We recently had a load of hay delivered.
It was beautiful. Third cut, green, and the llamas loved it.

Within the next few weeks, four of them died.

This was a private on-line diary for concerned friends and it was updated daily throughout this whole sad episode. It was tough to do. The URL got passed on to people in the llama community, many of whom sent us touching e-mails. We have decided to leave the page intact as a learning tool for other llama breeders. The message is “Get your hay tested, or at least know that it is safe”.

August 18, 1991 - November 4, 1999

Emily Carr
September 14, 1997 - November 6, 1999

Mae West
August 16, 1987 - November 9, 1999

Llamaretta had just given birth to Prospero, who is standing in front of her in the photo at the top of this page, so we made sure that she got extra hay. After a few days she developed watery diarrhea which we managed to get cleared up fairly soon. Because of the diarrhea her milk dried up so we had to supplement Prospero. After a couple of weeks Llamaretta became very listless and quit eating and drinking. She died a few days later when the baby was five weeks old. On her last day she was staggering if she tried to stand. It was heartbreaking watching her bravely trying to stand and let Prospero nurse.

Priscilla also had the same diarrhea, but her cria was a little older and she seems to have recovered as she has been eating heartily lately.

We found out that the hay had been fertilized with chicken manure between the second and third cuts causing it to be loaded with too much nitrogen. The remaining hay went back to the hay dealer who replaced it with a load from a different source. We have had hay from the same field before and have never run into any problems. We always make certain that the field has not been fertilized with pig manure, but now we realize that too much chicken manure can cause serious problems.

Our llamas also get a little bit of dairy ration each day which is a good indicator of their health. If they don’t come for grain, there may be something wrong. To compound the problem the feed store had changed mills a month or so ago and the corn, oats and rye aren’t being crushed as they should be. This means that the feed is not being digested. Here we were giving the new moms extra grain which wasn’t helping them much at all.

At the same time that Llamaretta was fading away, Emily Carr, a two-year-old in a different field also starting lying down a lot and not eating. A few days later she was dead. She didn’t have the diarrhea though. It is understandable that a new mom might be a little run down but a healthy youngster is a different matter.

Mae West started lying around with Mayflower a day or so before Emily died. Two days later she showed the same symptoms as Llamaretta and Emily, listness, lying down a lot, not eating, and when standing, sniffing the ground a lot.

We are totally at a loss as to what the problem is, the vet is checking the hay, the grain, the minerals as well as the animals themselves. It seems to be a poisoning of some sort, possibly someone was spraying near the hay field which could have contaminated some bales, but these things are impossible to confirm.

Mayflower and Burgundy are both lying down a lot and are off their feed, but are at least nibbling a bit at the hay.

Nov. 9, 9:00 pm. Jane was just out to the barn to check on them and came in to say that Burgundy was chewing her cud. At least that is one positive sign. The vet checked her earlier today and there was no sign of beans, but as he said when Jane told him about Burgundy chewing her cud “Let’s get the front end working first”.

Nov. 10, 9:00 am. Mayflower is eating quite well so hopefully she is out of danger. Burgundy is only nibbling a little, and she should be more interested as they have been getting a really nice hay and alfalfa mix. We are concerned about her.

It really hit me hard this morning as when I take hay to the “skinnies” Mae West would often be by the fence waiting. Her daughter, Mayflower would usually be waiting there with her for her treat as well. The two of them were always together. Mae West was always very shy but trusted me and would very daintily take a treat. I would slip a little hay over the fence and she and Mayflower would have that to themselves.

Nov. 10, 1:00 pm. We put the two of them outside is a small field this morning and they seemed much happier and started nibbling on the grass. It was a good thing they were inside last night though as there was an inch and a half of rain overnight. (Our little creek was about fifty feet wide this morning.) Burgundy even took a cookie from my hand while Mayflower just turns her head when offered one. Right now Mayflower is just standing around looking vacant, but Burgundy seemed to want to go into the next field so I let her in with the moms and babies, where she seems content and is eating grass.

Nov. 10, 10:00 pm. Burgundy didn’t even get up when Jane put the halter on to give her an antibiotic pill. She is not interested in eating grain at all. Jane was extremely upset, Burgundy is one of our favourites.

