Saturday, September 20, 2014

Imax, the Guard Llama

Imax, up close and personal!

In honor of Imax, the January “pin-up boy” on my 2015 calendar, I decided it was time to give some background information on him and the other llamas of my farm.

Imax (so named because he was a “big boy” and the Imax Theaters are known for their large screens), came to the farm 10 years ago.  He came with several other members of his herd including another young (cria) male named Voyager.

 A much younger Imax and Voyager
while at a friends' farm.

Imax and Voyager were little buddies, so we kept them together in a paddock that we still refer to as “the boys’ paddock”.   They were fine together and grew up in a paddock that was always just a fence line away from their mothers.

We had planned on gelding them, and although it is the practice to geld horses that are less than a year old, veterinarians don’t usually geld llamas until they are at least 2 years of age so that their bones are stronger and denser! (Always questioned why it was “okay” for horses???!!)

Imax never seemed to realize he was male; for that matter, neither did Voyager.  They got along just fine and never seemed to have “stallion” issues or traits with each other.
Mishka at a friend's farm.

Mishka – Voyager’s mother was the herd leader. Whatever Mishka did, so did all the other llamas. Back then, a few gelded male llamas were also turned out with the females.  The entire herd did everything together, and moved around the fields following Mishka. Mishka loved us and because she always did what we needed her to do, the whole herd obeyed, too. Shearing time, toenail trimming time, deworming time, were all simple because they followed Mishka…and Mishka loved the “attention”.

Sadly, one Christmas vacation, while I made a 48 hour trip to Maryland to see family, Mishka became sick. I got the phone call, and headed straight back to Kentucky. We brought her into the yard (near where her herd mates could see her) and made a shelter out of straw bales stacked to form a shelter around and above her. We took out an electric blanket to keep her warm, gave medicine and IV drip to her, and sat with her around the clock for days. After a week, she passed away.  She had been old, but it didn’t lessen the blow. She was such a special llama and such a part of our family.

Imax in a Winter Wonderland!!

The herd seemed confused without her. We put them in a smaller field so that we could keep an eye on them.  Without her leadership, we knew they wouldn’t come up for water when they needed it, wouldn’t know how to return to the barn for a storm, etc….. So, we waited for them to select the next in line to be leader, but it seemed to take a very long time.

Meanwhile, the “boys” seemed to sense that Mishka wasn’t around. For seven years they had NEVER fought as “stallions”.  Well, within weeks of Mishka’s passing, they began fighting. So, we had to separate them and put them into two different paddocks. Suddenly, not only couldn’t Imax and Voyager be in the same paddock, they couldn’t even be in neighboring paddocks (sharing a fenceline) either!  

Voyager in a 2-acre paddock

This only added to the ever present conundrum of rotating paddocks and who could or could not be together.  We have horses, sheep, and llamas and not all co-exist happily.  We thought we had it finally figured out and all ran smoothly for about a year.

Imax still feels he's special and follows me around
 while the horses look on.

Then one summer’s day a couple years ago, Imax and Voyager just happened to sneak into neighboring paddocks and began to make their llama “call”. We all had been outside working and when we heard that began running from all directions. We saw them rear onto their hind legs and body slam into each other.  The “thud” was awful sounding. Just as we were running into the paddock to separate them, they body slammed each other again, but Imax must have lost his footing and flipped over the fenceline.  Our fences are planked and wire (planked to be strong enough for the horses and to allow us foot holds for climbing, and wire to keep out the unwanted critters-dog, coyotes, etc). Well, Imax had gotten a front leg stuck in the wire and as he flipped and landed in the water trough, his leg was slow to release from the fence.
Imax standing guard in front yard

As soon as he was actually in the paddock with Voyager, Voyager backed off and left him alone.  Instantly we knew something was wrong and could tell what it was!  We called the vet and he was there within minutes. He looked at the leg and recommended “putting him down”.  But, because the break was in the tibia below the knee and Imax could still “kush” to ruminate.  I said, “no”, -----I wanted a cast put on. Of course the Vet argued that it would get fly strike, sores, etc., etc.  I still argued for the cast and the Vet agreed to give it a try.

So, on the cast went and when Imax awoke we moved him into the yard.  He actually walked (slowly, but we got him).

Imax feeling quite pleased with his new domain!

Every day I checked out the cast and put a salve around the top to repel flies. Every day, Imax got stronger and stronger. During that time, Imax followed me everywhere I went.  While I watered the garden, he stood beside me. When I mowed the yard, he sat in the orchard under the trees and watched. When I fed all the animals and walked carrying buckets of grain, he walked beside me. We grew to be quite good friends.

Imax enjoying the shade underneath a Pear tree!

Six weeks later the Vet came out to take off the cast and couldn’t believe how clean it was, no sores, and healed perfectly. He said, “Let me help you move him back to the field.”  Again, my answer was “no”!

Wind is blowing one way, Imax is heading the other.....
That's our Imax!

That was three summers ago….and Imax is still in the yard.  J

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