Alpaca Atlantic of Tennessee
 Protection
Your #1 Challenge

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     As an alpaca-breeder, you are doomed to fail if you make the mistake of underestimating the need to protect these animals. Alpacas have no real means of defending themselves other than flight, which is how they've survived for thousands of years in South America. In an attempt to protect them, we confine them to pastures and paddocks and in essence, remove their only means of defense -- escape.
     Do your research. Make sure you know what type(s) of guardian(s) would be best for your situation. I don't pretend to know everything, although Bill would argue this point, but perhaps you can pick up something of use from my ramblings.

     Bill and I currently employ 3 livestock guard dogs (LGD), a llama (great for waking up the dogs!), and a flock of alarm chickens that live within a perimeter fence, and a 4' interior fence. This combination works great for us. But what works for us, will probably not work for you! You have to consider your unique situation and your local predators. Take your time and research the possibilities. The right guardians will be worth their weight in gold!

   

    WARNING: On this page, I'll be discussing different means of protection. Consider strongly a several tier approach. A fence alone won't work - dogs on the attack will dig under, jump over, and some have gone right through - even if you take the time to line the fencing with hot wire. One LGD won't be able to do anything other than die a brave death when faced with a pack of dogs, a cougar, or a bear.
     One llama or donkey may put up a good fight - but they don't have the means to adequately defend. One rifle, in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing with it, can only help if you get to the scene before the attack takes place. Please - consider your situation and plan your defense in tiers - you'll sleep better!


Alpacas are an expensive investment -- but if you've found this site, you probably already know that!
Their protection may require a several tier approach. You may want to consider the following:

  • Perimeter Fencing. I could blab for a few pages on this subject alone but I'll spare you. The point that I need to make is that the fencing needs to fit the threat. If you aren't sure what's creeping about in your neck of the woods, here are some ways to find out:
    • 1st: Visit your local agricultural agent. Ask for their advice.
    • 2nd: Get to know local sheep, goat, llama, or alpaca farmers - and listen to their stories.
    • 3rd: Call the Department of Transportation Highway Maintenance guys. Tell them you're going to raise livestock, and ask what type of road-kill predators they pick up in your area. This may sound goofy, but it'll give you a realistic feel for predators in your area. We've lived in both NC and TN, and have never seen bobcats, panthers, coyotes, or black bears....but the Maintenance guys have - so we know they're out there, and we've made sure our animals are protected against them.
    • 4th: Talk to your neighbors. Let them know why you're asking about neighborhood predators. You'll not only get information about local problems, but you'll also convey the hidden message, "I need you to keep your dogs off my property!" Best to open the lines of communication and hopefully avoid hard feelings down the road.
    • 5th: Whatever you come up with on your list, add roaming dogs to the top...and to the bottom, as these will probably be your biggest threat, regardless of where you live. One loose dog will probably act like a pet, but two or more dogs will take on a pack mentality - even if they are beloved family pets that have never hurt a thing in their lives.

  • Noise Makers. These fall into 2 categories:
    • 1 - Alarm Sounders. Chickens, geese, and guineas are all wonderful "alarms." They are usually attacked by the same type predators that would go for alpacas, and because of this, they tend to really watch what's going on around them. It's interesting how different groups of animals will harmonize. When our chickens sound the alarm, the alpacas close ranks for protection, and the dogs head out with hackles up. We've found that another benefit of having chickens is that along with reducing your bug population, they'll eat mice and snakes. I will never ever catch another chicken to check out the funny looking worm it's running around with - big mistake!
    • 2 - Anti-predator Noise. Many folks think that leaving a radio on at night, helps to keep predators at bay -- especially coyotes and feral dogs. Opinions vary as to whether or not music or talk-radio is best, but all agree that human sounds help to ward off predators.

  • Security with Fangs. There are a couple dozen breeds of Livestock Guard Dogs. The one thing they have in common is that for centuries they have been very selectively bred to defend livestock.

    There is a huge difference between Guard Dogs and Guardian Dogs. Don't make the mistake of confusing them. Guard dogs have a high predator drive. They chase, they attack, they could easily turn on and kill your livestock. Guardian dogs on the other hand, act on the defense. They bark to alert the world of their presence, and if required, will attack to protect their charge.

    When we lived in NC, Ali and Olaf's night-barking used to keep me awake, until the evening Bill spotted a pack of hunting dogs (don't get me started on this topic!) chasing a panther through the farm field right across from our property. Call our Highway Maintenance guys if you think I'm making this one up! Barking is now music to my ears and I sleep like a baby!

