Personal Experiences
Of Llamas As Guard Animals

"Guard llamas offer a viable, nonlethal
alternative for reducing predation, while
requiring no training and little care."









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     Last summer when four of my grandaughter's five 4-H sheep were killed by coyotes, I borrowed a llama from another sheep breeder who didn't need him during this period of time. Magically, no more loss of sheep. Now it's time for this particular gelded llama to return to his original owner, so we purchased another gelding to put in with our sheep and also to be our grandaughter's 4-H llama next year. The two year old llama we purchased had been used in a 4-H program, has had training, and is very handable, so whether he would have the personality for a guard animal was yet to be seen. After introducing him to the sheep, of which he had absolutely no fears, we were amazed to observe his immediate management skills. When the sheep are laying out in the pasture and he feels it's time to go in, he goes around and nudges each sheep, one by one, and gets them up. He then herds them to the barn, takes them inside, and then lays in the doorway. At a later time when he feels it's time to go out again for awhile, he gets all the sheep up and takes them back out to the pasture. He repeats these behaviors 4-5 times a day! He certainly has bonded quickly with his herd of sheep - now to see whether his presence will continue to deter coyotes.

     We have raised sheep for many years and bought our 1st llama for a guard animal. Our 1st llama was a gelding about 4, very independent and almost a loner. Less than a year later we bought a younger male and paired to two up. They have worked great as a team. The younger one always takes the lambs to the barn and the independent guy charges the fence anytime a coyote comes down the fence line. We have found females to be just as protective over the years but we always leave them in at least pairs. From our experience pairs is the way to go. I have a friend who has Anatolian Shepherds that live with her sheep and llamas and I have witnessed the dog and llama working as a team to run stray dogs out of the fields.

"WORK ETHIC -------- Several years ago I sold a gelding to an out-of-state sheep breeder. Unlike all the other guard llamas I've sold, this one never appeared to bond with the sheep, choosing instead to keep his distance from the flock, even during lambing season. Even so, the breeder's annual losses to coyotes dropped from 20 percent to zero. This fall the breeder moved 80 ewes and the llama from a large summer pasture to a 14-acre field adjacent to the sheep barn. A few days later he called and told me the following story:

"Early yesterday morning I heard the sheep hollering, and when I went out to check I couldn't believe what I saw. For the first time in six years that llama was working the ewes. He had them all backed up against the gate to the barn lot, and he was running back and forth in front of them. He had his neck stretched way out and was carrying on louder that the ewes. When I opened the gate, he ran all the sheep up to the barn.
I saw a few splatters of blood on a couple of ewes, and my first thought was that the llama had attacked them, but they didn't seem to be hurt. Then I noticed all four of the llama's legs and his chest was splattered with blood---a whole lot more than I found on the sheep. Anyway, I ran him into a pen to see where he was hurt, but I couldn't find anything--no cuts or bites, nothing. As soon as I let him out of the pen he ran outside and got between the sheep and gate out to the field. I guess he knew whatever had stirred him up was still out there. I left him with the sheep and took my shot gun and started walking the field. About halfway down the far side just inside the fence I found what was left of two young coyotes."

I asked the breeder if the llama was now staying close to the sheep.

"Nope," he said. "The sheep are back at their end of the field and he's at the other end. But he sure convinced me he knows exactly why he's out there!"

Sharon Hubbard (in KS), Hunter Hill Llamas
December 1998

     "One llama I sold three years ago takes care of a blind horse that's in with 5 mares and another gelding. The owners of the horse were having problems with it getting hurt and bumping into the fencing and barn. Hagar the llama new what his job was from the start. He watches over the blind horse leads it to the others by letting the horse put his nose to his rear. He will do his alarm call if the horse is too near the ravine or any other danger. The horse seemed to know what the llama was there for. He's worked out well for these people.
They take the llama for walks with their dogs and he sounds the alarm if the dogs wander too far. He lets their cats sleep on him. He has chased several coyotes out of the corral. He even chased a young bear out of the corral. The owner thought she was going to have a dead llama."

     "A friend who is a trapper told me that the coyote packs are made up of juveniles that have been kicked out by mom when she has new pups. They have to learn to hunt on their own. Mom won't help them anymore so they pack up until they can hunt well enough to eat on their own. There is a small herd of llamas near me that are with a flock of sheep. My son saw the sheep being attacked by a pack of young coyotes and all the llamas were chasing coyotes. But the youngsters were so aggressive, they got a couple of the lambs despite the efforts of several llamas."

