The Grass is always Greener

Our llamas now have a bigger, better field. The one they had was already colossal but, since we are fortunate enough to have plenty of land, we decided to let them have some more of it. The inaugural posts for the new field were put in place a couple of years back, but it’s only a few days ago that Chris and I finished the wiring-up. Fencing is one of those jobs that never quite makes it to the top of the ‘to do’ as something of higher priority always crops up to hog that spot. As well as that, it’s not a job that anyone in our family enjoys. Whacking posts into position is tiring and deafening work, and also slow-going since our soil is heavy clay and thus concrete-like for most of the period of the year that’s actually conducive to outside work. When it’s soft enough to make the work easier then it’s lashing with rain, which isn’t fun to be out in.

But, thanks to help from our eldest who put many of the poles in over some holidays, we were able to start the wiring a few weeks back. It may sound mean, but we use barbed wire. This is handy stuff where animals are concerned, and far more effective than electric fencing for woolly livestock. Their fur is just too thick to transmit much if any of the electric charge. However, a little prickle from barbed wire will stop them pushing against it. (And if it’s any consolation to those of you who might still think it’s barbaric, well, we get spiked and scratched as we use it, even with thick gloves.) Llamas are dreadful pushers and even worse leaners. They’re not especially heavy animals for their size but there’s enough of them to cause posts to take on a rakish angle when rubbed hard against. And for camelids the grass is always greener on the other side so they will always stretch their long necks over any fence to try and eat that grass. This applies considerable pressure to the fencing that eventually leaves the wire saggy and the posts non-perpendicular. They can be brutish enough to snap posts at the base.

And they jump fences, well, some do. We have a trio of cheeky llamas – Summer (the ringleader), Georgie and Lulin – who will hop over the fence, really just for the heck of it. They don’t go off on a rampage, they just graze for a while keeping their herd buddies in sight, then hop back. However, it’s not a habit we encourage. Tobi has been very useful as a llama dog. She learnt the skill off Nessie. When we shout “Get the llamas!”, accompanied by some whoops, that’s her cue to charge at them silently and determinedly. They see her coming and prance indignantly back to the fence and pop back into the field, then turn and stare at Tobi dolefully as she catches up to them. Tobi has also learnt, by herself, where the llamas are meant to be and where they’re not. If she suspects a transgression, she stands and shoots hate rays at the trespassers, but doesn’t make a move towards them until given official permission. That’s actually not quite as obedient as it seems. Self-preservation takes a role here. Tobi has a healthy respect for the much bigger animals. We used to have a feisty llama called Katrina, and she would stand her ground against Tobi, even actually chase her a couple of times! Tobi was sensible enough to beat a retreat on those occasions. So, Tobi will only do her llama rounding-up if she knows she has back-up. Two days ago I whacked the last ‘grampillon’ (U-shaped tack) into position while Chris tensioned the wire. Finally job done. We took down some of the old fence to allow the llamas through to the new area. It took the herd a day to realise it was okay to venture into this new area but now they’re quite at home in it. It’s quite funny, though, as the three naughty ones are prickled by conscience. When they see us approaching, they turn and run back to the within the perimeter of the old field. The good llamas, alpacas and huarizos, who were never rounded up by Tobi, wonder what’s going on and gaze at their fellows in puzzlement.

I dare say the troublesome threesome will adjust to the new rules soon, but I don’t expect it will be that long before they decide that this new grass is no longer as green as it first appeared, and start thinking about fence-hopping again. Tobi will be waiting!