    Many alpaca breeders, ourselves included, insist on having at least two mature working LGDs and usually break in a new puppy before an older dog is retired. Remember that an older LGD is invaluable in its ability to help train a younger dog. They won't relieve you of the supervision/training duty, but will make your job much easier. The youngster will benefit, and your old faithful will probably appreciate the energetic help! Taking our own advice, we've recently added Phoenix (Anatolian) to the mix. Cajun (Great Pyr) and Chance (Maremma) still don't appreciate her energy level, but have learned to hang back and let her go on all of the, "it probably isn't anything, but you better go check it out," runs across the fields.
    It's not required that your LGD be registered, but please consider a pure-bred guardian dog (and this from a couple whose first LGD was an earless wild dog from Iraq!). If you really want to stack the deck in your favor - consider buying your dog from a LGD breeder who also has livestock. This may sound like an obvious suggestion, but we had a heck of a time finding a breeder on the east coast who bred Pyrs that didn't spend their lives in a cement kennel!
    You may even want to offer to pay a bit extra to have the breeder keep the puppy for 12-16 weeks, so that they have time to learn the ropes from the most attentive trainer - their mother!

    Please, please, please neuter your LGD. Do you have any idea how far away a dog can smell a bitch in heat? Well I don't, but it's pretty darn far. If you are the one with the bitch in heat, she'll attract every male for miles - and she'll invite them to come in and play. If you have a male, he'll take road trips whenever his hormones take over. Your animals will be left unprotected and he may or may not make it back alive. Your dog won't be focused on their guard duties when they're thinking about sex! Protect your investments and have your dog(s) neutered.

    Should you invest in a male or female? That's a toss-up. Many prefer males because of their larger body size and they are generally cheaper to neuter. But females can be tough, and quick! Just try to climb our fence some night, or keep score as to who catches the most mice!

    Confused about what breed to consider? Don't ask us, we have 3 different breeds. Each breed has its good and bad points.

    There are lots of great web sites and chat groups that offer volumes of information on the many LGD breeds available. A couple to start with might be:

  • Security with a Kick.
    • Burros and Donkeys. They're cute, they're furry, but they hate predators, have a mean kick, and their attack bray can just about split ear-drums. You'll want to consider keeping alpacas and equines of any type in separate pastures as the kick of a hooved friend can crack ribs or break an alpaca's leg in two. Alpacas just don't read the body language of kickers very well! And donkeys have a nasty habit of wanting to shake things by the back of the neck. If you have a perimeter field though, these may just be the perfect addition!
    • Llamas. They're tall (which gives them a broader field of vision), they're fast, they have a deadly spit, and an even worse kick! Many alpaca folks swear by them. We have one 369-pound boy named Viking that makes his living by keeping an eye on things and calling the dogs to action!
      If you're contemplating the addition of a llama, please remember that they should be considered as one of the tiers in your protection program, and not as your sole means of defense. We refer to our boy as an "Alert Llama." Viking is a big boy, but he wouldn't stand a chance against a pack of dogs or coyotes. He would probably lead the alpacas by running like the wind - as this boy isn't much on confrontation! Sure, I've read the odd story of the llama that killed an attacking dog. But for every hero story, there are probably a couple dozen "sacrificial lamb" stories that are never told. So, if you are defending against predators with teeth, please use guards with teeth. Llamas are sentinels used to alert!

  • Security with Two Legs. In a perfect world, everyone and everything would get along...until someone got hungry. Then, the foodchain would kick into action, and something would be in trouble! If you own alpacas, you should understand that while you may view them as investments, most predators just view them as food. And if you think you can defend your alpacas against a pack of pit-bulls, or even against a single pit-bull dog, ask someone to pinch you....hard!!! In my humble opinion, if you own livestock - you should also own at least one gun -- and you should be proficient with its use. Even if you don't think you could ever kill another living creature, learn to shoot at a paper target. If your alpacas are ever being attacked, believe me, the predator will look an awful lot like a target. Use common sense though and store your weapons where children won't be at risk. We have weapons both in the house, and in the barn, and have a code phrase to let the other know, "wake up, get dressed, grab a gun, and RUN!"
  • In closing, I wish all of you the best of luck. But please, don't count on luck to protect your alpacas. Consider your specific risks, select tiers of protection that make sense for your situation, and build your fortress!


Traditional Welcome Sales
Program
Newly Arrived
& Coming
Attractions
Congratulations
to our
Customers!
Herdsires of
Alpaca Atlantic

New!
Prickless
Crimp
Helpful
Sites
Storm Tips New!
Lisa's
Soap-box

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