Nov. 11, 9:00 am. Neither of them touched the grain overnight. They aren’t interested in eating treats either. There is lots of fresh hay out also and they may have nibbled a little at it but certainly not much. The only good sign is that there were two poop piles. It is amazing that we could be pleased at them pooping in the barn!

Nov. 11, 10:30 am. Even though it is a cold, rainy day we put Burgundy out in the small field by the orchard as she seems quite unhappy in the stall. She went over and started sniffing at the hay in the feeder and nibbled a tiny bit. She spent about five minutes working on the red salt block that was by the feeder.

Nov. 11, 1:00 pm. Results of the hay testing show that the nitrates are high. It was point six and apparently anything over point five can cause abortions. That may explain why Summer Thyme was hanging around Conquistador’s fence yesterday. She was bred in September and in October was spitting up a storm if she was anywhere near him.

Nov. 12, 9:00 am. Mayflower seems to be eating and holding her own. Burgundy is not eating very much. Even though it is raining again (three and a quarter inches in the past couple of days) we put her outside and she is sniffing the hay a lot and eating just tiny amounts. One of the signs the other three showed was sniffing the ground a lot, just wandering around and sniffing, looking confused, a bit similar to the way females act just before they have a cria. Right now we are not too optimistic about Burgundy’s chances.

Nov. 12, 1:00 pm. Mayflower ate some grain! We put Beaujolais in with her mother, Burgundy as they are pretty close, and tried some different hay. Burgundy is eating a little bit, but she did drink some water so hopefully she won’t get too dehydrated. Llamaretta was dehydrated when she died even though we had been giving her water with a syringe.

Nov. 12, 6:00 pm. Beaujolais and Burgundy were wandering around eating grass this afternoon. At feeding time this evening, Burgundy took a treat from my hand but was not interested in eating grain. It has stopped raining so we thought of leaving the two of them outside tonight. Burgundy is not happy if she is in a stall overnight but she was going to lie by the fence in a damp area so she got put into the stall with Mayflower. We put Beaujolais in with them to try and lessen the stress. She thinks it is wonderful with all the extra hay and alfalfa mix available to her. Jane says she thinks that Burgundy is marginally better.

The one really bright spot is that Prospero, Llamaretta’s six-week-old cria is eating hay constantly. He has not gained a lot of weight but we are still giving him milk three times a day and he looks bright and is strong.

Nov. 13, 8:00 am. Mayflower ate most of her grain this morning, but Burgundy is still not interested. We left Beajolais in the stall with them overnight and she and Burgundy stick pretty closely together. Right now the two of them are in the small field and Burgundy is nibbling a little at the hay, not enthusiastically, but at least she is eating a little. She did take a cookie out of my hand though,

Nov. 13, 9:30 am. Burgundy is eating hay a little more aggressively, which is a great relief! She even ate another cookie but turned away when I offered her another.

Nov. 13, 1:00 pm. The vet came this morning and gave them both more antibiotic shots and vitamins to stimulate their appetites. Burgundy has “beans” passing through which means that her system is working better. He is cautiously optimistic.

Nov. 13, 9:00 pm. Mayflower ate her grain tonight but Burgundy is having no part of it. She seems to forget to to eat when she is in the stall, but it started pouring rain again this morning so she got put back inside. Jane stuffs bits of alfalfa and hay in her mouth and she will chew and swallow it. She tried stuffing a bit of grain in her mouth this evening but she spat it out.

Nov. 14, 10:00 am. Great news! Burgundy actually ate some grain this morning. Mind you, she wouldn’t take it out of the first two feeders, but took some out of the third. Jane stuffed a bunch of hay/alfalfa mix into Burgundy’s mouth and slipped the rest of the grain in with it which she ate. Right now she is outside and we watched while she ate some hay, nibbled a little grass and drank some water. This is the most encouraged we have been in a long time. Mayflower seems to be doing fairly well.

Nov. 14, 3:30 pm. The sun actually came out today, it seems like it is the first day it hasn’t poured rain in weeks. Mayflower and Burgundy have been outside all day and have both been eating grass and hay. It is starting to look as if Burgundy has a chance of making it.

Nov. 14, 11:30 pm. It has been a dry evening so we just put them in the barn now. Mayflower was not at all interested in grain put she pooped as soon as she got into the stall. Burgundy and Beaujolais are inseparable which makes it awkward if we try to give Burgundy some grain. Burgundy ate a little bit of grain but then started worrying about her daughter. We tied Beaujolais up in the stall and offered the other two grain. Neither would touch it, but Burgundy got interested in the cookie treats. Normally they only get one or two but she was looking for them and ate about ten. When we untied Beaujolais, naturally she finished up all the grain that was put out for the other two.