     "Living in Indianapolis, I can tell you that this side of town seems to have a severe problem with not only coyotes, but also coydogs (half coyote, half dog). We have a few hundred acres of open hay fields around the llama pastures, and on a daily basis we see coyotes crossing from one wooded area to another, almost directly behind our house. We've had this coyote problem for many years--before we got into llamas, the coyotes would come in to the main barn at night and take all the chickens and other poultry (whose remains we'd have to clean up the next morning). But, after getting our first llama some 6 years ago, they've never veered near the llamas....or even near the fence row for that matter." David Young

     "I live in Montana and we always have lots of coyotes which run in packs. The packs are very bold, and will even steal small livestock (small goats, sheep, etc.) right off a front porch at night. However, with that said, they are fairly timid about confronting a larger, aggressive animal such as a guard llama--why work so hard for a meal when there's sure to be an easier dinner elsewhere? Guard llamas have been pretty effective in this area in reducing livestock losses, and even my small herd of woolies has managed to make our local pack move on to other areas. Our neighbors with pygmy goats and chickens tell us that they haven't seen a coyote around our places for two years--and I never hear them calling nearby at night anymore...So, I hope that this helps to put your mind at ease. A much greater risk seems to be the dogs which owners allow to run loose--they have no particular fear of humans or large livestock and will harass and attack the llamas if given the opportunity."

     "It is hard to believe, but it is true! The neighbors called and they saw our llamas chase a big old black bear out of the pasture yesterday. Our big 465 lb gelding, Fiddle Diddle, loves to chase dogs, deer, coyotes,cats,etc....and anything that moves....and all 30 of the rest of the herd run and jump and kick and join in the fun. I say it is a real HOOT!!" Bob and Sylvia, Rockin' Fiddle Llama Ranch.

     "We own a small flock of Jacob sheep and we keep our llama out there with them We don't have natural preditors just irresponsible neighbors with nasty dogs. Anyway our llama keeps even our cats out of the field! I have never used donkeys but I've been told that they do tend to kill lambs. Good luck." Tiar Black

-------------- Vicious Guard Llamas New Trend --------------
     BURNHAM, Pa. - When Pennsylvania sheep farmer Guy McCardle was given a llama as payment for doing some work, he thought he might buy another one and breed them. But when he found out the animal had been gelded he was at a loss as to what to do with it. That was until the llama displayed its talent as a guard animal. It seems the llama had developed a unique affection for McCardle's sheep and would chase stray dogs and coyotes away from the flock. While McCardle discovered his llama's proficiency by accident, thousands of sheep producers around the country are buying llamas with the goal of using them to guard their flocks.

     "We had one or two dogs get in with our llamas the day before yesterday. We were extremely lucky ! (We live in Ohio) I'll try to make a long story short...

As soon as I got home from work I went to check on the llamas and I found two that had blood all over their necks, bodies, and front legs. I called a neighbor that doesn't miss much to see if he had seen anything. He said that he seen two big dogs out side of our fence. My husband and myself went house to house looking for the dogs, but had no luck. Then we went back to the barn to give Penicillin shots to those llamas and to check everyone out. We were shocked to find that as far as we could tell the llamas were not the ones bleeding. After parting their wool, it appeared that all of the blood was on the outside of the fiber. Someone has a pretty bloody dog or possible a dead dog by now ! These two females had solid blood from their feet up to their knees ! One of these females has a cria and the other does not and has never had a cria. They are not the ones that I would have expected to be the protectors.

