Winter 2016

Guardian Angels

Paige Matthews, Dr Wendy Brown, Dr Amanda Doughty, and David Mitchell explore alpaca guardian behaviour.

Alpacas were first imported into Australia by the entrepreneurial Charles Ledger in 1858, and after a shaky start, Australia now has one of the largest registered alpaca breeding herds in the world. Australia’s alpaca population presently stands at about 300,000 animals, and based on current trends, Australia could have 600,000 alpacas by 2020. This number is dwarfed however by Australia’s 70 million sheep.

Whilst alpacas in Australia are primarily raised for their fleece, the use of alpacas as guardian animals is becoming more popular, as sheep farmers battle to protect their flocks from marauding dogs and cunning foxes. With annual damages from wild dogs and foxes estimated at AUD $66 million and $227.5 million respectively, it is no wonder that sheep producers are looking for additional measures to help protect their flocks from these wily predators.

Speaking to sheep farmers, we find that they are divided on whether or not alpacas are effective as livestock guardians. Some sheep producers report decreased lamb losses after introducing guardian alpacas to their flocks, but hard evidence is lacking. There has been almost no research conducted in this area, so we don’t really know how effective alpacas are at protecting livestock.

This article can be found on Page 34 of our Winter 2016 edition, on sale now! Click here for subscription and purchasing information.

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