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LGD's vs Llama's

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We have the opportunity to rent out 20 acres and put a few head of sheep on it. It's completely fenced and ready to go. To start we are only going to get 5 head, maybe 10 but probably just 5 for now. The pasture is located a bit out of town, but around some wheat fields and houses. Coyotes are pretty popular around here, but there are wolves about 45 minutes north of here and of course they may come down closer to us as they are quickly depleting the food where they are. Anyways, my question is, can llama's be just as good of a "guard dog" over the sheep as an LGD? In my research, it seems as if an adult, well trained LGD can run over $1000. (Kind of pricey, and I am not sure the hubby would go for spending $1000 on another dog, let alone one that will be living in a field away from home.) Currently there are people on Craigslist that have Llamas listed as obo as they need to downsize the herd.

 

How would a llama react to a dog going out to work the sheep? There are also going to be a few calves (2-3) out on the land as well from the other guy that will be renting with us. In my experience, llama's don't seem to mind other animals such as cattle. I'd much rather have 5-10 heifers and steers, as they are less to worry about in the face of coyotes, but sheep are cheaper and I can get more for my money. =)

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I had one good guard llama. The others llamas that I have owned, just watched the coyotes eat the sheep.

 

I have some great LGDs....whatever pasture, they are in, no sheep have been killed. My Arab mare is also a coyote killer.

 

My neighbor has about sheep and 6 llamas. My husband called me on the way to work and told me he saw a coyote eating a freshly killed sheep, while the llamas laid in the field, chewing their cud.

 

Get a good LGD or pen your sheep up at night would be my suggestion

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I love llamas but wouldn't want to count on one to do real guarding alone with no help. They work wonderfully along with LGD's but imo, that's about it.

I've seen good lgd's go for less than what your seeing. keep looking.

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LGDs would be better. Similar to a well-bred Border Collie having instinct to perform his work, a well-bred LGD should also perform his job well. In addition, they can be fast and ferocious with predators, and back it up with teeth.

 

Llamas are big, and size often does count in nature, but they have not been bred to be protective. So some will be 'protective', but most will be normal grazing animals. Even the protective ones have limited defensive tools - the most they can do is stomp a predator. They do not bite like dogs.

 

Jovi

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Wait, wolves? If you have wolves, a llama would just be lunch. If you have a pack of active wolves, (and I know your Idaho wolves are stout rascals,) you'll need a couple LGDs and a secure barn or shed in which to shut your sheep up at night. Llamas might work for coyotes, sort of, but not wolves. And LGDs are hell on coyotes, but I think three or four wolves could just rip a lone LGD to shreds.

 

Guardian dog and a SAFE building for the night are your best bets, I'd think.

 

Also, I don't think llamas would bother to differentiate between your dogs and stray dogs or coyotes. Like donkeys, they just don't like canines. Best of luck!

 

~ Gloria

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A LGD is a better guard animal period....but there may be more training, ranging, fence jumping, not associated with a llama.

 

I have not had an LGD (but know many people who do), but keep a guard llama with a flock of about 30 ewes (plus another 30-50 lambs seasonally). I didn't have any guardian for my first 4 years at my place even though I knew (and could hear) there were numerous coyotes in my neighborhood. My sheep and lambs ranged freely on my property without any night penning or e-net/fence. The coyotes suddenly 'discovered' my lamb and quickly went to work trying to kill as many lambs as possible (but no ewes).

 

I visited many many llamas and llama breeders looking for the right guard. I was told to get a single llama (otherwise llama's bond to each other and not the sheep)....also to get a gelding or female. I finally purchased my gelded male from a guy that had goats but wanted to get rid of the llama because he was girdling fruit trees (yes, they like to browse on trees and shrubs).

 

At first I tried to just put the llama in with the sheep and continue to allow the sheep to range freely in the pasture without any other precautions. He had good guarding instincts and would charge and bluff and strike at intruding dogs/coyotes and he would also round the sheep up and push them to a defensible position at the barn with the llama standing guard in front threatening. My losses slowed but I was still losing lambs. I even lost a lamb in a small 2 acre pasture with the llama. At the end of the day, under intense pressure, the llama is prey....a llama can be a good deterrent under light predation pressure or against neighborhood dogs but he is outgunned by a determined predator (i.e.. a hunting pack of coyotes, wolves, cougars, bears).

