Several days ago I was running out of Llama Chews and headed to Bernardo Farm & Ranch to pick up some more. Mazuri Feeds makes several llama/alpaca feeds. The Llama Chews are larger pellets that break down into mush very quickly. The High Fiber Pellets are much smaller and harder. I have always bought the Chews because they are less likely to cause a choke.
Choke is a scary and potentially life threatening problem. In livestock it's a blockage of the esophagus between the mouth and stomach. It's not a breathing issue like you would think of in people. The last horse that was well and truly mine died of some complicated health interactions, one of which was choke, so I'm pretty sensitive to the problem.
At the feed store, they had four sacks of Mizuri feed. One was labeled High Fiber Pellets and the others weren't labeled at all. We cut all the bags open and discovered all were the High Fiber Pellets. Well, crap. I took one of those bags to tide me over until they received the Llama Chews, which should be later this week. I thought a few days wouldn't be an issue.
It's an ugly day today. Temps are only in the 40's with a stiff north breeze and it's raining. Yuck. So I pulled all the animals into the barn for breakfast. The goats followed nicely into their two stalls. Then the llamas came into their stall. I went off to feed the pony and when I came back Tucker was throwing up. This is a huge red flag because llamas don't throw up. But here was all this brown slimy stuff pouring out of his mouth. He looked panicked. That sure looked like a choke to me.
I called my wonderful vet, Dr. Michael Ridlin. He was in surgery when I called but he called me back when he finished. I told him I thought it was choke and he agreed. It can be life threatening but he was tied up for at least another hour. At that point he could come out but he would call first. In the meantime, he reminded me that choke in a ruminant, a cow, goat, sheep, llama or alpaca, was more likely to resolve on it's own than in a horse. Ruminants produce a huge amount of saliva which continues to trickle down and soften the blockage. That won't help much if it's a solid chunk of something hard but with pellets there is every possibility they will soften over time.
Sure enough. When Dr. Ridlen called back an hour later, Tucker was fine. He was standing calmly in the stall. No look of panic. No yuck coming out of his mouth. He was swallowing and pooping and chewing his cud. I didn't see him eating but he was giving me that typically llama haughty look. "Seriously, mother. It really is time you let us out of this stall."
So this afternoon I called around and found that the Steinhauser's Feed Store in Sealy, TX had llama chews in stock. Off I went. Now the boys have the correct feed and hopefully we won't have any more foolishness about choke.