Several years ago, llamas drove Adryce Mathisen right out of town.
But, shockingly, the longtime Fort Worth Stock Show competitor is not at all bitter about it.
“A friend of mine talked me into going to the big llama sale they used to have here in conjunction with the show. And, once I saw them, I had to have one,” says Adryce Mathisen about the 1996 beginnings of her life with llamas. “I liked the way they looked, and I liked their personalities.
“They are such unique animals. They are a lot of fun.”
Mathisen lived in Fort Worth at the time and had no place to raise llamas.
“So we bought property in Burleson. The llamas were the reason we moved,” says Mathisen, a retired Alcon employee.
Mathisen, who is now based in Grandview, has been showing llamas at the Stock Show since 2001. Her love of the animals is obvious, but it is not completely blind.
“They’ll make a fool out of you every time,” laughs Mathisen about her llamas’ approach to the show ring. “They are all individuals.”
In their native South America, llamas are used as pack animals and a great deal more.
“Down there, llamas are a total use animal,” said Jim Doyle, a llama breeder who has served as a llama show superintendent at the Stock Show for the past 10 years. “They use the hide, the meat, the milk, the dung and the fiber.”
And speaking of the dung, llamas are not like other farm animals when it comes to waste.
“They have one poop spot in a pen or pasture where they always go. It is normally pretty odorless, and it is very good fertilizer that is low in nitrogen,” said Doyle, adding that he has a neighbor who bags up and sells his llama manure for $7 per 50-pound bag.
Because llamas are so predictable about their bathroom habits, Doyle calls them “naturally potty trained,” which makes them perfect for yet another purpose.
“They’re very docile. They are used for therapy animals and are taken to nursing homes because you can safely take them inside.”
But Doyle’s love for the animals, like that of Mathisen, goes far beyond their utility or their unique approach to fertilizer production.
“They relate to you,” said Doyle, a retired pharmacist from Krum. “Once you have been around these animals, there is a bond there you cannot explain. There is just something about them.”
Mathisen agrees and pampers her llamas — just a little.
“Llamas are pretty healthy in general. But, in Texas, they do have some trouble with the heat because they are not native to this area,” Mathisen said. “We do our best to keep them cool. So mine have wading pools, and we also use big fans and evaporative coolers.”