COLE CAMP — For Gary and Doris Urban, of Cole Camp, raising llamas has become a hobby, one that brings them many smiles and a few kisses.
The Urbans have seven llamas who have become their pets — Blackie, Zeus, Eno, Wanda, Proper, Josie and Elana. The llamas have seven acres on the Urban’s property to roam along state Route 52, just east of Cole Camp. Often those traveling to Lake Ozark stop to see the menagerie.
Gary, who works at Heimsoth Brothers Feed Store in Cole Camp, bought his first llama, Eno, in 2005 from the Windsor Livestock Auction.
“He came home and said ‘I found a llama,’” Doris said. “He’s always loved them. He called the sale barn and got it for $75.”
Eno, who has an apricot-colored coat, is 12- to 13-years-old, but he’s not the oldest; Wanda is 23. Doris added that the life span for a llama is usually around 25 years.
“Sometimes they get so old you have to mush their food for them,” Doris said. “(Wanda) is still doing fine.”
“She just eats a little bit slower,” Gary added.
Many of their llamas come from a friend, Tori Houk, formerly of Cole Camp, who lives in Tennessee and has show animals.
“When she’s upgrading getting high dollar llamas, we’re getting the good ole girl llamas,” Gary said laughing.
Eno the guard llama
Eno acts as guard llama, chasing away coyotes that like to inspect the llamas and the mini donkeys on the Urban’s property.
“He can spot a coyote clear over the fence line,” Doris said. “What they do, they start neighing like a horse and then they all gather together and start neighing. They will scare it or kill it if it comes inside the fence.
“They have hoofs like canoes, they are real sharp,” she added. “Eno’s really good, they are all really good. There’s nothing that can kill them other than a pack of wolves.”
“Sometimes they will put them with sheep,” Gary added. “They will keep coyotes off. They’re protective.”
Several years ago the couple found the llamas all circled up and moving together as a unit.
“They were all just moving an inch at a time and looking at the ground,” Doris said. “I told Gary ‘what is going on?’
“There was a turtle, it was big snapper going through the yard,” she added. “They’ll spot anything, a dog or a cat or something that’s not normally around.”
Llama poop makes flowers grow
The Urbans used to be members of the Show-Me Gourd Society and would often grow large prize-winning gourds. Then, while raising llamas, Gary discovered that the chemistry of llama poop provided a great fertilizer for their garden vegetables and flowers.
“We used to grow bushel gourds,”Gary said.
“We would win every time,” Doris added. “It’s what you would call organic … it doesn’t have a smell. It’s pellets like deer (poop) and they have just an earthy smell. You can grind them up or put them them in your garden. You can fertilize anything.”
Llama poop can also be soaked in water for several hours creating a “tea” that is used to water houseplants.
“They will just explode,” Doris said of the plants.
She added that their veterinarian tried a name-brand plant supplement and then tried llama poop on impatiens. The plants fertilized with llama poo grew twice as big.
“I guess it’s got a lot of phosphorus and potassium in it,” Gary added. “It’s just really good stuff.”
The couple has since moved into town and no longer have their 100-by-60-foot garden. So, all accumulated poo is given away to friends with green thumbs.
Llamas spinning yarns
The Urbans shear their llamas once a year in the spring time.
“Their wool can be spun into yarn,” Doris said. “Because it’s a little bit coarser than alpaca, you either have to put alpaca wool or rabbit in it to give it a softer feel.”
The couple gives llama wool away to the locals and to others who use it for projects and fiber arts.
Llamas have their own personalities too. Doris noted that Eno hates to be sheared.
“Eno is the only one who throws a fit,” Doris said. “You put a halter on him and get ready to shear, and he’s already screaming. But he wants to kiss you, and smell you, and love you.”
“They are sweet animals,” Gary added.
Llama love: Zoe and Henry
Doris’s favorite llama, Zoe, was once a show animal from Washington state. Zoe pulled a cart and became a fixture in the local area. She died last year.
“She was kind of like a therapy llama,” Doris noted. “We had her and we had little Henry, he was a little baby.”
Henry’s mother rejected him when he was born.
“He died of a blood disorder, and I guess the mother must have known that,” Doris added. “Gary brought him in and he was just like a dog. He went everywhere with Gary. He went in the back seat of the car, he went to the stores, to the nursing homes.”
“He went to schools in Sedalia,” Gary added.
When the couple took Henry to visit schools, they gave the children a photo of Henry and a pack of wool for them to take home.
They said five years ago Zoe pulled a cart in the Sedalia Christmas Parade with Henry following along. Sedalia school children remembered Henry and were delighted to see him again.
” … One of the mothers said her little girl had the picture on her mirror in her bedroom and would touch the hair that we gave them,” Doris noted. “It was real good therapy for them.”
No spitting allowed
Llama temperament is basically mild although they are known for spitting.
“Everybody has that legend of spitting,” Doris said. “They don’t just spit on you unless they feel danger or they spit at each other because of pecking order.”
Although, it’s best to remember that is not wise to interfere with a llama’s food.
“If someone gets close to their food, they are going to put their ears back and their head back,” she added. “If you hear gurgling you’d better step back.”
Llamas also have a hierarchy and it’s often a female who rules.
“Usually there’s one that’s the queen bee of the whole group,” Doris said. “The bad thing is, if you take a llama away for the day … and she’s the queen bee, and you bring her back, she has to fight over her pecking order.”
Of course llama fighting is having a llama spitting contest. The best spitter wins.
Doris said when Zoe was alive she ruled the herd but now Blackie is queen bee.
The Urbans said they have no plans to acquire additional llamas in the future, but do enjoy their current pets. Doris added, tongue-in-cheek, she’s now a stay-at-home-mom.
“They are just spoiled, that’s why it’s hard to get rid of them,” she added. “We enjoy it.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.