Nov. 15, 10:30 am. They both are eating grass and hay this morning. Mayflower ate some grain but Burgundy wouldn’t. Burgundy is getting very attached to Beaujolais and hums if we try to separate them temporarily so that Burgundy can get some grain. Beaujolais thinks that being back with mom is wonderful as she get to clean up all of the extra grain and alfalfa and not having to complete with all the other youngsters.

Nov. 15, 6:30 pm. Mayflower ate a little grain this evening, but she still looks fragile. We put her in the stall by herself and hopefully she will have eaten some by the time we put the other two in. It started raining again this afternoon but Beaujolais and Burgundy were lying under cover by the feeder. Burgundy wouldn’t eat any grain but she has been eating grass and hay fairly well. She actually came over to the fence late this morning and ate some cookies out my hand. It was encouraging to see her actually come over and look for a handout.

The vet phoned a few minutes ago to make sure things were stable. He says that it will be another four or five days before we get the lab reports. He gets furious with them as they don’t seem to work very hard and he finds out more by himself. When you think about it, the lab service is pathetic as they haven’t come up with anything useful and we needed information a week ago, not next week.

Nov. 16, 10:30 am. This morning they are much the same, not eating a lot of grain but at least they seem to be eating hay and grass. Burgundy will often eat cookies out of my hand but Mayflower will just turn her head away and refuse. Beaujolais is fifteen months old now but she and her mother are really attached. If we put Beaujolais in a pen for a few minutes to try and give Burgundy some grain, Burgundy will hum and refuse to eat. It is almost as if she is being weaned. I don’t think we ever be able to separate them!

The most positive sign in the last while is Llamaretta’s orphan cria, Prospero. Last night before Jane gave him his milk, I offered him some grain in a small container. We use a cream cheese container which holds four ounces of grain. It was about three quarters full and he ate the whole thing. He ate the same amount this morning so he should really start to gain weight now. Jane had been giving him a little grain mixed with alfalfa, stuffing it into his mouth and then giving him his milk.

Nov. 16, 5:30 pm. Another day of rain so Mayflower got put in the stall mid afternoon as the other two were in the shelter and she was just standing around looking wet and miserable. Burgundy is much happier outside so we will put them in last thing tonight as we don’t need her getting cold and wet. She is still not eating grain very often but seems to look for the cookies so she is getting some protein that way. Mayflower will eat a tiny bit of grain occasionally but at least is still eating hay.

Nov. 16, 9:00 pm. Still raining. Put Burgundy in the stall with Mayflower and neither of them were interested in eating. Jane stuffed some alfalfa and grain mix into Burgundy’s mouth. Beaujolais, of course, finished up all the grain that Mayflower had ignored.

Nov. 16, 9:05 pm. Flash. Jane just came in and said that she had offered Burgundy some grain in a bucket after she had been feeding her and she ate about two ounces!

Nov. 17, 9:00 am. Burgundy ate a couple of ounces of grain again this morning which is a wonderful start to the day. They are all outside now and eating hay and grass. Mayflower is not “tucking in” the way we would like but at least she is eating. She must be eating more than we realize because she is pooping well. She seems confused which is not surprising as she was really close to her mother, Mae West, and must miss her as they were always together in the field.

Another good sign in the last couple of days is that Priscilla’s cria, Spirit Dancer, has started nibbling on grain. Priscilla’s milk mostly dried up as did Llamaretta’s after the two of them had the serious diarrhea. Hopefully the crisis is over and things are stabilized.

Nov. 17, 5:00 pm. Burgundy ate a couple of ounces of grain from across the fence this afternoon but Mayflower in not about to be hand fed. Previously she would often come to the fence looking for a handout. Both Mayflower and Burgundy ate some grain this evening. Looking good!

Nov. 18 Both Burgundy and Mayflower are eating well this morning, but both have lost weight through this ordeal. We will continue to make sure they get extra feed and care as we want to make sure they are in good shape for the coming winter. The danger period for them seems to be over so we shouldn’t need to be updating this page every day, but when (or if) we get any results from the lab we will add them.

