Using Llamas As Guard Animals for Sheep or Goats
Llamas are members of the camel family, they are related to the smaller alpaca, and come originally from Peru. They were introduced to North America and Europe as pack animals, for show, for fiber, and for meat. The meat industry never really took off as according to plan but llamas are still being bred for fiber, show, and as pack animals.
The best llamas sell for thousands of dollars, but average quality llamas sell for less than $100, and have even sold at auction (in Alberta at least) for as little as $1. These lower priced llamas often make great guard animals for sheep and/or goats.
How Effective are Llamas at Guarding Livestock
Most llamas are very observant and naturally curious. With a long neck, and big ears, they are quick to notice predators in the vicinity. Unlike many other animals which tend to flee when they see a predator, the curious nature of the llama will often cause it to walk towards the predator.
Coyotes in particular are not use to being approached and generally distrust “tall” things, as such the sight of an approaching llama may case them to flee. In this regard a llama can be very effective as a guard animal, however when groups of coyotes, feral dogs, or wolves, approach, the llama is usually less effective. Their curious nature is simply out numbered by the “pack”.
A llama who is cornered may try to spit (not very effective against a predator) or kick (somewhat effective but not always).
If a pack of dogs (coyotes, feral dogs, wolves) approaches a flock to steal a lamb, kid, or even an adult sheep or goat, they might manage to do so while some members of the pack are busy with the llama, or they may simply try to kill the llama instead, and have been known to do so.
Some people might think they should get a pair of llamas, or more, however they are only effective as guard animals when kept singly. If a person keeps two, or more llamas, or even a llama and an alpaca, those animals will tend to form their own herd and will not bond with the sheep or goats they are suppose to be guarding. If only one llama is kept its need for companionship is met by staying with the sheep or goats.
Basic Care of a Llama
In a hot climate the llama should be sheared or can be prone to heat stroke. Some grow much thicker coats than others, the thicker coated ones mostly being used for fiber, tend to cost more. Some of the ones with shorter coats will be fine unsheared if the temperatures are cool and they have lots of shade and water.
Llamas are thrifty eaters they can live on a good pasture, but may need hay and grain in the winter.
Llamas can be halter trained.
An intact male llama will not make a good guard animal and may even be too aggressive with your sheep and/or goats. A gelded male, or a female will be a better choice, with many preferring to use a gelded male.
Llamas will spit if threatened.
Some llamas are more aggressive than others, if you walk by a pen of them and have a dog, look for the ones that are most displeased with the dog.
A llama that was raised with dogs may not be as effective at guarding against them as one that was not raised with dogs, but still their curious nature will usually put the run on a single coyote.