 

Short of getting a guard dog, I have found a mixture of tightened security and management practices plus the deterrent of the llama has pretty much stopped all my losses. The sheep free range the pasture during the day with the llama, but at night I either put the sheep in 1) a night pen behind 48" no climb corral at my barn, under light and near my house, or 2) e-net/fence.....the llama patrols outside the pen or e-net all night. During the day, I release the sheep to graze pasture again. I only do this when I have lambs....so far the coyotes haven't tried to kill an adult ewe (they certainly could, but they've never tried it...knock wood).

 

I consider my situation one of light predation.....plenty of coyotes around but able to be deterred and there are other food sources.....no wolves, cougar are in the area but not very present in my neighborhood (so far...my area not good habitat for couriers as it is very open and exposed).

 

Also, llama's are very smart....they will get to know the difference between your own dog and strange dogs or coyotes. It may take a little bit of time for a new llama to learn who belongs and who doesn't. My llama is fine with me using border collies to move sheep around....tho' he gets pissy if the dogs come too close to him (mostly bluff and threat). He does not like his sheep abused and will throw a fit if a puppy or rash dog is harassing the sheep.

 

I have a good llama....there are other llamas that aren't worth having. Beware of "free" llamas....but a free one might not necessarily be bad. My llama cost me $50....he was 3 years and gelded and had been living with goats. You will be looking for somewhat of a bad ass, independent and confident. I would recommend looking for one that is a proven guardian. Not all llama's guard...some are worthless.

 

A LGD is a better guardian (by far) and may be your only option if you are facing heavy predation. But a llama can work out under light predation if you pick a good proven guard llama and institute management practices to improve security (e-net and/or night penning).

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What the others said. Llamas and donkeys work by protecting their territory and often are a problem with newborn lambs. Once a LGD is up to age they are usually through the playing with the sheepies stage and can be quite good.

 

LGD's often go wandering. Mine are often seen chasing coyotes 2-3 miles from home (which most of my neighbors don't mind)

 

A llama bonded to sheep would work for some situations (doubt they would be very affective against a pack of wolves). And a female or properly raised gelding would be good. There is a thing called Bezerk Male Llama syndrome. It happens when there is a male bottle raised llama and while they are badasses, they are extremely so. A friend has one that has killed coyotes but also is VERY difficult to manage. he bites, strikes, kickes, spits and tries to knock you down and 'lie' on you!

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Thanks for writing out such a long and detailed post, Elizabeth! Very educational.

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Great info EB and timely. McLeods' have just had another coyote attack this past week(one coyote); killed 2 lambs, injured another a couple nites ago and then killed a yearling from the working flock. So they have decided to get a llama. LGD is not an option for a number of reasons - small acreage, close neighbors, golf course backing field plus Rose would end up keeping it in the house(she admits she is no farmer lol). Anyway, they have opportunity to get a gelded adult male out of a group of 5 that were used to guard a small flock.(farm sold so dispersing animals).

So any tips on introducing llama to new farm & flock would be appreciated. Plus anything special about their care? He will be eventually out with the small breeding flock(dozen or so ewes plus couple doz. lambs) during the day grazing next door on about 4 acres. Brought in to mostly secure 2 acre field at night. There is also a smaller paddock with 2 rams, another adjoining paddock with 8-9 working flock and the barn and yard. There will be minimal exposure to the BCs except when being turned out in the am and brought in at night.

They lost over a dozen lambs 2 years ago to coyote and bald eagles. They have been feeding a flock of crows since then which seemed to deter the eagles. Plus did some major fencing - under ground and height. No losses last year. But now just recently a coyote found a weakness in the fence and got in. Then returned 2 nites later. So this would be a case of 'light' predator although there are a lot of coyotes around.

thanks Lani

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It's pretty hard to beat good guard dogs. Throughout history they have defended flocks from everything from bears to wolves with great success. I don't have much experience with llamas, but was once contracted to move a large flock guarded by two llamas. They tried their best to defend the sheep by running at the dogs, pawing and kicking at them, but the dogs easily outmaneuvered them.

 

All the best,

jeanne

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In an area where guard dogs would be a nuisience (which Lani describes well!) give the llama a whirl.

