Holli Kay is a big, chunky, female llama that came to us from MI a number of years ago.
Her former owners were downsizing and needed a "safe forever home" for their remaining llamas, so they drove them down to St. Louis and we took them in.
Holli has never had a cria on our farm. She has gorgeous ears, and often throws them back like "Jar jar Binks" of Star Wars fame. She isn't particularly pleasant, although she is cooperative for shearing, toenails, routine care. And man, can that girl eat.
Here's the deal. It is extremely unusual for a female llama to "graft" an adopted cria and let him/her nurse. They might let them snuggle for warmth -- or even follow them around -- but nursing is another thing entirely.
Now remember that Holli has never had a cria on our farm. A little over two years ago she was riding along to the University of Missouri with a very sick mama and her 5-week-old male cria. We needed a donor for a possible blood transfusion, and healthy Holli Kay was the perfect candidate.
When we arrived at the university around midnight -- we opened the back of the trailer only to find Xena had passed away during the 125-mile ride. I was beside myself. Not only had we lost the mother -- but here we had a 5-week old cria who needed to nurse -- and no mama.
Drove back home (got home around 4 a.m.) and put Vision, the little boy, in with Holli in a small pen for several weeks. Tried to bottle feed -- it was a definite no from Vision. Tried tube feeding (under vet supervision) and that lasted 10 days.
What to do, what to do?
Nature took over. Holli started letting Vision nurse and yup -- she began producing milk. Wow. Just wow. She saved his life.
Due to his overhandling as a youngn' we gelded him when he was old enough and he is one of our most fabulous public relations llamas. Goes into the community, to parades -- endless hours of people-to-people fun.
I bought an auction mama llama and her female cria in September. Mama had never been shorn, nor cared for properly (from observation and my opinion). Mama died in December. Put Clementine (the girl cria) with Holli Kay for a week -- same pen.
Yup. Holli Kay adopted her and lets her nurse. The photos are of Holli and Clem heading out to the pasture (crias typically follow their mamas) and them in the barn with Hanse(white alpaca -- who appears to be winking at the camera).
Hats off to Holli Kay. She's a keeper.