Thoughts on Packers

Working Llama conformation

These points represent the ideal which in real life is only approached never achieved

  1. Good height (44″-? wither height) This means long legs to step over obstacles and a long stride.

  2. Relatively short, straight back

  3. Less than 6″ between upper portion of front legs

  4. Straight legs with no sickle or cow hocks

  5. Upright pasterns

  6. Weight/wither height ratio of 6.5-7.7 for males and 7.0-8.0 for females

  7. High flank

  8. Relatively narrow-medium frame. Large chested males lack endurance and may have temperature regulation problems.

  9. Plenty of guard hair

  10. Prominant pectoralis muscles

  11. Wither height greater than hip height

Non-physical Factors in Superior Working Llamas

  1. Superior athletic ability
  2. Strong confident personality-this does not necessarily mean friendly
  3. High level of trust in human handler
  4. Very alert to their environment
  5. One or both parents are proven working llamas
  6. Heritage from a line known to consistently produce good working llamas. The Poncho Via line is the best and some North American outcross lines are excellent.
  7. If the individual is a gelding his surgery should not have been done before 18 mo.–many believe over age two may be better.

Some of the above factors seem to be heritable therefore looking at parents and siblings can give insight into whether you are dealing with a high quality working llama. Expecting to purchase a great packer at auction is risky. Acquiring such an animal is a subjective, time intensive proposition. Please ask if you have questions-the only dumb question is the one not asked.

What to Expect from a Superior Pack Llama

  1. Easily caught and haltered
  2. Loads, travels and unloads easily
  3. Stands still while getting pack on
  4. Desensitized so that all body parts can be handled safely
  5. Not disturbed by manipulation of the pack
  6. Very sensitive to signals from handler
  7. Should never sit down on the job unless there is some problem
  8. Able to carry 20-25% of body weight unless the load is unusual, trail is super steep or environmental temp. is high.
  9. Able to handle unpredictable situations with logical, safe response
  10. Must be a pleasant trail companion-this does not necessarily mean friendly
  11. Will not walk up on handler when going downhill
  12. Keeps the lead loose under all circumstances
  13. Will meet other stock, humans and wildlife without a problem
  14. Crosses streams without jumping or otherwise endangering handler or himself
  15. Knows how to back up and sit-down on command
  16. Trained to understand picketing or being staked out
  17. Tolerates closeby gunfire without a problem
  18. Does not take shortcuts on switchbacks
  19. Will be able to go through complex blowdowns with a pack. This includes knowing how to crawl on knees under a blowdown.
  20. If possible will go off the trail to deficate

These points represent ideal performance and your packer should not be expected to be perfect at all times. Many of the above items seem to be heritable so looking at the family of a packer is important. Many individuals can be adequate packers without exhibiting some of these points. However, elite packers should be expected to perform almost all points most of the time.

Handler Responsibility Regarding Pack Llamas

  1. Respect for individuality of each animal
  2. Travel accomodations need to be safe and comfortable
  3. Adequate conditioning is a must prior to real trail use
  4. Use of a brand name pack-homemade packs are seldom adequate
  5. Prior to starting hike make sure panniers are balanced
  6. If environmental temp. is high the load, speed and distance may require modification.
  7. Handler should not expect real-life rate of trail travel to exceed approximately 2 mph
  8. Rest stops every hour or more depending on elevation gain, load and environmental temp.
  9. Allow free choice water in camp and on the trail
  10. Supplemental feed should be given at minimum of 1.5-2 lb. per day while on the trail.
  11. Upon arrival in camp stock receives first attention
  12. Packers under two years should carry minimal-no load. Those age 2-3 should carry very light loads
  13. First aid supplies specific to the llama.

These are general guidelines so ask if you have questions.