 

They will need to be dewormed regularly like the sheep, put their grain up high so the sheep can't get it..that used to really piss off my llama

 

Feet may need to be trimmed

 

Leave the halter on if you can help it, helps to catch them. Also feeding them grain helps to catch them. And also if you want to work the dogs. It is nicer to the llama to have them out of the way than to have to try and protect their flock from the border collies. Other than that, shear them when necessary..not all llama's need shearing.

 

You'll have to ask the vet about shots etc

 

For introducing llama, put in smallish area and feed them. It won't take long

 

Cynthia

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I used to trim the points of my llamas hooves with a long loppers. The kind you trim trees with. He would never have stood for me to pick his foot up so I'd just slip In and clip off the points. Worked for us. I sheared him with a hand scissors. And I had to have a dog guard him while he ate (one of micks jobs) cause no matter how high I put the grain if Al the llama could get it, so could the sheep. And they did!

If he's been with sheep he should be good to go, if not watch him. My guy when he was new to the flock tried to breed my young ewes. You can imagine that wasn't good. Llamas breed laying down or in a cush position. I also had to be careful in the heat. We had a pond he would get in. When we didn't I hosed him and he let me. my friends llama died of heat stroke, it had no way of cooling off. I also gave him a high speed fan

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Cynthia P and Kristen have good advice on llama husbandry. I just want to add a couple of points:

 

Foot trimming - just use the same hoof trimmers as for sheep. Available for $17-$20 at Tractor Supply. You can trim the points off while the llama is standing, but if possible, pick up his feet to do it right. Front feet are easier to pick up than back feet.

 

Halter - I would never leave a halter on a llama. If you have to catch him, bring him into a catch pen or barn - either with food or herd him in. It would be nice if the llama was halter-trained. It would make everything so much easier.

 

Heat stress in the summer may not be as much an issue in BC as in more southern climates. Whether or not you shear (hand scissors are fine for shearing) will depend on your summer temps and the 'wooliness' of the llama. You will probably need to shear at least once every other year and can probably get away with a barrel cut.

 

Vaccinations and worming - consult your vet for advice for your climate.

 

Good Luck,

Jovi

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You'll also want to read Livestock Guardians: Using Dogs, Donkeys, and Llamas to Protect Your Herd :

http://www.amazon.co.../ref=pd_sim_b_3

 

If you are concerned about the liabilities of using guard dogs (and there are) think about donkeys. We've used them and have never had any problems. You might think about acquiring a gelding - they are even-tempered for the most part.

 

jeanne

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On the geldings, ONLY if they are NOT hand raised. A hand raised gelding is most likely to have bezerk male llama syndrom

 

Hear, Hear! I can not stress this enough also. Any male (intact or neutered)that is bottle-fed or made to be too friendly by too much babying and petting when they are young has a very high possibility of being a berserk male (also called an imprinted male or aberrant behavior syndrome male).

 

If the llama comes up to you and into your personal space without in invitation from you, do NOT take him. People think it is very cute for a llama to come up and go face-to-face with you. These are people that do not understand livestock. They are usually used to dogs and cats that act that way and do not understand that it is not OK for livestock (particularly the males) to act that way.

 

Most people are disappointed when the llamas are aloof (They won't let me pet them. Boo Hoo!), but that is EXACTLY what you want.

 

Jovi

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Jovi, good point about the halter, i don't leave halters on my horses...however they are easier to catch :)

 

They also like to dustbath and prefer to poop in one pile. They do get points for neatness. It does stress them out to be away from their poop spot and/or away from their sheep.

 

And do watch them when you introduce new animals, like rams, or during breeding season with the ewes. They can kill a ewe if they cush(sp) on them.

 

I miss my llama with all this talk of llamas :)

 

cynthia

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I am currently using a guard jenny (mini size) and she seems to be doing a great job, but we don't have strong predator pressure either. My plan is to use her in combination with a guardian dog (the donkey is good buddies with one of my LGDs--the one who won't stay in a fence, sigh), but right now she's by herself. Even though she knows my border collies, I have to be very careful with them around her--unlike the guard dogs, she doesn't seem to discriminate between friend and foe when it comes to dogs in the field.

 

Anyway, if the neighbors can take the sound of a donkey, it's another option. We chose to get a weanling and raise her with the sheep to minimize any incidents of donkey vs. sheep.

