For livestock guardians, some people use llamas and donkeys while others use livestock guardian dogs (LGDs such as Great Pyrenees, Anatolian, mixed guardian breeds) or a combination of the above. There are benefits to the different choices as well as challenges.
Your location, types of predators you have, and your comfort level with the guardian animal will determine the best ones for your farm.
Each species will have different needs, so it’s important to understand proper care and management of your guardian animals.
Donkeys have been used effectively especially if they are not in the same pasture as the alpacas and are guarding the perimeter area. Donkeys can accidentally kick and injure alpacas, so it’s usually best to keep them in separate areas.
Llamas are larger than alpacas and they can guard alpacas to some extent. But they are large animals and will usually require specialty vet care like the alpacas.
We opted to work with LGDs because we felt most comfortable and confident with dogs protecting our alpacas. There are quite a few different breeds of LGDs and it is very important to educate yourself on the breeds before you bring a team to your farm.
One VERY important thing to understand is how and what the different breeds were bred to protect against. I actually don’t know if this is a real term or not- but we differentiate the LGD breeds in terms of 2-legged aggressive and 4-legged aggressive.
The breeds that were bred to be 2-legged aggressive are the ones that protected their herd against human thieves as well as other 4-legged predators. This is an important point to fully understand. Most of us are trying to keep our alpacas safe from bears, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, and mountain lions, usually not people trying to steal our alpacas.
The 4-legged aggresive LGDs were bred to mostly only deal with other animal predators. This actually makes a huge difference in how they relate to people. Most in this category are very friendly towards people and will generally be better breeds for alpaca owners with less dog experience.
From the 10+ years of our experience, we have seen these differences in our dogs. Interestingly enough, the 2-legged aggressive breeds tend to be very hard working serious dogs with quite a bit of intensity. This is a very important trait in a guardian dog.
So please learn the history of the various dogs and make sure they will be a good fit for you.
There are even more options to consider when getting your LGDs. You can buy specific breed puppies and raise them yourself, adopt a guardian dog from various rescue organizations, or find a mature guardian dog trained or raised around alpacas.
We have set up our farm in a way that we can adopt rescued LGDs. Our LGDs are not kept in a pasture full time with our alpacas. We have barns with pens closer to the house and a lot of perimeter fencing. During the day, once the dogs have adjusted and gone through our training, they have access to the alpaca barns and all pastures. But at night, we close off all the pastures and pen the alpacas up in the barn. The dogs patrol a limited area around the alpaca barns and our house.
We are in Texas, so Great Pyrenees and Anatolian crosses are very popular. This cross is really great for many reasons. Great Pyrenees are people friendly and easy to work with while the Anatolian has a bit more of a work ethic and intensity. Each dog is different, so you’ll definitely want to take that into account.
We love our dogs and interact with them daily. They are fed twice a day so we have more opportunities to check on them and make sure they are in their best condition. We also have a minimum of two workind dogs at all times so they have companionship, back up, and the ability to rest when they need to.
Hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions, let me know!