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
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
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
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
- 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.
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