StettlerLocal.com Feb 8, 2022
Not every llama is destined to be an effective guardian, so knowing what to look for when purchasing one can be a daunting task. Thankfully it doesn't have to be.
A guardian llama is used in farming to protect sheep, goats, hens or other livestock from coyotes, dogs, foxes and other predators. Llamas are territorial by nature and are instinctively suspicious of canines which lends to their use as guardians.
In the past, a single gelded (castrated) male was recommended. Intact males are almost always discouraged due to their overall dangerous nature. More recently, it has been discovered that single, unbred females may make better and safer guardians. Due to their ability to bond with the herd's offspring, they are more overall protective of them, especially during lambing season when predator determent is paramount. However, the truth is, regardless of gender or any other physical characteristics, it is the personality and instincts of the llama which will dictate its feasibility for use as a guardian animal.
It is best to obtain a llama from a reputable breeder that you can trust to give you honest information. While it is tempting to spend as little as possible and/or buy from an auction, there is no way to know the backstory of the animal nor the potential use as a guardian. Don't be swayed by a cheap price tag or a cute face when buying a guardian llama. Find an aloof, somewhat pushy, and headstrong llama instead, as these are the best characteristics of guardians.
Find a breeder that has experience with guardian llamas and work with them to find a llama that will suit your needs. It is best to start with a llama that is at least a couple of years old, from a farm with guardian llamas onsite and that presents signs of good guarding behaviour. Preferably someone who raises the same stock you do so that the llama is already used to the animals it is meant to protect.
A common misconception is that one should start with a young llama, also known as a cria. While raising a cria from a young age can be rewarding because you have a very tame and easily handled animal, it is counterproductive to obtaining an effective guardian. If your llama spends all the time sitting at the fence, staring out, waiting for you to come and give it some attention, it isn't going to be on guard. You don't want the llama to be too friendly, or it will bond to you and not the herd. Guarding is a trait that only some llamas possess. It is something you select for and not something that is guaranteed.
The most observed attribute a guardian llama has is keeping themselves between a predator and the rest of the herd. Plenty of llamas will run away from predators, while a few will stand their ground, and even fewer yet will push towards a potential threat. Having an additional guardian like a livestock guardian dog can effectively complement your guardian llama in these situations where there are multiple predators.
A good guard llama will be standoffish to people but will readily accept the herd and therefore serve their primary purpose. A good guardian will approach a predator in a manner that indicates assuredness, yet with careful investigation, and does not run from, but would rather chase, the cause of the disturbance, to deter it away from the rest of the herd. If it tries to put the run on your dog or cat, it's probably going to put the run on a coyote as well.
For more information of how you can choose an effective guardian for your herd visit https://www.silverprairie.farm/post/guardian-llamas
Silver Prairie Stock and Poultry