I would also like to share that about a month ago I found a rabbit dead in the girls field. It had obviously been stomped. I feel real lucky that none of our crias or goats where harmed !" Brent & Kristy Huffman

     Our very first real exposure to llamas was in the months after losing quite a few Jersey calves that were born during the daytime out in the fields. In those days, sixteen years ago, the cows ran a 600 acre area of fields and woodland. An acquaintance who had llamas gave us a wonderful black and white (tux) intact male llama who was immediately introduced to the cows and housed in the barn with them for a few weeks. When we figured those cows were accustomed to the llama we let them all out. Well, the cows had seen the llama in the barn, but never in their pasture. When the llama came out the barn door, the cows stampeded in every direction, taking miles of fencing with them in the process of fleeing from that odd looking cow. Anyone who knows cows can probably relate to this scenario. Not the brightest bulbs in the universe. After all the cows finally came home, there were no more stampedes, the llama hung out with the Jerseys and Holsteins and just became one of the herd. We were very impressed with the fact that there was never another calf lost after the llama came to stay. He was a fixture here for fifteen years and a really wonderful fellow. We never did geld him and he eventually died of old age here on the farm.

     We also have a great elderly gelding who makes it his business to take over the care and training of all the male weanlings through yearlings. He breaks up fights, alerts them to pay attention when predators are spotted - or any oddity in his opinion. He teaches the young boys about manners and what to do, and when to do it. It is mostly because of this gelding that we have managed to turn our young males who are respectful, alert, and pasture wise. This gelding has NEVER allowed a strange dog into any field he inhabits and protects his little boys from everything he considers a risk. I have watched him herd a couple of youngsters over to a sinkhole in one pasture and walk around it with them as if to say "This is a dangerous spot boys". And do you know that ALL the boys in his care steer clear of that small area of the pasture. Claudius (the gelding) also teaches these boys about fences. I have seen him jump over a fence that the young ones were poking their heads through and spit them away from the fence. None of those boys ever tests fences after spending six months or so with Uncle Claudius. When the young ones get too close to a human at feeding time, Claudius gently inserts himself and pushes them back a respectful distance. Playing and wrestling are allowed in his pasture, but anything gets too rough and he lambastes whomever happens to be the aggressor. I LOVE this gelding and would never part with him. He is way to valuable to our training and management program. When he is in with the girls and their new babies he is equally effective. Any sigh of trouble and he herds the babies into a cluster, then the girls into a ring around them - and then HE goes after whatever he perceives as the threat. I've seen him stomp coyotes and even give a couple of raccoons a rash of trouble before he chased them out. Good old boy, is Claudius...wish I had a dozen just like him. Could cloning be the answer??

     We have a three year old gelding. Last summer he spent about three months guarding a small herd of goats at a Experiment station project on a Historical Society property not too far from us. We knew he had potential as a guard after an experience on our Ranch about three months prior to that. We had him in a pasture with a couple of yearlings, but I wanted to move two 6 month old boys into the pasture for weaning. So, I put "Uncle" Chimayo in an adjacent pasture with one of the yearlings until I felt everyone was going to get along. I wasn't worried about "Uncle" Chimayo, but one of the yearlings was a little on the frisky side and I wanted him to get used to these little guys before they were all together. They were sharing a fence line so I felt I could see how it went. About a week after I had everyone split up, a neighbor that lives over the hill from us called and to say she had a friend with children visiting and wanted to know if they could all walk over to see the llamas. I said "sure", and went out to halter up a few for them to pet and go for a walk. When they came over the hill they had their dog with them......a Weimerhiner. He had never been over to our place and I was a little nervous when he zipped down the hill and started barking at the first pasture he came to. He tried to get under the fence, but our fencing was critter proof on the bottom. After pacing and trying to figure out how to get over, he just simply climbed the wire and got into the pasture with "Uncle" Chimayo and the yearling. Of course this all happened in a heart beat and we were all yelling at the dog and trying to get his attention, but he was "gone". The dogs owner was beside herself and I was too. I was running as fast as my chubby self could got to get up to the gate to get inside and "protect" my boys. So, was my neighbor........we arrived inside just as the dog had the two llamas cornered. Chimayo was in front of the yearling who was literally smashed into the fence corner. Chimayo was just standing there at an angle between the dog and the yearling. The dog was barking and coming in close and Chimayo just stood there very alert, but not even looking at the dog. The dog ran in a couple of times very close, but Chimayo never moved a muscle. I was yelling and waving my arms and running towards them, but it was like I didn't even exisit. The dog finally ran in under Chimayo and tried to bite at his belly. That's when Chimayo raised up and came down with this front feet and totally smashed this dog.........and he did it again and again. The dog was trying to get out from under him but everytime he got up, Chimayo was on top of him. We finally grabbed the dog by the back feet and pulled him out from under Chimayo and Chimayo just stood there again. The dog had broken ribs, lost two toenails and had two major gashes on his head and a concussion. He survived, but he's never been back. My neighbor was very upset that her dog did this and I was amazed that Chimayo did so much damage in such a short time. It was almost effortless on his part, but it was very scary.
He did his job at the Experiment farm for the summer and came home to guard his "boys" since then. He is always the first one at the fence line if there is something going on and is always calm and secure about it. When he sounds we go running because he knows his job!!! Although I don't know any stories about him guarding his goats, I do know that he takes good care of our young boys!!

