Those who drive past Mark and Susan Smith’s farm in Montgomery County encounter a scene that looks a little more like South America than Indiana because there are llamas in the pasture – lots of llamas.
The Smith operation is largely centered on corn and soybeans, but the llama portion of the farm (which is among those featured in videos that will be shown at the Farm Bureau Building during the entire run of the Indiana State Fair) has grown by leaps and bounds. They started breeding llamas as part of their business shortly after 1994, and those llamas now leap and bound in the family’s pasture next to their home.
In the past, the Smiths raised purebred Southdown sheep and had a finish hog operation, but the focus shifted after they bought two llamas to guard their sheep flock.
Llamas are indigenous to South America, but they are popular show animals in the United States. Mark said the bulk of their llama business comes from sales of show-quality llamas. They sell the animals to folks from across the country.
“The 4-H market has really expanded our base for sales,” said Susan. “Kids are looking for a pet-quality type of animal, and it’s been a great component to our marketing.”
Llamas are terrific guard animals, and that presents the Smiths with another avenue for sales. They sell llamas to sheep, goat, alpaca and even beef cattle producers to protect their young stock from coyotes. The llamas’ silky fiber also is occasionally made into yarn and sold.
The Smiths say llamas are low maintenance compared to the other types of livestock they have raised. Llamas are generally healthy animals as well. Mark said raising llamas is not so much a job but a lifestyle.
“When the llamas are having babies, I always tell Susan I’m going out to the barn to play,” said Mark. “It’s like going out to the barn to play with a bunch of puppies.”
When the Indiana Farm Bureau marketing team reached out to the Smiths about featuring their farm in one of this year’s INFB state fair videos, Mark said he was happy to do it.
“I was excited to share a little bit about what we love to do and part of our lives,” Mark said. “It’s just something a little bit out of the ordinary. You don’t normally find a herd as large as ours as part of a total farming operation.”