Calling in the big boys – llamas added to fight against wild dogs

Following on the successful trail of alpacas as guard animals the Tumbarumba Shire Feral Animal Working Group has purchased six llamas to be used to protect stock in the region.

The Working Group, which includes Forestry Corporation, Tumbarumba Shire Council, local landholders, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Hume Rural Lands Protection Board, felt the llamas which are bigger and possibly more aggressive than alpacas could make a difference when it comes to protecting sheep and lambs from wild dog attacks.

The problem is particularly prevalent when snow and cold conditions bring the wild dogs and foxes out of the hills and onto farmland in search of food.

Llamas bond with lambing ewes and once bonded discourage predators by aggressively confronting them. They have been known to kill foxes by pummelling them with their front legs.

Forestry Corporation manager at Tumbarumba Chris Rhynehart said it was important to remember that guard animals are part of an integrated control program not an end in themselves.

“There will be no reduction in baiting and trapping. Guard animals help to protect the flock while traps and baits work in to control areas in neighbouring forests,” he said.

The llamas have been lent to six farmers in the Khancoban, Tooma and Burra Valleys.

The farmers have the llamas for two lambing seasons, then either buy the animal or hand it back to the Working Group.

The most recent arrival, a wether purchased for by the Working Group for $600, is being trialled the Burra Valley on a property owned by Rex Bergin.

Mr Bergin, a well known forestry identity with a family-run contract business, said he had been farming in the Burra Valley for 30 years and wild dogs had always been a problem.

He has recently lost five ewes but says during the past few years the number of wild dog attacks had dropped.

“We have all got to work together to stop the wild dogs. Forestry Corporation does a great job of baiting and trapping them in the forests and has helped us protect our lambing ewes from attack,” he said.

His llama will be used to help protect 200 or more lambing ewes.

“I have a neighbour who has alpacas and they seem to be doing a good job. We have had our lambing ewes in a paddock alongside his alpacas. I’m hopeful that our llama will do the job for us,” Mr Bergin said.

‘We have got to try every avenue - there is no use in throwing your arms in the air and giving up.”

Media contact: Sarah Chester on (02) 6036 2110 or 0417 207 669.

This story appears in Agriculture Today.