Bright Note

Nov. 26, 8:30 am. I was walking down the driveway with a bucket of grain for the “skinnies” and I noticed something flat and shiny on the far side of the field. The light was reflecting off of it so it looked white with a couple of orange balls on top. Then I noticed a new baby sitting up under a tree! As we had deliberately not re-bred the three females in this field, this was a bit of a surprise. The shiny object was the afterbirth. It was one of the few days that we haven’t had rain lately so although the cria was a bit chilled, she wasn’t soaking wet. We figured that she would have been born about an hour earlier.

We had decided to re-breed Tessie a couple of months ago but she spat adamantly at Ambassador the two times we took her to visit him. Now things started to make sense, as the baby resembled her. Naturally she wouldn’t want to breed if she was already bred. However, the cria was smarter than we were, and she went under her mother, Aretha.

When we started checking dates, we figured out that Conquistador had gotten out because of an improperly latched gate last December 30th. I found him breeding Mornin’ Glory who we figure is due December 15th (or 30th). Now we realize that he must have bred Aretha first! It would have made her gestation 331 days which is right on the mark for her. She has gone 330 and 333 days recently, and only once over 340 days, and all of her crias have weighed 25 or 26 pounds.

We named her “Choque” (pronounced cho-key) which is Spanish for “shock” or “surprise”.

One last interesting note. Choque is a full sister to Emily.

Nov. 28 Talavai, a two-year-old from the same group as Emily, is not eating well today and did not come for her grain this evening. Three days ago she came running for grain, so this is a big worry.

Nov. 29 Moved Talavai in with Mayflower today but she is still not eating. The vet came and treated her. We stuffed some bits of alfalfa and grain into her mouth, but she spat most of it out.

Nov. 30 Talavai looks weaker today and at one point when we got her to go outside of the barn she staggered and nearly fell. The vet came and treated her again and she seems to have perked up by evening. The vet figures she has a 95% chance of making it.

Dec. 1, 6:30 pm. Talavai has gone downhill all day. It doesn’t look very hopeful. She has not eaten all day and her eyes are dull. The vet just left after trying everything he could think of. Her back end would collapse as she would try to lie down. She is having trouble sitting up. The vet now gives her a 5% chance. This is really tough as she is one of our favourites, she has to be one of the prettiest llamas we have ever had born here.

Dec. 1, 9:30 pm. Talavai didn’t make it.

November 16, 1997 - December 1, 1999

Another Bright Note

Dec. 8, noon. Morning’ Glory was looking as if she would produce this morning and, sure enough, at 11:00 am she delivered a twenty-two and a half pound little girl. She seems to be healthy and is already looking for the milk source. There is a while flash on her forehead and some white on her neck with white knee socks. Otherwise she is dark greyish black. Mom and baby are both in the stall right now as it is a cold and rainy day.

We have named her “Mourning Dove”.

She is about half an hour old in the photo and as it so cold and damp, Jane is drying her off with the hair drier.

Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts and prayers.

This page was originally set up just to keep a few friends informed of what was happening, but someone posted the URL to the camelid chat line and we have been getting many touching e-mails and suggestions from people. We appreciate everyone’s concern. It shows us once again how thoughtful and wonderful llama people are.


We received the lab reports on Llamaretta and Emily on November 24, eighteen days since they did the necropsy on Emily. Basically we don’t know a lot more that we did already. The lab’s advice is “It would be advisable to improve the affected animals plane of nutrition”, which is not surprising given that they were not drinking and had stopped eating completely for at least four days before they died.

The first three animals that died were in three separate fields and the only common factor was that they had eaten the same hay. There were no ill animals in any of the other fields that were getting hay from different sources. There were three females in a “fatties” field and they did not get any of the suspect hay as we were trying to get a little weight off of them. Three other females were in a “skinnies” field and luckily they didn’t get any of that load of hay either. We were trying to put some weight on them before winter and if they had been given that hay it is likely that they would have been affected. Our vet says that we can’t say that the hay killed them, but it obviously was a major factor. They were fed this hay for two weeks and it was discontinued about four weeks before they died.

The grain that all of the animals were getting had been made by a different mill lately and the corn, oats, and rye were not crushed as they should be and the result was that the feed was not being digested properly. We give them dairy ration all year, even in the summer as it is a good indicator if one is off its feed, and also the feed has minerals mixed in.

Hopefully the lab reports on the links below may help other concerned llama owners.

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