or the past 20 years, a herd of llamas grazing in field on the edge of Harriston has been an eye-catching sight for travelers. Harold and Wilma Fisher, who at one time had as many as 90 animals on one of the largest llama breeding operations in Ontario, recently decided to retire from the industry. About half their existing stock of 30 animals was shipped to a buyer from Israel, June 1, while the rest will go to a Hanover area farm.
While the animals headed for Israel will be used primarily as pack animals at a resort deep in a south Israel desert, Harold Fisher says the llamas he’s sold across Ontario over the years have been used for a variety of purposes.
“For the females, we had a demand for them as breeding stock — the odd pet. The males, we’d sell two to five breeder males a year. Most of the rest would go as guard animals for sheep, or goats, or whatever the case may be. They are excellent guard animals to protect sheep from dogs or coyotes. The odd one that was left over, we’d make into meat,” he explained.
Why go into raising llamas in the first place? Fisher says it was about keeping their farming endeavours fresh and exciting.
“Well, we used to have purebred Charolais cattle. Then it got to the point that everybody had Charolais and there was no longer any excitement about it. So we looked to a different type of animal, we enjoyed animals, and we decided that perhaps llamas would be the thing to go into.”
The Fishers believe the shipment of llamas to Israel may have been the first such transaction in Canadian agricultural history.
After much soul-searching, the Fishers decided to accept an offer to sell the llamas to Ilan Dvir, who had sought them out while on an earlier trip to Canada for a horse riding competition.
Harold Fisher says llamas, which are native to South America, aren’t easy to
find in the Middle East.
“They (the Dvir family) have a few llamas, they have some alpacas, but there are very few lamas available in Israel. And they have a resort where people come to visit and use these animals as pack animals – and they wanted to expand their herd and it so happened that I was the lucky person that they met and we’ve gone ahead with it.
Dvir who already has about 30 llamas and alpacas in his operation says the Canadian stock will be used to upgrade his breeding stock and provide pack animals for his resort operation. The alpacas, he notes, are easily trainable and can be ridden by children.
“We work with the llamas and we raise the alpacas for wool. We have a bed and breakfast and we have people that come to visit us and they use the llamas to go with them into the desert with all their equipment,” explained Dvir, who came to Canada with his son Guy to conclude arrangements for the shipment.
Minto Mayor David Anderson was present when the llamas were shipped from the Fisher’s farm. He says he enjoyed meeting the Dvirs and feels such transactions help bring different cultures a little closer.
“It’s great to talk to the people from Israel and see what their part of the world is and a great opportunity for them to see what our part of the world is. It’s that interconnecting between the worlds. So the llamas are bringing our worlds together, so that’s pretty interesting,” he commented.
Last months shipment was the culmination of a year’s worth of effort to ensure all regulatory requirements were in place. Dr. Edward Creighton of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said CFIA had to determine what potential diseases might concern the Israeli government and then test to ensure they were not present in the Fishers’ animals before the shipment could go ahead. A quarantine period was also required.
“Our headquarters has negotiated a health certificate with the Israelis, so we had to fulfill the requirements on the health certificate which involved doing tuberculosis testing and doing blood samples to test for various diseases.”
“After a year of planning and trying to get the government red tape accomplished, we’re finally sending animals to Israel and we’re very happy to do so,” said Fisher. “It’s quite an accomplishment.