We’re nursing a poorly llama at the moment. Gabby, the matriarch of our herd, has had her yearly funny turn. She’s given us the most problems of all the animals. We had the vet out yesterday who has diagnosed the problem as being her liver. He’s dosed her up and we gave her some medicine today, and must do the same again tomorrow, and then it’s a waiting game. She’s calm and comfy, and on the whole quite perky, so fingers crossed. She came back from the brink of death two years ago – the vet gave her less than a 10% chance of survival that time, so we know she’s tough. But she’s not out of the woods yet.

Gabby (left) and Georgina

Gabby’s youngest daughter, Georgina, is sulking. (We have two more of Gabby’s daughters in our herd – Katrina and Lulin.) Gabby has been proving difficult to wean, but since mum has been lying down for two days now, she’s had to manage without her milk. She’s grudgingly drinking water from the bucket instead.

Georgie about to take a nice muddy roll

Llamas are tricky animals health-wise for the simple reason that they’re very tough. They’ll put up with a lot of pain before they finally give you some clue something is going on. The stoic behaviour is fairly typical of herd animals apparently. No animal wants to show weakness in front of the others for fear of losing its place in the hierarchy, or of being picked off by a predator. So sadly it can sometimes be too late when you realise something is up.

The most common health threat to llamas, as with all ruminants, is from parasites. I dose my guys several times a year with Panacur and an Ivermec generique, alternating them so that resistance doesn’t build up. These products are effective against most worms. The animals also get a yearly jab of Miloxan, which safeguards them from clostridium and tetanus infections, amongst others. I’m now pretty good at vaccinating them. It was terrifying to start with, but practice makes perfect – or at least, a bit better than before! The llamas don’t mind too much although you do need a willing helper or two to hold on to them firmly. We also have the chickens and turkeys patrolling in the llama field. Poultry and ducks are a good anti-parasite treatment too as they clear them up from the grass.

It’s always upsetting to have a sick animal. But alongside the fun and joys of animal ownership comes the other side – the worry and the heartache when things go wrong. However, on balance I wouldn’t be without my little herd.

Gabby, Vicky and Windy (but not all my llamas have names ending in y)