The guard llama protects the herd at the Arkansas Agricultural Research Station in Fayetteville

Llamas are used as guardians due to their longevity, diet, and deterrence.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. “The Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fayetteville has a new tutor, and it’s not what you think.

Standing six feet tall at age 4, a llama named Madder “Maddie” Akka can’t take any drama.

Maddie has been vigilantly protecting a flock of around 70 sheep since April.

The sheep are used at the Research and Extension Center (SAREC), and Maddie helps deter predators like coyotes and stray dogs.

“They have a natural instinct to protect the animals they bond with,” Dirk Philipp, associate professor of animal science for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, said in a press release.

Maddie was brought in for protection after several sheep were killed at SAREC. Program technician Sarah Shelby suggested bringing in a Guardian Llama to fix the problem.

After a long search, they bought Maddie from a family in Missouri. It is said that she was chosen for her height, age and personality.

Maddie was born in a small petting zoo in Missouri and lived there for two years. When the zoo changed ownership, many farm animals were dispersed, including the llamas.

Currently, Maddie weighs around 240 pounds, but she is expected to grow taller as she gets older.

Shelby says llamas are great guardians for farm animals because of their longevity. A healthy llama can live up to 25 years and eats the same as sheep. Raised as beasts of burden, llamas can also carry around 25% of their body weight if necessary.

When Maddie sees a threat, she begins to sit and stare before becoming physical. Shelby says she can drive the herd away, spit, give a shrill, piercing alarm call, then charge, chase, or smack the menace. With sharp hooves and teeth, guardian llamas can seriously injure or kill a coyote, but they can usually deter the threat first through intimidation.

Maddie isn’t just used as a babysitter. She also helps with other work and childcare.

“She is excellent at leading sheep to the next paddock for grazing when walked around by her keepers,” Shelby said. “He can also be heard softly humming the sheep and lambs as we work with them, checking on them to see if they are okay.”

Shelby says only one sheep has been lost to a predator since April, but that was when Maddie first arrived and was not yet linked to the search herd.

Click here for more information on the research program.

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Lana T. Arthur