Selecting a Guard Llama

| 4/24/2014 8:44:00 AM

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

guard llama

I’ve written two previous posts on the use of guard llamas. If you considering a llama as a guardian, it may be helpful to review how guard llamas work and the pros and cons of using them as guardians.

Researchers have determined the three most important llama traits that correlate with successful livestock guarding are alertness, leadership and weight. Weight is directly linked to age and maturity. Keeping these traits in mind, what should you be looking for in a good potential guard llama?

What to Look For

First, you want an adult llama not younger than 18 to 24 months in age. Most importantly, buying an adult allows you to evaluate his behavior more accurately than a younger llama. Older llamas have also learned to accept the regular handling that goes along with catching and haltering, toenail trimming, vetting, and possibly shearing. Ask the breeder to let you catch the llama, since some llamas are very difficult to catch and halter. If possible, ask the breeder if you can bring a strange dog into the llama’s line of sight or near his pasture to evaluate his response to canines.

It is important not to buy a very young llama, or one that was bottle-fed, or brought up alone. In addition, llamas should not be weaned until 6 months of age. It is very important that a llama spends the first year and a half to two years in the company of other llamas and with normal mothering. This allows the llama to develop appropriate llama behaviors and develop mature territorial instincts. Lacking experience with other llamas and receiving too much human attention can cause the llama to bond with humans rather than other llamas. Over indulging a young llama and failing to set behavioral limits often results in a grown llama that views humans as competitors, resulting in a large animal that exhibits inappropriate and possibly dangerous behavior towards peoples.

Female or Male?

Either females or gelded males can work as guardians. Gelded males are used more frequently because they are larger and less expensive. Male llamas weigh 300 pounds or more and stand 40 to 44 inches tall at the withers. Some owners report than a female llama can be more nurturing, especially if she has been used for breeding.  A retired breeding female cannot only be very attentive, but is often available for a reasonable price. Llamas have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. Single llamas guard better than multiple llamas, since they will bond with their stock rather than each other.

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