Last Wednesday we had one of our two llamas, Opa, euthanized.
Opa was, as his nick-name suggests, an old man. 22 is a respectable age for a camelid. (Oldest one I know of lived to 29, most start dying of “old age” in the late teens or early 20’s.)
Opa arrived six years ago. We had purchased Hob after Jim died in 2007. Julie asked if we wanted a second free llama. Opa was 16, retired, and completely besotted with Hob. Julie wanted to let the friends stay together (plus it got another animal off her then-heavily-stocked farm).
The first few years Opa went out on some adventures, but as he aged his feet started having troubles (down in the pasterns) which precluded long walks. He’d always be so anxious for Hob’s return when we took the other llama out, running along the fence in excitement because HOB was back!
Opa was the boss of the boy herd, even as he aged, and as such he provided one great service, he taught the stud-alpaca Zeus how to be social. Zeus had spent a couple of years in the “paddock mating” situation, left in with a group of females. He’d become an uber-macho, a male that would attack and try to kill any other male. This made it tough on us, since we didn’t want to leave Seus in with the females, nor is it kind to leave them alone.
Zeus battled Opa for dominance. This battle would run an hour or more of knock-down, drag out camelid wrestling. Every single day for a year! Zeus was younger and full of testosterone, but 145 kg trumps 80 kg. At the end Zeus finally gave in, and then realized once he was no longer #1 that it was possible to live with other males as friends. Zeus and Hob became buddies.
I’m glad Zeus had moved on before age started to really catch up with Opa, as I’m not sure if he could have stood up to Zeus this last year.
We’d known for months that Opa was slowing down, to the point were last month when we were at the llama association AGM we were actively shopping for a new companion for Hob. Then in the weeks before he died he started to loose weight, and spend more time separated form the herd.
It was most likely liver failure, based on all the symptoms. The liver is often the organ that goes first in camelids.
There was also some grim comedy around his death. After Julia was done, and Opa was dead, we needed to get him to the graveyard and into the hole I’d dug.
Just then the phone rings. One of Yvonne’s horses had gotten spooked on the property next door, and bolted through a fence. Yvonne couldn’t get out of work, and Carol is 8 months pregnant.
And we had a dead llama in the middle of the driveway, and guests coming over in an hour.
So we can’t help with the escaped horse, We manage to get the body onto the back of the ute (not easy with a 140 kg corpse, I used ropes, a pulley, and a chain-ratchet).
But we’d had 25 mm of rain the previous night, and the track was too slick and muddy for my ute, even in 4WD.
Then the garage calls, Tam’s car (in for a WoF and service) is ready for pickup. So we have to throw a tarp over Opa, and drive into down. Yeesh, what an adventure.
Thankfully the next evening with the help of a couple of neighbours and a quad-bike we got Opa up to his grave.
Life on the farm, and all that. Now we have to pick a replacement llama (or two), so we can make sure Hob has some llama-buddies.