The use of llamas to protect goats, cattle, and poultry from canid predators

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2000-01-01
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Drufke, Natasha
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Animal Ecology
Animal ecology is the study of the relationships of wild animals to their environment. As a student, you will be able to apply your knowledge to wildlife and environmental management. With career opportunities at natural resource and environmental protection agencies, organizations and businesses, you can place an emphasis on wildlife biology, fisheries biology, aquatic sciences, interpretation of natural resources, or pre-veterinary and wildlife care.
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Previous research has shown that llamas can be very effective as guard animals for protecting sheep from predators. In this study, we interviewed 136 ranchers who were using 237 llamas to protect goats, cattle, and poultry in order to determine if llamas were effective guards and what management practices were used in successful and unsuccessful cases. Llamas decreased the amount of yearly predation from 13% to 1% of the herd on goat ranches, 13% to 0% on cattle ranches, and 40% to 6% on poultry ranches. In 78% of cases, predation on a ranch dropped to zero after introduction of the llama. The use of guard llamas resulted in an average annual savings per ranch of $848 for goat owners, $2,509 for cattle owners, and $1,167 for poultry owners. Fifty-four percent of llamas were seen protecting the livestock from predators. Common behaviors included standing at attention, running towards the predator, chasing the predator, and alarm calling. Ranchers rated their llamas as either effective or very effective as guards in 89% (goats), 92% (poultry), and 100% (cattle) of the cases. The average guard llama was a 5 year old gelded male costing $532 with an additional expense of $135 per year to maintain. Llamas were accepted by livestock in 10 days or less 89% of the time, and livestock were accepted by llamas in 10 days or less 86% of the time. Although we were not able to determine which llama characteristics, if any, were correlated with guarding success, respondents listed alertness, good disposition, and aggressiveness to predators as characteristics to look for when choosing a guard llama. Llamas were an effective, low-cost, low-maintenance, non-lethal method to reduce predation on goat, cattle, and poultry ranches.

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Sat Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2000