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A Llama In The Tijuana River Valley?

Lama in Tijuana River ValleyDrive along a curvy two-lane road with no sidewalks in the Tijuana River Valley and you will come upon a lama. That’s right: a llama.

The Owners of Southwest Feed Rescue Animals

The llama lives behind a secure fence and lives with two donkeys. He also lives with about 20 old pot belly pigs, some dogs and several other animals. He, like the other pets on the property, were once throwaways–animals nobody wanted.

The owner of Southwest Feed, Bill, and his wife took them in. The animals live at their property behind the business. They are part of the couple’s personal life, not attached to Southwest Feed. It’s what Bill and Sarah like to do: rescue animals. So you can’t visit the entire clan of castaways, but you’re welcome to drive along Monument Road and see the llama from outside.

The Story Of The Llama

Bill explains that in 2002 or 2003, the llama was destined to go across the border to a zoo in Mexico. However, those owners couldn’t get a health certificate to ship the llama across the border. The owners boarded the llama at a ranch across the street from Southwest Feed, waiting to receive the proper paperwork. Month after month, the paperwork never came and the owners decided to drop the shipment of the llama. The rancher across the street didn’t want to take care of the animal permanently, so Bill took him in. At the time, he was a fairly young llama. He’s probably around 15-years-old now. He suffers from a bad joint and an inoperable tumor in his shoulder, but he is not in any pain, so they continue to care for him.


Lama in Tijuana River Valley


Donkey in Tijuana River Valley


History Of Tijuana River Valley Ranches

The owner of Southwest Feed is also a historical figure in an area, the Tijuana River Valley, whose story has yet to be told. Born in Minnesota, Bill came to California in 1966 when dairies throughout Southern California were plentiful. At the age of 18 we worked on dairy farms in Artesia and Los Angeles. He moved to Oxnard and ran a dairy there for about six years. Then he came down to the Tijuana River Valley for better job opportunities.

In 1976 he became a herdsman for the cattle at Dairy Mart Farms. He was in charge of about 16-18 employees and ran the dairy for Phyllis Schnell who was the owner after her husband died. Phyllis, however, sold all the cattle and got completely out of farming. Bill had saved enough money to buy 240 cows, plus the shipping rights.

Bill then leased the property owned by the Hofers along the U.S.-Mexican boundary line and tended to his herd of cows there.

The Hofers originally owned land around Saturn Avenue along with well-known dairy farmers such as the Eggers. The Hofers closed their property, however, and bought land closer to the border. That was around 1970.

Bill worked on this property from 1970 to 1981. But by the 1980’s, Carnation and all the other shippers were pulling out and going to Los Angeles. Eggers got bought off by the government. The Hofers didn’t, but Bill sold his cattle too because they closed the local plants and it was going to cost too much to ship his milk to LA. Bill would either have had to move up to the San Joaquin Valley or to a better shipping area. Instead, he sold off all the cattle to a dairy to Rosewell, New Mexico. He recalled that the last day he milked the cows, they had 28 trucks and trailers ready to haul the cattle away. After that, Bill went into the feed business.


Southwest Feed And The Border

The owner stayed right along the border selling his feed for many years. He still leased the Hofer property of about twenty acres. Then the federal government began negotiating with him because they wanted it for the wastewater treatment plant.

He was given six months to get off the property. He found this abandoned horse ranch along Monument Road and signed a long term lease agreement in 1999.

Southwest Feed has been there ever since, manufacturing alfalfa, molasses and three different horse feeds. He sells to ranches all over San Diego County, including to twenty different feed stores.

If you check out the reviews of Bill’s establishment on Yelp, you’ll see that the owner is considered extremely charming. I would wholeheartedly agree!

Thank you, Bill!

And locals — go past by the lama on your way to Border Field State Park and the Tijuana Estuary Visitor’s Center!


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