Every neighborhood has its own distinct sounds. As a farmer, I have become very in tune with the noises outside, and I rely upon them to inform me of danger. I can tell by a hen’s clucking if the resident fox is near by, and I can tell when the fox is in the woods behind the house, just by his call. I have learned the difference between the baaing from the sheep that means, “I’m hungry, there is no more good grass to eat,” and the baaing that means, “Help, there is a dog in the pasture!” I know when our dog’s barking means a stray dog is going up the road, and when her bark is in play.
A few days ago, as I ate breakfast at the dining room table, I kept hearing a sound outside that I could not place. I knew I had heard the sound before, but I could not figure out what it was. I had just returned from a short vacation to my in-laws home in Pennsylvania, where they live in a lake community. I had been surrounded by the sounds of motor boats, lawn mowers, and cars for the past 6 days. The sound I heard outside was nothing like what I had been listening to the past week. I knew it was not the fox, nor was it one of our chickens. It took me a few minutes to identify the call which was coming from across the road.
The night before, we had moved the sheep and llamas to a new pasture across the road. We took them over just as it was getting dark. In the morning light, the llamas were surveying their new surroundings. The sound I heard was Alaska’s alarm call. She had discovered the four new piglets whose pen was in one corner of their new pasture. Alaska’s call let us all know that she was concerned about these animals so close to her sheep, and was a signal to the sheep to move away from them.
All of our bed and breakfast guests ask us what makes llamas guardian animals. Llamas, by nature, are very inquisitive animals. They must investigate anything new which approaches or invades their fence line. Often, their shear size and boldness scares away the advancing threat. They also have an alarm call, which is what Alaska was doing when she saw the pigs. Llamas also bond easily with a flock of sheep, rounding them up when they detect danger, or in Tere’s case, when they want to have some fun with the sheep.
One time, as a thunder storm came across the valley, the llamas, sensing danger, gathered all the sheep together against the side of the barn, and paced back and forth behind them so they could not move. The sheep also seem to feel safe with the llamas present. When the sheep feel they are in danger, they will run to the llamas and gather around them.
Though our four little piglets pose no real threat to the sheep, Alaska was just letting them know that she was watching them. It was a comforting sound, knowing that the llamas, once again, were doing their job as guardians of my flock of sheep.