Range you can believe in: Llama is presidential namesake at Kenai RV park

Posted: Friday, August 06, 2010

While he might be little more than what his owner calls a "glorified lawn ornament," one young llama at the Diamond M Ranch has quite a story -- and name -- behind him.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
"Obama the Llama" makes his home at the Diamond M Ranch.

"When he was born his mama died during birth so we were left to raise an orphan llama. Because he was black and white they decided to name him Obama the Llama," said Sherry Diggs, campground host at the Kenai resort and RV park.

Although the Diamond M Ranch is a far cry from the White House, its owners thought naming the camelid after the interracial President of the United States, Barack Obama, was fitting.

And not only does Obama the Llama have no mama, Diggs said, but he also nurses on and pals around with a goat.

"They are together constantly," she said. "She treats him like one of her little children."

She said that the staff at the RV park has been trying to introduce the 3-month-old camelid to the herd but the goat gets in the way and "if they're starting to pick on him she'll start butting them with her head."

So how did Obama the Llama start nursing on a goat anyway?

Blair Martin, owner/operator of Diamond M Ranch, said that the baby llama immediately imprinted himself on Martin.

"His mom died on his birthday," he said. "Somebody had to take care of him."

Martin said that he likes to call himself Obama's mother.

"I highly resent people saying I'm his father," he said. "His mother died at birth and his father is doing well."

Initially, Martin was hand feeding Obama the Llama bottles of milk, but "at six gallons of milk per week, buying milk per the gallon wasn't going to be financially a good idea," he explained.

So Martin told friends he was looking for a goat to be a surrogate milk producer. One day he found one tethered to a fence at the RV park that someone had dropped off for the llama.

Martin milked the goat himself in order to feed the llama until he had an even brighter idea.

"At some point I realized I was milking a goat into a bucket, cooling it, putting it in a bottle," said Martin, listing the several steps it took daily to keep the baby fed. "As the llama is watching me milk this goat the light bulb went off," he said. And that was when Martin starting having the llama nurse directly from the goat.

"I don't have to wash any bottles," he said.

But, Martin said he still has to hold the goat's udder to Obama's lips because the llama's mouth is not made for that big of a nipple.

At first the baby llama was much smaller than the goat, which the children staying at the RV park named "Annie the nanny" this summer, weighing in at 12 pounds, he said. Now the llama is much bigger at around 100 pounds.

Diamond M Ranch keeps the llamas at the RV park mainly for decoration, Martin said, but they are also used for wool, which they spin into yarn to knit warm accessories.

The name is not a political statement for or against the democratic president, he said. And it's also fun to say.

"It rhymes so well and when you say 'Obama the llama, and by the way he has no mama,' it works even better," he said.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at Brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com

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