BLUE EARTH - Bill Fisher knows his llamas. He and wife Shirley operate Twin View Llamas near Heron Lake.
Bill has been developing mini llamas, which are 38 inches or shorter, and brought two to the Faribault County Fair this week.
"I always wanted straight-backed llamas with the nice, long neck. That's what I've worked on for 24 years," he said, paging through a scrapbook of llamas he has raised. "You can breed to that. You cannot breed for color."
Bill and Shirley Fisher of Heron Lake show two llamas to children at the Faribault County Fair. The fair’s llama show begins at 10 a.m. today.
He will bestow more pearls of wisdom while running the Faribault County Fair Llama Show, which begins at 10 a.m. today at the Horse Barn.
The two classes are full-sized and miniature llamas, with different divisions for each, separated by wool variations; and featuring showmanship, halter classes and even costumes.
"Bill's always been great to help 4-H'ers with their llamas," Shirley said.
The duo say are many reasons to have llamas.
"Best family-oriented animal you can get," Bill said.
And the long hair can be cut and used to make yarn.
"Regular llama fiber has guard hair (which is more coarse); it can be made into rug yarn," Bill said. "We have the handicapped in Windom make rugs for us."
The work helps support the people at the center while the Fishers sell the rugs.
Bill has bred his llamas to be "silkies," which do not have guard hair, so their coat is much softer.
There is one other unique llama product that Bill helped pioneer: llama tea.
"I'm the first one to get llama fertilizer tested by the University of Minnesota," he said. "You can make llama tea - not to drink."
But it is tasty refreshment for plants.
The recipe sounds a bit like sun tea: take a cup of llama pellets, put them in a gallon jug of rain water and let it set for 24-30 hours.
"Pour it off and you have llama tea," Fisher said.
He recommends pouring a half cup around plants, about an inch away from the base, once a week.
"It will not burn the flowers," he promised. "A half cup of regular fertilizer would burn the flower up."
The all-natural fertilizer can be used by people who don't want chemicals on their plants.
Bill and Shirley have had fun taking their llamas to see people for parades, weddings and surrey rides.
"Lot of fun times and memories," Shirley said.
Sadly, the end is in sight.
"We're selling off the herd," said Bill, noting he has some health problems. "Time to hang it up."
"Right now, we've only got 14 [adults] and five crias; that's the babies," Shirley said.
By this time next year, they hope to have all their llamas in good homes, but Shirley plans to be back at the Faribault County Fair next year to see the show.