Early one morning soon after we had moved to Stockton, I found a dead sheep. I won’t gross you out with details, but from the remains I could tell the sheep had been attacked by a dog or a
coyote. Two weeks later I found another dead sheep. I talked to a local coyote hunter who said our local pack traveled in a large area, but returned about every other week. Unless I
did something, he said I could expect to find a dead sheep every two weeks.
A 19th century farmer with the same problem would have killed any coyote, dog or wolf bothering his livestock using traps, poison, or a good old-fashioned musket.
Instead, I solved the problem with a llama. Moses, my first llama, was on guard from October 2003 until he died in the line of duty in January 2006. Today Simon is on duty, and has
been since October of 2006. Since I started using a llama over ten years ago not a single sheep has been killed by a predator on my farm.
A guard llama keeps a look-out, rounding the sheep up and running them into the barn when he senses danger. About the size of a small horse, the coyotes think the llama is the biggest sheep they’ve ever seen! My predator-friendly method leaves the coyotes unharmed and free to roam the rest of the property, but they know to stay away from Simon and the sheep.
Llamas are well-known as fiber producing animals in South America, and when I shear the sheep Simon gets sheared as well. However, llama fiber is a recent “discovery” among North Americans, and a llama would not have been part of a typical 18th, 19th or early 20th century Midwestern American farmer’s homestead. Simon's fiber is kept separate from the sheep wool and is not added to any of my yarns, since llama fiber would not be a historically correct part of an 18th, 19th or early 20th century woman’s knitting basket.
After ten years of faithful service, our old friend Simon passed away on March 30, 2016. On his last day with us he was unable to stand, but still lay out in the pasture with his head up and his ears erect, turning his head and scanning the horizon for any danger to his flock. He was a good boy.
It will take some time for the local coyotes to realize that my flock is unprotected, so the sheep will be fine for a while. However, my plans are to find a replacement llama as soon as possible. If you have or know of a llama available, please let me know. I can promise him a good life on a lovely farm, doing what llamas do best!
Lydia Maria Child
The American Frugal Housewife, 1832
Suzy the Shepherdess
Suzy Beggin Craft
P.O. Box 54
Stockton, IL 61085 U.S.A.
Phone: 815 541-0897