Guardian Llamas: Pros and Cons


| 9/24/2013 11:39:00 AM


Tags: livestock guardians, guard llamas, Jan Dohner, Michigan,

If you are unsure of which livestock guard animal to choose for your place, let’s take a look at the possibilities of a guard llama. Although either females or males can make a good guardian, gelded males are most commonly used because they are larger and less expensive than females and safer than intact males. In their natural environment, the dominant male llama guarded a small group of females and he was the primary defender against threats. Generally speaking, a male will be a better choice although a retired breeding female might also be a good prospective guardian. The llama’s size and maturity are very important factors in good working ability and predator control, so your guard llama should be at least 18 to 24 months old. Size is also the reason that alpacas, which are considerably smaller and lighter than llamas, are not used as livestock guards.

The llama guarding his flock. Photo by Paul Keleher.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of guard llamas? Would a llama be a better choice for your situation? Would you be more comfortable with a llama rather than a livestock guard dog?

Pros:

  • A llama is naturally social and if he is the only llama in the area, he will usually stay with his pasture mates. After a careful introduction to each other, llamas usually bond fairly quickly to their companions. There is no need for the extended training period you might have with a LGD.  Some sheep, goats or other stock are frightened or skittish around dogs, but will accept a llama in their field. Llamas are able to guard sheep, goats, cows with calves, deer, alpacas and poultry.
  • Llamas are naturally aggressive towards foxes, coyotes and dogs, as well as some other predators. This protection will extend itself to the llama’s companions. Some llamas assume a leadership role in their flock, patrolling their territory and seeking higher areas to observe their surroundings. Guard llamas usually respond to a predator by watching it intently and posturing, sounding a shrill alarm call, spitting, or herding their flock mates away from the threat. Most guard llamas will also move towards the predator and attempt to chase or strike out at it; however, very few guard llamas actively attempt to kill a predator.
  • If you are raising sheep or goats, a llama has similar maintenance, shelter and feeding requirements. He will primarily eat or graze the same food as the flock or herd.
  • Llamas do not actively challenge fencing. They do not roam, dig, bark or chew on wood as a dog might. They do stick their heads and necks through things, making non-electric, high-tensile wire fences somewhat dangerous to them, as well as fences, gates or panels with large openings. Barbwire fences can be very dangerous to llamas for the same reasons but also because they can catch their fleeces.
  • Llamas have a calm temperament and do not generally pose a threat to human beings. They may appear less threatening to your neighbors or farm visitors than a large dog. Llamas do need to be handled and socialized with people or adult llamas can become dangerous. Llamas need to accept regular handling, shearing, toenail trimming, and veterinary care.
  • An experienced guard llama will provide immediate predator control when you buy him. Llamas also have a long working life since their lifespan is 20 to 25 years.
  • Llamas can produce fiber, which may be of interest to you or your customers.

Head of llama. Photo by LlamaMilk

LizMcGhee
3/13/2018 12:34:08 PM

Hi Niki I have just got a male llama a week ago as a guardian of sheep. today we collected our 3 sheep. Due to a storm that is on its way we had no choice but to put them all in their shelter together. at first this was fine i went back to check 30 mins later and the llama was definitly bothering the sheep. he was stood over the back of the ewe and i thought trying to mate. he was pawing at her back, ears back doing that getting spit noise with throat and it was almost like he lay on top of her as though he wanted to suffocate her. i have now separated them, unfort the llama is outside the shelter now but we have no option as i did not want the sheep hurt within a few hours of their arrival ! We are new to all of this and despite reading many positive comments i did not expect this to happen..... your thoughts please thank you liz


LizMcGhee
3/13/2018 12:34:06 PM

Niki i have a llama..... just got him and today we got sheep. there is a major storm brewing so we had no chance but to put them straight inside all together. the llama was fine at first, but when i checked 30 mins later i thought he was trying to mae the sheep. he was pawing at her back, ears back and that noise when trying to get spit from back of throat. He then put his whole ody weight on the back of sheep. i distracted him to get him off and now they are separate..... any thoughts ? thank you Liz


Niki
1/29/2018 11:14:59 AM

Hi, just know that parts of this article are incorrect. As a person who has sold/placed well over 200 llamas as guards, I do know a fair bit. I also get the rejects in rescue. Males/geldings are not the best guards, females are. Many (not all) geldings and males breed and kill sheep and goats. They are nocturnal breeders and most people are in bed when it happens. Yes, some do not do this, but you don't know till you leave them in with them and see if you found a dead sheep or goat. Good fencing should always be your first line of defense. A llama is not a superhero and cannot keep out cougars, packs of dogs etc.. Llamas that guard usually do so by stomping and chasing predators. You also should use adult llamas which are more like 3-4 years old. Young llamas will play with and case smaller livestock, sometimes hurting them on accident. Llamas usually live to 18-22. Much above that is rare. Many rescue groups will place females as guards, but if you get them from a reputable breeder, you have a guarantee and someone that will work with you to trade out ones that do not work out.





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