This article initially appeared in the October 1998 issue of our farm newsletter. We discontinued the farm newsletter when we started publishing articles in other newsletters. The article was rewritten and expanded in April 2010 to reflect our experiences since 1998.
Llamas are very respectful of fences. With the exception of young crias our llamas could easily leap our fences … and I am not so sure that the crias could not. Zapata, months before he was a yearling, was regularly leaping fences to join Mulan, his mother or the other females.
The questions to be addressed when selecting fencing include:
Barbed wire should never be used. The large eyes of llamas are susceptible to injury by the barbs. In addition, your llamas can get easily scratched about their faces and legs with barbed wire. Remember that llamas are very curious animals and are always coming up to the fence to see what is going on about them.
Common choices for fencing are:
The advantages of high tensile wire fencing are:
The main disadvantages are:
Field fencing consists of horizontal and vertical wires woven together. The openings in the resulting mesh should narrow (vertically) as you approach the ground to prevent your llamas and crias from getting their heads, necks or legs caught in them. There is cheap fencing available where the wires are not woven but are spot welded. This latter type of fencing should be avoided due to the risk of injury when spot welds give way.
The advantages of field fencing are:
The disadvantages of field fencing are:
Electrification of field fencing is usually accomplished by stringing a hot wire over the top of the field fencing. I prefer not to electrify this type of fencing.
In addition to the methods of electrifying high tensile and field fencing noted above, there are designs which use electrified light weight wires or wired synthetic webbing or rope to keep animals in/predators out. The primary advantages of these designs are that they are fairly easy to install and to move around (such fencing is frequently used as temporary fencing). It is important that care be taken to assure that the fences are properly grounded. Many failures of electric fencing are due to inadequate grounding. Other causes of failure are thunderstorms (blown out transformers), weeds (shorting out the fencing) and falling tree limbs.
Optimal fence height depends upon your responses to the questions raised in the section Llamas and Fences above. We live in a rural area with little traffic and find four foot fencing adequate. Five foot fencing is common and frequently recommended. I have seen several young males, from a standing start, clear a six foot barrier at a show.
While visiting another farm I saw several sections of high tensile fencing torn down by a moose passing through. We suspect it was a moose that damaged a section of our field fencing - the fencing was damaged but remained intact and our llamas remained in their pasture. I suspect electrified rope or fabric fencing would not withstand a moose.
If you will be having intact males and breeding females in your pastures, you should either consider having the pastures physically separated or putting in an appropriate barrier, e.g., an electrified fence, a high fence or a double fence between the males and females. Female llamas are known to tease the males. At one farm where the barrier was an electric fence, we witnessed the females come close to the fence line and tease the males, who would then come up to the electric fence and receive a shock as their reward for responding to the come hither looks. Clearly testosterone was controlling the thinking process of the males because they would repeat their approaches to the fence line.
When we moved to our farm the pastures in use had 4' high field fencing with an electrified wire at the top. We soon discontinued electrifying the fence because the llamas respected the fencing and electrification was superfluous. We removed the wire that had been electrified because it was not taut and one of our llamas had put her head between that top wire and the field fencing and ended up wrapping the top wire around her neck. Fortunately the llame a did not panic and I was able to get wire cutters while Jeanne soothed the llama. I now have a Leatherman tool (I have the Leatherman Charge model) on my belt at all times. This has proved very useful in attending to on the spot repairs.
When we expanded our pastures we kept with the 4' high field fencing. We have many large trees abutting and within our pastures and I feel that field fencing handles limbs downed in storms better than other fencing methods.
If we were starting from scratch today we would probably use 5' high field fencing.
We recommend visits to llama farms in your area when you are first contemplating fencing. You will be able to see the variety of fencing available and obtain an insight on how others have solved the fencing problem.