display | more...

Llamas are aggressive toward both dogs and coyotes and are the most recent guard animal to be used for predator control. After spotting an intruder, most llamas give an alarm call, then walk or run toward the animal chasing it, kicking and pawing, and at times killing it. Nearly 70 percent of guard llamas are gelding males that cost from $300 to $800. Intact males cost around $100 less. Females are effective as guard animals, too, but they usually cost more. At these prices, guard llamas are expensive initially, however, their longevity of 12 to 18 years and their usefulness as a guard animal make the price reasonable over time. Additionally, llamas are easy to handle and usually can be trained in a matter of a few days. A study at the University of Iowa using llamas as a part of integrated sheep protection, revealed that 95 percent of all llamas are effective guard animals. Nearly all llamas in the Iowa study had no experience with sheep before being introduced into the flock they were to protect. The llamas averaged 2 years of age when introduced to sheep, but most were between 6 and 11 months. Llama breeders traditionally wean offspring at 6 to 8 months of age and castrate males at 6 to 24 months of age.

Training and care

Llamas can be introduced to small or large flocks. When first put in a pasture with sheep or goats, the llama will be either curious or neutral toward its new companions, while the sheep are either neutral or afraid. In the Iowa study the initial adjustment period usually lasted only a few hours for most llamas, and nearly 80 percent adjust within a week. Many producers report that guard llamas show intense interest and attachment to young lambs. Once a llama becomes familiar with an area and is attached to the sheep, the pasture becomes the llama’s territory and the flock becomes the llama’s family group. Even for the gelded llama, these innate behaviors remain. Guard llamas are not passive bystanders. They are active leaders and protectors of their flocks. During daily movements of a flock, llamas may take the front position to lead the sheep, walk and graze in their midst, or trail at their heels. Multiple guard llamas work in some cases, but overall, the Iowa study showed that predation was higher in flocks with more than one llama. This group experienced 7 percent loss to predators compared with 1 percent loss in flocks protected by one llama. The study also showed that introducing a llama to a flock in a corral resulted in less predation than those that were first placed in an open field with their new flock. It doesn’t seem to make any difference in the bonding whether the sheep have lambs or not. Llamas often play with lambs without harming them. Llamas do not require much attention. A 250-pound gelded llama typically consumes 7 to 10 pounds of good grass hay per day. Granular or block mineral supplement and access to fresh water should be made available. Grain is not necessary. Llamas typically don’t bloat, even with a sudden change of pasture or hay. Even though the Iowa study didn’t involve the use of llamas as guard animals with cattle, many Missouri cattle producers use them with productive results. The llamas seem to bond with the cattle just as easily as they do with sheep or goats.

Potential Benefits to using guard llamas
  • Most llamas require a few days or less to bond with livestock.
  • One gelded male llama often can protect 300 sheep on 300 acres.
  • Predator loss may be reduced to as low as 1 percent.
  • In spite of the initial cost, llamas may save livestock producers money in the long run.
  • Llamas are very protective of livestock and are easy to maintain.
Potential problems with using guard llamas From the Missouri Department of Conservation, with permission and in accordance with their posted copyright policy, which can be found at
Let's save the commentary on the spelling of the link... I just post 'em

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.