I’m planning on having several types of livestock on my homestead, so it can be tempting to minimize the number of feeds if possible. Even though there’s some cross-over with feed between goats and sheep, what about llamas? Can they eat the same feed as goats too? Here’s what I found.
Llamas cannot have goat feed because the higher copper content is toxic to them. Goats require much more copper than llamas and so their feed is adjusted accordingly. While there are some goat feeds that llamas can handle, they should have separate feeds to be safe.
Goats and llamas often eat the same types of grasses and can get the majority of their nutrients by grazing. If you’re supplementing with feeds, it’s best to go with a different one for each animal. Let’s take a closer look at copper and other minerals in a llama’s diet, and any foods they should stay away from.
Why Can’t Llamas Eat Goat Feed?
The high levels of copper found in many pre-made goats feed is the main reason to avoid feeding it to llamas, but how much copper should they have and how can we supplement it?
Llamas require 9-24 mg of copper daily. Since goat feed can have a higher concentration, it can be toxic to llamas. It’s best to feed llamas their own feed and provide a free-choice mineral block. Llamas will self-regulate their mineral intake from the block and will get almost all of their nutrients from their feed.
For a single llama, expect to pay on average about $13 per month on feed, which includes hay and mineral blocks. A llama will typically go through a bale of hale a week.
While it can be nice to save on cost and space, having individual feeds for each animal really is best for your livestock. Since llamas can have health issues if their cooper intake is well below or above 9-24 mg per day, feeding them a well-known and quality supplement is a good call. Normally, most minor nutrients and minerals can be obtained from a mineral block.
What Llamas Can and Can’t Eat
|Grains*||Corn, oats, barley||Pelleted feeds|
|Minerals||Mineral blocks||Salt blocks, zinc|
While llamas aren’t the biggest feeders, they are moderate grazers so make sure to rotate their pasture if you can. This will not only help the grass grow back while in rotation but also help spread out their manure and reduce disease and parasites.
When you’re feeding your llamas treats like apples, remember to cut them into small pieces. Llamas can have some fruit, but since they don’t have upper teeth (other than their rear molars) it’s harder for them to chew big pieces or tough grains.
What to Feed Llamas in Each Season
In the summer, llamas normally do best when they’re out on the pasture, grazing on fresh grass and weeds. They’ll generally graze on grass such as Timothy and Bermuda, along with any other grasses you may have in your orchard or pasture.
Most times, llamas don’t require many supplementary nutrients in the summer, but you can provide them with a free choice mineral block. They also do well with a salt and zinc block every once in a while. However, make sure to consider the amount of copper they consume. This is a primary reason not to feed llamas goat feed.
However, if you also provide your goats with a mineral block, and it’s in range of your llamas, you can try supervising your llamas to see if they over-consume the goat’s block. Most times, llamas are good at self-regulating their minerals, so they shouldn’t eat much of the goat’s minerals. Sometimes they won’t touch it at all.
You can also feed them small amounts of alfalfa and treats like apples or carrots. Keep in mind that llamas don’t have upper teeth, so some treats and grains can be hard to chew. Consider cutting the treats and soaking the grains before feeding.
If you have breeding female llamas, consider supplementing their feed with more grain. Most commonly this means corn, oats, and barley. Pregnant and lactating females should get more protein to increase the quality and quantity of their milk. Even with this, grains normally should not exceed 25% of a llama’s diet.
In the winter, llamas will mostly rely on hay. This is especially true if you live in a colder region or one with a lot of snow.
While hay is a great source of food and can stay good for up to three years, it doesn’t have as much nutrition as fresh grass. Because hay is dried, some of the nutrients have already expired. Hay can lose as much as 80% of some nutrients compared to fresh grass.
To help provide llamas with a good supply of nutrients, consider giving them some fresh grass when possible, along with grain or pellets if they require additional supplementation.
Llamas can benefit from mineral blocks in the winter as well. Leaving mineral blocks in the barn is a good method as the blocks can quickly become battered from the elements if left outside.
What Not to Feed Llamas
While we now know that llamas should not have foods that are high in copper, such as goat feed, there are some other nutrients and foods to be on the lookout for.
Here’s what not to feed llamas:
- Moldy hay
- Cherry trees
- Nightshades (potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers)
- Animal Products
- Large fruits (cut into small pieces is fine)
- Foods high in copper (goat feed, and some seeds/nuts)
- Large amounts of grain (over 25% of total feed)
Additionally, while feeding grain to pregnant or nursing llamas is beneficial, it could create health issues if you provide too much. Since grains are highly processed and often have additives, they’re usually not as bioavailable (AKA digestible) compared to the nutrients and minerals in fresh grass.
Lastly, while llamas can have some fruit*, they should be cut up into small pieces to help prevent choking.
Overall, llamas shouldn’t eat goat feed or goat mineral blocks due to the different nutrient and mineral concentrations such as copper. While copper toxicity isn’t likely in most cases, some goat feeds can prove to be too much for llamas.
By far, the best way to feed your llamas is to allow them to graze during the day and provide them with a free choice mineral block that’s made for either sheep or llamas. Grazing is best done in the summer or in warmer weather, but in the winter, llamas can benefit from high-quality hay and a small amount of grain. As long as they have access to grass (or hay) and some supplemental nutrients, llamas will usually manage their own mineral intake themselves.
For more information about what to feed llamas, check out my other post: the complete guide to feeding llamas and alpacas.