We've placed quite a few guards.
  • One owner went from several calf losses a year to coyotes to none in the past 4 years he's had the llamas. I also witnessed the llamas scaring off a couple of kids on a 4-wheeler that thought they were going to chase the cows.

  • Cigar killed a bobcat recently.

  • Ali Babba cornered a fox who was crossing the pasture to the chicken coop, and warning called until the owners came out and killed it. When the neighbor's house caught fire, he put all the sheep in the barn and cushed in the doorway where he could watch the police and fire trucks. Authorities thought that was pretty cool, as some animals can be panicy and create a problem.

  • The first week that Alladin was with his goats, he jumped all the interior fences and patrolled the whole property, much to the dismay of his foster home! But since then he has remained near his goats.

  • Peg regularly runs stray dogs out of his pasture, protecting his horse friend (he's a pack llama).

  • We did have a sheep chewed up pretty bad by a dog pack here. A shepard, a rottweiler and a border collie it looked like. The wether they got was very old and very overweight, and the llamas had formed a line between the dogs and the other 3 sheep. The llamas raised enough ruckus to attract attention. The dogs came back about a week later and were not as successful (they got an ear off one of the wethers), so I suspect the llamas were able to keep the sheep together and run the dogs off. I suppose with "Blackie" the old,

  • fat wether, that the llamas were not able to keep them together and protect them against the three dogs. Blackie was attacked in the barn, so I'd guess the llamas got them in the barn and then had to retreat again, outside and Blackie wasn't able to keep up. The whole neighborhood was packing for a couple of weeks! We went door to door and informed everyone to keep their dogs up, because stray dogs would be (legally) shot on site. (We checked this out with sherrif and animal control.) The shepard disappeared

  • immediately. We don't know who got him, but unfortunately he had an inattentive owner. The dog "went running" the morning after we had visited the owner, and we all went together up to the llama field to check on the sheep. Lizzie was down and uninjured, so we know the dog had not been there, but it never showed up anywhere again.

  • Jack is guarding a flock of sheep, and when an old ewe went down he stood over her while the rest of the flock went in for the night. Owners found the ewe when Jack didn't come in.

     I sold 10 guardian llamas between 1992 and 1996. All but one are still with the same person I sold them to, and all are still guarding/tending. The following stories are about some of those llamas:

  • One of the first guardian llamas I raised and sold is in charge of about 150 ewes. During the summer they're pastured on 200 acres in a remote area several miles from the owner's farm. In the fall they return to a 40 acre field for breeding, where they stay until the lambs are weaned in the late spring. Before the llama came, the owner would check the flock each day and move the ewes that were close to lambing into a small corral next to the lambing sheds. Late one afternoon during the first winter the llama was there, the owner heard him sound his alarm and went to check. The llama was standing next to the gate with a ewe obviously in labor. A couple of days later, the llama again sounded his alarm and this time he'd brought up two ewes--one with a newborn lamb and the other about to deliver. Long story short: For the past 10 years the owner has relied on the llama to tell him when the ewes are ready to deliver. He's missed a few times, but they've never lost a healthy lamb that was born in the field. Every day they let the llama into the barn so he can personally check pens and meet all the new lambs. If they don't, he just jumps the fence and visits on his own. He's now 13 years old and still the best guardian on the farm, although the owner now has 3 additional guardian llamas, each in charge of their own flock.

  • Another llama "lost" several young lambs through a hole in the fence. He jumped the fence, rounded up the lambs and ran them back through the hole (if you own sheep you know how hard that can be!). Then the llama jumped back over the fence and stood next to the break until the owner came and repaired it.

  • Another llama raised two orphan bottle lambs, bringing them up to be fed every few hours, waiting while they ate, then taking them back out to flock.


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