Llamas as Guardians

A llama and his flock, caught away from the barns during a snowstorm, have to be rescued.  That llama never again lets his sheep get caught out in a storm, but has them safely in the shed before any storm hits.

A farmer running 600 sheep on 2000 acres reports his losses reduced from 60 lambs per year to zero when he begins using a yearling llama.

A Canadian farmer loses 100 lambs per year to coyotes and grizzlies before he purchases llamas.  He now loses about 20 lambs per year.

A British farmer reports an end to the frequent dog attacks on his 250 sheep in Warwickshire, after acquiring his llama.

How Does a Llama Do This?

Llamas are territorial by nature, so the pasture becomes his territory and the flock his family group.  He needs no training, and usually begins his protective behaviours within days of his introduction to his charges.  He may herd them to safety, sound an alarm at the sight of predators, stand guard between his family and danger, or run at and attack a predator with his feet, teeth or chest, and although no guardian animal can defend against attacks by predator packs, nor survive a direct attack by a cougar or grizzly, it does appear that the mere presence of a llama may prevent such attacks.

Just as some police officers or fire fighters may be lost in the line of duty, so may some llamas be lost, and it is our responsibility to help prevent these losses by providing adequate fencing and shelter and otherwise discouraging the presence of predators.  Llamas can be seen as one part of an “integrated protection programme” that may even include guardian dogs.  Just as not all persons make suitable police officers, not all llamas are suitable candidates for guardian responsibilities, and not all situations are suitable for the llama.  The llama must be selected for his cooperative personality, his territorial and protective tendencies, and his correct behaviours toward his charges.  He should not simply be someone’s “cull” animal.

Selection Considerations

  • Llamas are usually more effective guardians after they reach one or two years of age.
  • Multiple llamas in the same field are usually not as effective as a single animal.
  •  About 25% of intact males and 5% of geldings will attempt to breed ewes and may injure or kill them in so doing.  This can and should be selected against.
  • Most llamas will learn to tolerate a guard dog, but may not tolerate a working dog he sees “chasing” his sheep. For the same reason, he may not tolerate the ram during the breeding season.
  • In hunting areas, a dark-coloured llama may be mistaken for a deer or elk.

Choosing Your Guardian

To obtain more information or to find that perfect llama for your farm, contact any of our listed breeders and arrange a visit to their wonderful animals.