 

J.

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I am currently using a guard jenny (mini size) and she seems to be doing a great job, but we don't have strong predator pressure either. My plan is to use her in combination with a guardian dog (the donkey is good buddies with one of my LGDs--the one who won't stay in a fence, sigh), but right now she's by herself. Even though she knows my border collies, I have to be very careful with them around her--unlike the guard dogs, she doesn't seem to discriminate between friend and foe when it comes to dogs in the field.

 

Anyway, if the neighbors can take the sound of a donkey, it's another option. We chose to get a weanling and raise her with the sheep to minimize any incidents of donkey vs. sheep.

 

J.

 

 

Pics ;-) and name of your jenny, didn't know you had one.

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I've also had good luck with horses as LGA's. We are surrounded by coyotes, but they don't/won't step foot in my pasture with my two geldings. My Paint/Percheron is especially protective, I even watched him bring the sheep back to the barn one day, then go back by himself to the front pasture (had no idea watching him, what the heck he was doing) turns out there were two stray dogs trying to dig under the fence, they took one look at Huddy ;-) and skeedaddled! He's actually a little too protective, if I bring in a new sheep, I have to monitor the first day or so, as Huddy is suspicious of anything (how he knows the diff. btwn sheep is beyond me...) and he'll follow or chase them around until he figures they're ok. Oh, and both my horses are ok with my dogs, and there's no problem working them with the horses around.

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So true on the friendly llama deal. My llama was like a cat. Very aloof. He would let me pet him a bit but on his terms. We had agreat relationship but I have heard of the bizerk syndrome allot when I was finding a llama.

 

Julie, I've been thinking about a minni donk. There are quite a afew round here so you can get them pretty cheap. I was thinking a bred jenny so I'd have 2 eventually, but don't konw enough about them, how are you liking yours?

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These photos were taken a few months ago. Her name is Sadie, and she's maybe 9 hands high. My landlord bought her and pays her expenses--I'm responisble for care/feeding.

 

IMG_4704_edited-1.jpg

 

IMG_4703_edited-1.jpg

(This may well be one of the last photos that will showcase all those gumballs. The forestry guys were here earlier this week and took down all the sweet gums in the barn area. I won't miss them, except for the shade they provided.)

 

When she gets a bit rambunctious, she will chase the sheep (she's been with last year's lambs), but she hasn't hurt anything. She did chew the wool off the backside of the dark lamb that was in with her. I don't know if that's because the lamb was the odd-looking one or what, but it was just the one lamb.

 

I would not trust her with ewes with newborn lambs (that was Min the Maremma's job this year), but will probably try to introduce her to the concept next spring.

 

I felt better starting with a baby because I thought she was less likely to accidentally damage sheep when behaving like a factious pony and that if she grew up with sheep then she would be well bonded to them.

 

She's in a pasture with the yearlings about a mile from here. Diana, who lives there, reports that Sadie gets quite distraught if she loses sight of her sheep. When I go over with my dogs, I have to be careful that she doesn't go after them.

 

She spent the first 6-8 months here at the house where I could handle her, feed her, teach her to lead and tie, etc. The one thing I had to keep reminding myself of was that even though she's small she still behaves like an equine and requires the same care when handling. If I want to work dogs in that pasture, I catch her and tie her (or once the round pen is finished, will enclose her there).

 

I don't think she'd be effective against a pack of dogs or coyotes, but a single canine after her sheep could be in serious trouble. And I envision a situation where when I can put her and Tasha together, Tasha will do the bulk of the work and Sadie will be the "rear guard" whose task will be to take care of anything that might get past Tasha.

 

J.

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Lani,

I've been using eNet for the past two years....bought more each year. It's an investment but if you (your friend) buys a portable battery charger the fence can be moved to rotate the sheep through the pasture. I find the eNet quite easy to move. My charger is 110v so I am somewhat tied to how to connect to my 110v. I might have invested in a battery charger but eNet cost was getting to me so I cut cost on a more affordable charger. Life (and pasture utilization) would be easier if I had a battery charger. The llama patrols the pasture exterior of the eNet. Since I am bound by my 110, I open the eNet each morning to let the sheep graze the larger pasture during the day and then put them behind eNet at night. When away for weekends I put them behind the eNet and fill the feeder with hay. So far, no losses.

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