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Lovin’ llamas

Laura Brown

Llamas have a way of winning people’s hearts. Curious, gentle creatures with big eyes and Jim Henson’s Muppet-style bodies proved irresistible to Rick and Mary Adams, who raise 42 llamas on their Greenhorn ranch.

“You get hooked. They’re magical animals, they really are,” said Mary Adams.

The Adams are the owners of Wild Oak Llamas and are among a number of llama breeders who will show their animals at the 11th Annual Llama Show held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds on Friday, May 25 through Sunday, May 27.

The show attracts up to 300 exhibitors and a couple hundred llamas, said Mary Adams.

The most distinguished animals from the Adam’s herd travel across the country at least once a month to participate in shows. Last weekend the Adams’ Heavy Wool Argentine-cross animals took home 12 ribbons at a contest in Nevada.

The Adams sold a ranch in Vacaville and moved to Western Nevada County two years ago with 14 animals for the cooler temperatures that llamas prefer. They built a llama paradise with gentle hills of rolling grass and rock outcrops for the animals to run and play on, several ponds, a barn and fenced-in areas with custom-built shelters for the “sires,” or young males. The Adams hired managers to run their swimming pool business in the Bay Area in order to devote all their energy to the llamas.

It’s been a learning experience for Mary, a city girl who worked for the phone company for 30 years. Before llamas, the only animals the Adams had cared for were dogs.

Now she gives the llamas their vaccinations, brushes them and trims their nails and assisted in the birth of one newborn.

The couple says caring for the llamas is the hardest work they’ve ever done but wouldn’t dare take a vacation without the animals.

“You meet the best people through llamas,” Mary Adams said.

On a recent sunny day, Mary Adams steered a golf cart around the oak studded property like a seasoned ranch hand while Rick Adams buzzed around on a John Deere “Gator.”

Mary stopped at the barn to check on the females or “dams” and “crias” or baby llamas with chocolate, cinnamon, black, cream and spotted hues.

“You have no idea what’s going to come out of that oven,” Mary Adams said while stroking the long wooly neck of a 6-month old nearly as tall as she.

The animals have many uses beyond their good looks. The soft wool is shorn and sold to weavers and the animals can be loaded with packs for traveling in the backcountry. Their soft padded feet leave little mark on the environment, unlike a hoofed animal, Mary Adams said.

The animals’ bean-like droppings can be composted into a rich fertilizer for the garden and gardeners from as far away as Monterey Bay have traveled to the Adams ranch to pick up a load of composted llama manure. The animals can also be sold and quality sires can sell for $1,500 to $5,000 but it’s tough to part with the animals.

“They’re your babies. It’s hard to let them go,” Mary Adams said.

Mary and Rick Adams see many years ahead with the llamas and want to share the animals with school children or sick and elderly patients in the future.

“We’ve been very blessed. You don’t count your blessings, you share them.”


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion.com or call 477-4231.


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