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We had started saying, “We’re llama breeders,” when we acquired our first female. Now it was time to actually do some breeding. We waited until early May to breed so the baby would be born in warm weather the following year. We hadn’t seen any breeding or any births, so it was all rather abstract.

Our interest in breeding small llamas continued. A geneticist told me that we had chosen a relatively easy thing to breed for. Height was controlled by several genes; the exact number wasn’t known. Chances were good that small llamas would reproduce small. Posey wasn’t short, but her offspring by small males might be. Lil Bit had grown some since we bought her, but she was still very small. She was a little too young to breed; we’d give her a few more months.

The llamas seemed to be thinking about breeding too. Early in the spring, when we resumed regular llama hikes, we took Levi and Tumbleweed out. After a few mouthfuls of fresh green grass, they ran up to the fence around the females’ area.

Immediately the familiar “junior high dance” routine began. Posey and Lil Bit stood very straight and tall, clucking, their tails arched high. Levi and Tumbleweed were eagerly touching noses through the fence with the girls, heads moving up and down, all the way to the ground and back up again. The males’ posture was more upright than it had been in the fall. Junior high dances had given way to high school.

Whiskers was running around in the males’ field, along the fence nearest the females. He was grimacing. “Whiskers looks mad,” Kelly said. “He didn’t get to go to the dance.”

We chose Mother’s Day for the first breeding. It was to be Posey and Whiskers. We had many discussions about what llama to breed to Posey. She was ready. Whiskers was three and a half, so he was fully grown. The other males, not quite two, might not be able to breed successfully yet. I was eager to see a Tumbleweed-Posey baby, as Tumbleweed had such good wool and a more placid disposition than Whiskers, but I agreed that a Whiskers-Posey baby could be wonderful too.

We put Posey in a newly-fenced pasture next to her old one. Then we brought Whiskers to her. With the fence between them, they both snorted and stood up tall. Whiskers’ tail wagged rapidly; it seemed to be a gesture of assertiveness. Kelly led him in, and I closed the gate. Posey came right up, then retreated.

Whiskers went straight to the females’ dung pile. He spent about ten minutes there, sniffing it thoroughly, then angling his neck up into the air. He was very interested in it.

“An experienced stud will go right to work, but sometimes the young ones get hung up performing flehmen at the dung pile,” we had been told by another breeder. Whiskers was supposedly learning from the scent of the pile that there was a female open for breeding. When he seemed to be sniffing the air, a gland at the back of his mouth was operating, decoding the message of the dung pile.

Posey watched him, then came over to sniff a camera which she hadn’t seen before. Our old camera was familiar, scarcely worth a sniff.

They approached each other–“finally!” I said–and Whiskers reared up as if fighting another male. Posey ran away from him. He discovered the lush green grass, much nicer than the grass in his field, and he grazed his way around the pasture.

“It’s cold,” I said, as the sun disappeared behind a cloud.

“We could go sit in the van. They wouldn’t be able to see us, and it would be warmer,” suggested Kelly. Whiskers frolicked across the field.

We settled into the warmer environment of the van. “Junior high dances is right,” I grumbled. “She’s on one side of the field and he’s on the other. I thought they’d just do what comes naturally. Are we going to have to teach them what to do?”

“Whiskers is kind of stand-offish with other llamas,” Kelly said. “Maybe it’ll just take him a while before he pays much attention to her.”

“Then I’ll go dig in the garden, and watch from there,” I said. “This could take all day.”

“Okay,” Kelly said. “I’ll leave you the cameras. Guess I’ll go inside. Call me when something happens.”

We walked up toward the garden, closer to the other llamas. Lil Bit, Levi, and Tumbleweed were watching Posey and Whiskers. I worked for an hour or so in the garden. Nothing much happened. Even the other llamas stopped paying attention. Lil Bit chased the peacocks.

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