Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guardian of the flock

Alpacas are part of the story of predator control for sheep flocks. We’ve had an alpaca for about six years and I have to admit that basically, I have Kaylie because she’s so cute. She runs like a muppet, has a top knot, and very hairy legs. I love the way she looks and moves. I also love her soft, soft fleece.

But her real value to the flock is as a guard animal. This weekend, Loki, a visiting mastif, raced toward the barnyard gate. Suddenly, in a flurry of movement, the sheep dashed around to the back of the barn and Kaylie stood alone, between the barn and the gate – head up, alert, ready to take on any threat. I don’t know what she’d do if a predator actually breached the fence and got into the barnyard. Alpacas are known to bite and can have a deadly kick.

It was the gate that stopped Loki; not an alpaca that weighed less than he did. But her height, her black fur, and her upright ears have intimidated dogs in the past. Once, Buddy, a visiting dog whose owner wondered if he could herd sheep, came into the barnyard on a leash. Kaylie screamed, the sheep disappeared behind the barn, and Buddy his behind his owner at the far end of his leash. – as far from Kaylie as possible.

Our first line of defense against predators is always a good, tight stock fence with two strands of barbed wire on the top and a strand on the outside at the bottom. But Kaylie is our extra insurance. With her in the pasture, I sleep well even when the coyotes howl.

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