissimilar. Llamas have longer faces with banana-sized ears that stand straight up. Alpacas have smaller, blunt faces with short, pointy ears. Another key difference is their hair. Llamas’ hair is coarser while alpacas have softer, fluffier hair.

Having made this connection, we hope to have a llama join our flock of sheep soon and crown it king sheep. Check in again soon for our next blog and see what we are up to next!