Weld County llamas: guardians of the galaxy, or at least sheep
» Double J Farms is at 13784 Colo. 14, Ault. Jeff Hasbrouck can also be reached by calling (970) 834-2344.
» Judy Glaser’s llama farm, Rockwood Llamas, can be found at 29039 Maul Rd., Kiowa, or by calling (303) 646-6311.
That is the thought behind the guard llama.
Jeff Hasbrouck of Double J Farms and Feeding in Ault said people were naturally curious when he first started using llamas to guard his sheep about four years ago.
“I even had a couple people call me at home and ask, ‘Oh hey, what do you have the llamas for?’ ” he said. “A lot of people were interested in what’s going on.”
At about $25 per llama, they are low cost, low maintenance and high reward for many farmers.
“What they do is put themselves in between the problem and whatever they’re guarding,” he said. “They make a kind of nasty sound that’s supposed to scare a predator away.”
They also spit at and will use their hooves to kick and injure predators.
Llamas are often used to guard sheep and other commonly preyed-upon livestock because of their natural instinct to nurture. They are specifically useful as deterrents to coyotes because they have no fear of dogs, Hasbrouck said.
Hasbrouck has never actually seen the animals in action against a coyote, but he knows they do their job.
“We don’t lose hundreds of animals a year to coyotes,” he said. “We’re probably at 25 to 30 a year, but that’s with predator control. When we didn’t have (llamas), that number was higher.”
Hasbrouck said he didn’t come up with the idea to employ llamas as guards on his own. A friend of his said he once saw a llama jump a fence to protect a chicken coop from coyotes. Shortly after, Hasbrouck bought some to help control the predators at his sheep feedlot.
Because llamas are a natural line of defense against predators, their attitudes are sometimes intimidating to ranchers, but Hasbrouck said they’ve never had a problem with his guard llamas.
“When we first got them, everyone was really nervous around them,” he said, “but the llamas we’ve got here are really used to the interaction with the guys.”
He said they have about 40,000 sheep to watch over, so extra eyes, even llama eyes, are always helpful.
“Llamas are inherently able to be a guard animal,” said Judy Glaser, who owns a llama farm in Kiowa. “I think they have it in their genetics.”
Glaser said llamas have very independent personalities.
“If you understand the personality of a cat, that’s a llama,” she said. “Where dogs have owners, cats have staff … llamas have staff.”
Glaser explained that with inquisitive personalities, llamas often check out a threatening situation. This scares away predators because they realize a prey animal wouldn’t be walking toward the possible danger — they’d be running from it.
But even if the predator doesn’t run away, llamas have their spitting, their cry for help and their kicking to take care of coyotes.
“They will take out a coyote pretty quick,” Glaser said. “They kick out to the side. That’s how they defend their charges.”
Llamas have a range of vision of 260 degrees. They have long necks that stretch out, often making them as tall as 7 feet, and they will act as guards for 10 to 15 years.
Glaser said they are used a lot because they don’t require a lot of upkeep.
“They don’t destroy a pasture, they just nip the top of the ground,” she said. “They can mow the grass just like goats do.”
Hasbrouck agreed they are there because they are easy to take care of.
They always use the bathroom in the same place, making clean-up easy, and they eat the same food as the sheep.
Hasbrouck said for him, they are especially effective when used with dogs because both guard animals have different responsibilities. The dogs roam the perimeter and if anything gets past them, the llamas are in the pens for protection.
Hasbrouck said he likes to keep the llamas in pens closer to the road because it’s more dangerous for the dogs to be close to the highway.
Although llama guards are not for every sheep rancher, Hasbrouck said he plans to keep his llama guards around for a while.
“We kind of like having them around so we keep them,” Hasbrouck said. “You throw them out there and they do their job.” ❖
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