Llamas are much like moose and other ungulates in that they need coarse woody fiber to aid in digestion. Actually, since llamas and alpacas are camelids and camelids are ungulates, an article about ungulates would be interesting, don’t you think? Well, I think so, at least!
Back to topic …llamas need coarse woody material to aid digestion. They love to nibble tree bark and each animal has their favourite flavour. Pine and spruce is popular, as is cedar …wait, isn’t that poisonous? Hazel, and the smaller poplars are also high on the hit list. Willow is top dog though, but this might also have something to do with drugs. Willow bark contains acetylsalicylic acid, otherwise known as aspirin, so there is a strong chance that they are either feel the need or the desire for a painkiller or blood-thinner.
This time of year, the snow is a couple of feet deep and the trails through the forest and wetlands are a trifle awkward, but once the llamas have been cajoled, lured or unceremoniously shoved out of the barn, they will happily spend a couple of hours foraging.
Interestingly, we have never seen a single tree that has been ‘girdled’ by the llamas. They only nibble the very outer layer of bark; the really tough stuff, whereas cows and goats will kill a tree in a very short time. They will however, prune shrubs quite severely, like the scrubby willow, stunting the plant growth. Straddling is more of a problem with camelids. They LOVE to walk into shrubs so that the branches scratch their bellies and if you want a patch of scrub removing from your garden, this is good way to achieve it, as long as you don’t mind your rose bushes being pruned in the process. Llamas love rose bushes!
The tree doesn’t have to be alive for them to enjoy the bark. A few pieces of firewood or a couple of big logs in the field will do nicely!
The llama crew helping out with bark stripping on a log cabin project: