What can you tell me about raising llamas? What traits should a llama possess to be an effective guard animal?
Answer: Llamas can be a good addition to a farm or ranch?an alternative livestock enterprise on marginal pastureland that fits well into a diversified farming operation. Llamas are members of the Camelidae family. Modified ruminants with a three-compartment stomach, they have cloven hooves and chew a cud like sheep and cattle.Llamas were first domesticated 4,000 to 5,000 years ago in the Andean Highlands. There they are used as a beast of burden, as a fiber source, and as a meat source. They are quiet, intelligent, easily trained animals that can provide fleece and potentially a variety of services to the owner. They are adaptable to different climates and terrains. They are a low-impact livestock alternative; their padded feet do not have the same effect on the ground as hooves. In addition, they have efficient digestive systems and tend to consolidate feces, helping to control parasites and ease manure collection.In addition to their value as a pack animal value and fiber and meat, llamas can be used as guardians for livestock, including cattle, sheep, and poultry. As a herd animal, the llama is particularly attentive to menaces. Llamas are natural guardians due to their inherent wariness of the dog family. They are good guard animals when placed with a livestock species smaller than themselves (like sheep and goats). They have been proven to be effective in areas with coyote problems. Guard llamas work most effectively in pairs. Ideal guard animal traits:? Age: At least 18 months old. No upper age limit as long as the animal is in good health, sound conformation, and good physical condition. ? Gender: Males have to be gelded, ideally not before two years of age. Excellent candidates are llamas gelded as adults. Gelding should take place at least three months before introduction to livestock. Non-breeding females are good candidates and females with crias (a baby llama) have been very successful. A good strategy is to introduce and bond the female to the herd before the cria’s birth. ? The animal’s physical condition should match specific situation requirements?larger flocks and rough terrains require greater physical demands. ? Natural curiosity and high level of awareness. ? Llamas should be manageable and halter and lead trained. ? Stay with the flock without disrupting the flock.For more information on llamas, consult the ATTRA publication Llamas and Alpacas on the Farm, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=406. This publication discusses considerations for raising llamas, including regulations, marketing, nutrition, care, reproduction, and handling.