Calcium / Phosphorus Ratio
One thing to be sensitive to with llamas aside from good general nutrition is
the calcium/phosphorus ratio. The ideal ratio in most mammals is theoretically
1/1, however, reality is different. This is because typically any phosphorus in
excess of calcium will pull calcium from the bones. This not only causes a
decrease in bone density, but the robbing and restoration cycles in the bone
causes the bone to form irregular growths and deformations. Conversely, if
calcium is in excess of phosphorus, there are no serious ill effects until the
ratio gets way out of balance, e.g., greater than ~5:1. With a large imbalance
in that direction kidney stones become much more likely. The excess calcium
will also inhibit absorption of other minerals, e.g., zinc, copper, etc., which
creates other deficiencies.
So it is important to make sure they are getting enough calcium to assure the
ratio never drops below 1.2:1. A good target is 1.5:1. The ratios in feedstock
can vary quite a bit depending on soil conditions, variety of plant/grain, time
of harvest, etc. Short of analyzing everything, it's possible to roughly
estimate intake by using averages for various common feedstock.
Alfalfa runs about 5.5:1, which makes it a good supplement to offset calcium
deficiency in the regular feedstock. (It doesn't take very much.) Note
that llamas should not be fed just straight alfalfa. Not only is the
calcium/phosphorus balance way off but the nitrogen, protein and caloric levels
are too high. Llamas are designed to subsist on browse that consists
mostly of grasses. Other legumes, like clover, have a ratio similar to
Grasses often run below the target 1.5:1 ratio.
While orchard grass can run as high as 1.1:1, it more typically runs only about
0.8:1, which can be a real problem if
that is the sole diet of llamas.
Bluegrass is about 1.1:1
Tall White Fescue is about 1.2:1
Oat grass is about 1.2:1
Bermuda grass is about 1.6:1
Timothy is close to 2:1
Whole grains have a very skewed ratio, running under 0.3:1.
Grain bran is even worse.
Wheat bran 0.1:1
Rice bran 0.06:1
Obviously one should never feed a lot of bran, especially rice bran, unless
supplemented with a
lot of calcium. Pelletized rice bran sold as feed supplement for horses is
fortified with calcium and is good for llamas needing extra calories for weight
gain. Some come with added joint health supplements, making it a good feed
supplement for elderly llamas having a harder time keeping the weight on.
Dry hay is very low in vitamin E and absent in older hay, whereas llamas seem
to benefit from higher levels of vitamin E compared to other livestock. Keep
this in mind when feeding hay -- especially lower "quality" hay. The
d-alpha tocopherol form is natural vitamin E, which is derived from soybeans.
The dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate form is a man-made synthetic vitamin E.
Supplement hayed llamas.