In our opinion the potential of these intelligent and versatile animals is underestimated. They have a range of uses many of which are relevant to areas such as here in western Norway.
They are not true ruminants and are more closely related to camels than other breeds of domestic livestock. They can thrive on poor quality grazing and will eat most vegetation, including saplings, nettles, bushes, etc. They are therefore suitable for grazing marginal areas and holding the landscape open.
They have a good respect for fences and require minimal investment in housing (a simple three sided shelter with roof is adequate). They can be trained as livestock guardians and are used extensively in some countries to protect sheep, goats, etc from predators.
They make excellent pack animals and can carry up to around 45 kilos. The foot consists of a soft pad and toe nails and therefore causes very little damage to trails, in USA llamas are permitted in many national parks where the use of other pack animals is not allowed.
They produce a fine fiber. Once the coarser guard hair is removed the fleece is of high quality and contains no lanolin, so is suitable for people who are allergic to other natural fibers. Some strains of llama are now being bred to produce a higher quality fleece with little or no guard hair.
Llama meat is of good quality and lean with around 3% fat content. The taste is something between venison and beef. Meat production could be a possible future farming opportunity.
They are cheap to keep, we estimate winter feed costs for an adult llama to be about kr800 (about two round bales of sileage), usually have few health problems, are easy to train and are a pleasure to own and work with.