Jackson County “Love of Llamas” Youth Program
A livestock educational program offered through Jackson County, GA 4-H.
Hosted by Chelian Farm, Paul and Kim Kyst of Jefferson, GA
First a little llama history about us and our farm, we purchased our first llama, “Rocky”, as a guardian animal for a flock of exotic waterfowl in 1999. We had no education or experience with llamas at the time of our first purchase. After purchasing “Rocky” our education was forced to increase rapidly. We became members of SSLA almost immediately and started attending several educational clinics and shows. Over the years our interest has grown and so has our herd. Our children grew up enjoying their animals and sharing them with their schools. Our big disappointment over the years has been the lack of youth involvement with llamas. We have attended SSLA hosted ALSA shows and have seen very few youth involvement over the years. Our children soon lost interest in their animals and the animals became yard art.
Several years went by and we moved from Buford, GA to Jefferson, GA. At that time I decided we either get out of llama farming all together or we create something to do with our animals. I approached Penni Tench at the Jackson County 4-H Extension Office with a thought concerning a 4 H llama program. With her support we moved forward with the program. A major benefit of hosting a club such as ours is seeing the joy on the kid’s and animal’s faces as they bond and work together. 4-H provides medical and liability insurance that protects me and my farm in case of an emergency. We have farm rules and guidelines members and their families must follow to remain part of the program. There is no funding provided by 4-H to cover the cost associated with 4 H programs, so our club does fundraising to help offset club expenses. Otherwise, members are responsible for their own expenses. As farm owners we provide our time, the animals and transportation to and from shows.
We did not get into 4-H to sale animals. However, as a side benefit, we have sold a few to members. Our hopes are to educate the children and their families on the wonderful world of llamas. We encourage them to enjoy the animals and prepare them to become component llama owners.
Our program began in March of 2007. The purpose of starting the program was to educate children on care and responsibility of owning exotic livestock. Our farm housed 17 llamas at the time the program began. We felt kids should be allowed to enjoy and learn with hands on experiences about our wonderful animals. Our animals experienced little hands on training prior to us starting the program. Since the program has started our animals are easier to manage and handle. Member’s help with the daily care, pasture clean up, and hands on training of our animals. We help show them responsibilities of owning animals or pets. They experience shows, parades, community service, lead school activities, and much more. We tour local farms and learn from the other farmers. The 4 H members also attend SSLA Annual Conferences. Our club meets year round.
Manuals we have found beneficial over the years are: Perdue and Ohio State Llama Youth manuals, Rocky Mountain Youth manual (very beginner), and Hamilton County, Indiana’s Activity Manuals.
When it comes to teaching about llamas, know your strengths and weakness. Locate people to help educate the kids in areas you don’t feel comfortable with. Our club does farm tours at other local llama farms. Prior to the tour, I discuss with the farm owner areas I feel they could help advance skills or knowledge of my members. Get the members involved with local organizations and clubs that further their involvement and education with livestock. Use resources close to home.
How to start a 4-H Club such as ours:
First contact your local 4-H Extension Office and have your local 4-H leader contact Penni Tench with the Jackson County, GA 4-H Extension Office at 706-367-6344. It’s almost that easy. There is an application for a background check, farm safety inspection, and a chaperone training course you must attend to qualify as a leader. Dedicate at least one day a week and a few hours on that day to your club. Additional time and day’s maybe required when preparing for events and activities such as shows, parades and such.
Set up farm rules that work for your farm. Post rules inside barn and work area where 4-H members can easily refer to them.
Set up responsibilities and guidelines for your club. Have each member and their family understands your expectations and goals for the club. Make contracts if needed for responsibilities you expect and require members of your club, dues, fees, and the amount of time involved.
Prepare for each Club Day: daily chores, curriculum, supplies, and training. Locate other youth clubs throughout the US and get involved whether in person or by mail.
Set club goals, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Make a calendar of activities so that parents and members can schedule their time.
It’s very rewarding seeing these children week after week and the smiles on their faces. It is also a great way to get your farm name out in the public. I am always writing and submitting newspaper articles and magazine articles about our club’s activities. These articles have been printed many times. The kids love seeing their names and faces in print and I enjoy being the “Llama LLady”.
Our club will be hosting a youth show and clinic in April 2009. The “Llucky Llamapolossa” will be held on April 2-5, 2009 at the UGA Livestock Instructional Arena in Athens, GA. Our goals is to offer beginning level hands on training and handling of llamas, along with packing, public relations, field obstacles, and showmanship clinics. We will also host a youth show. During the event we will allow 4-H leaders, and farm owners who are interested in starting a youth program, to attend clinics about starting a youth llama program. HELP NEEDED: SSLA farm owners and members and the community can help support the program by providing meals, helping organizing the event, providing performance animals for the children to work with at the event, judges, instructors, and so much more. Anyone, whether you are a leader, farm owner, or youth interested in attending or helping with the event, please contact Kim Kyst at Chelian Farm 706-387-7506 or email@example.com.