Many livestock owners are using “guard llamas” to protect their sheep and goats. Llamas are herd animals and will adopt the sheep as their new herd. Being the largest, they also become dominant and protective.
Lisa Williamson is an associate professor of large animal medicine at the University of Georgia. She says llamas are imposing, very curious, and they don’t like strangers in or near their pasture. In particular, they detest predators like dogs and coyotes.
"Their approach to it is not to turn and run. Most of the time what they will do is they’ll alert, and then they’ll make a strange alarm cry which sounds pretty much unearthly," says Williamson. "And then they will just approach that predator, often times with their heads down either at a walk or they’ll trot towards them. I think it basically unnerves predators and they usually bolt."
Llamas are used to guard sheep, goats, and even alpacas. The protective attitude is a natural instinct, but it also depends on the personality of the llama. Williamson says the best guard llamas tend to be un-bred females or geldings. An intact male may pay too much attention to his charges and become amorous toward the sheep or goats.
Don’t worry about providing company for your llama; it’s better to have just one so it can concentrate on its job duties.
"That’s the way to go. If you put multiple llamas out with sheep or goats, they’ll just basically form their little group and not really pay much attention to the other animals they’re supposed to be guarding," says Williamson. "You’re much better off if you can just have that one individual in with a flock or with the herd."
Keep in mind that guard llamas are mostly a deterrent and scare predators away. They can pummel a single offender with their feet, but a llama doesn’t stand a chance against an entire pack of predators.
The International Llama Association has recommendations for selection and placement of guard llamas.
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