Guard llama

Guard llama

A guard llama is a llama used in farming to protect sheep, alpacas, goats or other livestock from coyotes, dogs and other predators. [International Llama Association. (1995). "Guard Llamas." ILA Educational Brochure #2.] Typically a single gelding (castrated male) is used.


Guard llamas may defend against predators in many ways. Llamas are instinctively alert and aware of their surroundings, and may draw attention to an intruder by making a startling alarm call. They may walk or run toward an intruder, and chase, paw at, or kick it. Some llamas may herd the animals they are guarding into a tight group or lead them away from danger. Others may stand apart from the group and watch the intruder. Although llamas have been known to kill predators (including coyotes, woodchucks, and muskrats), they should not be considered attack animals. They are generally effective against single intruders only, not packs.


Most research on the effectiveness of guard llamas has been done with sheep. A 1990 study by Iowa State University found that 80 percent of sheep producers with guard llamas rated them as effective or very effective. The study found that average rates of loss to predators fell from 21 to 7 percent after the introduction of a guard llama. [Franklin, W. L. and Powell, K. J. (1994). "Guard Llamas: A part of integrated sheep protection." Iowa State University Extension Brochure.] In other studies, over half of guard llamas completely eliminated losses due to predators. Dogs and coyotes have been injured and even killed by llamas. [Walker, Cameron. " [ Guard Llamas Keep Sheep Safe From Coyotes.] " "National Geographic", June 10 2003.]


Gelded males are the most common guard llamas. Females can also make effective guardians, but are usually more costly because of their reproductive value. Whole males are much more likely to injure the livestock they are protecting, by attempting to mate with them. Guard llamas should be at least 2 years old before they are expected to protect other livestock. This allows them to mature physically and mentally, as well as develop territorial instincts. A potential guard llama may be introduced to the species they are going to guard at a younger age, but this is not necessary for bonding or effective guarding.

Llamas placed as guardians often have independent personalities, and may not be friendly toward people. However, any guard llama should be trained to accept a halter and lead, and to tolerate basic care. A llama that is aggressive towards humans is not a good candidate for guarding livestock, because it may attempt to protect the flock from its human owners. A guard llama needs to be in generally good health. It must be able to see, hear, forage, and move properly. Llamas that are expected to protect large flocks or herds on rougher terrain may need to be in better physical condition than those used to guard smaller areas.


Llamas require little special care. They graze and eat hay along with the animals they protect. Depending on the type and quality of forage, a grain or mineral supplement may be necessary. Llamas are resistant to many diseases that affect other livestock. However, they are susceptible to certain parasites and should be wormed regularly, vaccinated annually, and observed for signs of infection or infestation. Llamas should be sheared each spring to keep them cool in summer, and need shelter from the wind in winter. The only other regular care required is toenail trimming 2–4 times per year.


Additional reading

*Andelt, W. J. (1995). "Livestock Guard Dogs, Llamas, Donkeys." "Management". No. 1218
*California Department of Food and Agriculture. "Choosing a Guard Animal." "Livestock Guardians". Brochure.

ee also

*Livestock guarding dog
*Donkey, another animal used as a livestock guardian

External links

* [ International Lama Registry]
* [ Llama Web]
* [ Michigan Llama Association]
* [ Queso Cabeza Farm]

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