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Alpacas as guardians of the flock

The use of alpacas as guard animals and protectors of sheep and goats is on the rise, especially during and after lambing and kidding.

These hardy, intelligent animals are known to instinctively bond with each other and other grazing herd animals.

Alpacas have excellent eyesight, strong protective behaviour, they remain alert to intruders or predators approaching their paddock, whether other animals or people, and are known to emit a loud alarm scream if they perceive any threats to ‘their’ flock.

 

Which alpacas make the best guardians?

Not all alpacas are suitable as guardians for sheep and goat flocks.

CVH vets support the recommendations of the Australian Alpaca Association about guardian alpacas.

The following tips from the AAA are for livestock owners thinking about introducing alpacas as flock guardians:

 

  • Use adult (minimum 18 months) castrated males, wethers have proven to be the most successful guard animals
  • One or two wethers can be used, depending on the size of the flock
  • Ideally, the wethers should be introduced to the pregnant ewe flock about 4-6 weeks before lambing to allow time for bonding, but if required, they can be introduced closer to the start of lambing
  • Alpacas find being alone stressful – it’s important to run at least two alpacas together in between guardian duties.

 

Castration

Crookwell Veterinary Hospital vets all have experience castrating alpacas. The surgery is usually done around 12 months of age using local anaethestic and surgical emasculators.

 

*Image courtesy Glenhope Alpacas