items - View Cart
Golden Pine Alpacas - Logo
Pinterest
YouTube
Facebook

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Alpaca Shearing Part 2: Please Don’t Rain –We’re Shearing Today!

Midgey Lou & Lori Lou wait for their turns

Midgey Lou & Lori Lou wait for their turns

By Barbara Patterson

Our shearer Kim shows up the evening before shearing and we put her up for two nights. This year 26 alpacas are to be sheared. Each takes about 30 minutes so the plan is to shear 16 the first day and 10 the second.

The alpacas have been cooped up in the barns with fans running for four long days and nights prior to shearing - which they don’t appreciate at all. But it’s due to the rainy weather. Wet weather and wet alpaca fiber is never a good combination. There is definitely a lot of humming going on!
Threatening clouds, light rain, and high humidity greet us on shearing day. We shear outdoors beneath a large canopy in front of the barn - so everything should be fine. “Except,” Kim cautions us as she raises her electric shears, “the first clap of thunder brings an immediate halt to the proceedings!”

Four assistants are needed for our shearing days. We’ve hired Kirk and Becky to help us. Alpaca shearing is new to them. Kim takes time before we begin to instruct our new helpers. “The safety of the alpaca is the most important thing and we need to be constantly aware of that,” she says. “That means total concentration on the job because we don’t want the alpaca or any of us to get hurt,”

My husband Pat’s job is to halter and lead the alpaca from the barn and to give shots and clip toenails as needed while the alpaca is restrained. My job is to pick up and bag the fiber as it comes off and to clean the area after each alpaca is sheared. Kirk’s main responsibility is to hold the alpaca’s head and neck in position while lowering it to the mat and during shearing. Becky assists in lowering the alpaca to the mat and maintaining pressure on its hip when needed. She also helps in picking up fiber and cleaning up after the alpaca is sheared.
Usually, Pat brings up our three gelded males, Donovan, Dakota, and Dominic, to begin the shearing. They are in a smaller barn, a good distance from the large barn area where the shearing takes place. The boys have been through this shearing routine many times and know the ropes, so to speak. They are good, easy candidates for teaching our two new assistants. But it is raining lightly this morning and we need to wait until later. Don’t want alpacas with soggy fleece! So they will remain in their barn until tomorrow.

The first three alpacas we shear are girls who are also old hands at this shearing business and will cooperate nicely.

The first alpaca, Angelina, is led to the shearing mat. Kirk holds her head while Pat removes the halter and stands directly in front of Angelina to prevent her moving forward. Becky is at her hips, holding fleece to help keep her from cushing. Now Kim places the rear feet into loop restraints, while the alpaca is held upright. Pat now moves away. Kim next lifts the front feet into the restraints as Kirk keeps Angelina standing. Restrains now in place, Kim pulls the ropes out ahead of the alpaca. Kirk and Becky ease the alpaca to the mat then roll her onto her left side. Kirk takes care to position her head and neck correctly. Angelina is now stretched out fully, ready to be sheared. As head holder, Kirk has a very important job. He’s got to hold the alpaca’s head and neck perpendicular to her body to prevent any forward movement during shearing.

The first three are sheared and led back into the barn where they are treated as total strangers by the other alpacas. “Who are you!” their comrades seem to be saying as they sniff and circle the shorn alpacas. They are not recognizable at first. Usually, we let the newly sheared alpacas into the pasture instead of taking them back into the barn. But today it is very cool and still showering. We think they will be warmer in the barn.

Pat brings Danielle out of the barn. She is the first of three pregnant girls. Tania and Miss Bea will follow. They will get their shearing out of the way and not have to stand anxiously in the barn awaiting their turn. All three do well.

Now comes a screamer and spitter! There are always a few of these. This girl wants nothing to do with this shearing business. Bring on the towels because Bianca is spitting greenies! Anyone have earplugs? Hope the neighbors don’t call the sheriff. Probably won’t because neighbors are already here observing the spectacle.

Kim talks quietly to the alpacas as she shears. “You’ll be fine! Everything will be okay. No one’s gonna hurt you.” If they are quiet and well-behaved, she will sometimes give them a kiss on the cheek. Bianca didn’t get a kiss this time around.

We get some relief with the next two girls, Midgey Lou and her daughter Lori Lou. No screaming or spitting. Just blessed quiet. All of Midgey Lou’s cria have been the same way – maybe it’s in the genes!

A welcome break comes for lunch and the crew heads to the house for pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, and a yummy pumpkin cake brought by our longtime farm helper Jyl.

Eight more alpacas to go this afternoon before we’re done for the first day. Brandy’s first. She does not want to come out of the barn and cushes on the floor. Just like last year. Out comes the big old bath towel. Kim and Kurt get the towel beneath her belly, lift her, and carry her out to the shearing pad. Once stretched out, she remains very quiet during the shearing and actually seems quite relaxed. She gets a kiss.

And so it goes until the shearing is completed early the next afternoon. Everyone is tired because this is work! But it’s a good tired that comes with a feeling of accomplishment. The alpacas have forgotten all about it and are happily romping around the pastures, rolling in the dirt, and glad to be rid of a year’s heavy fleece.

One of the most delightful things about shearing is seeing the cut side of the prime fleece as it comes off the alpaca. It is clean (compared to the dirty outer fleece), it shines, and it is so very soft! This is the fleece that will eventually become the rovings and yarn which will be spun and knitted into scarves, hats, handwarmers, baby clothes and many other beautiful garments people love to wear.



Shearing Silverado

Shearing Silverado

Silverado sheared

Silverado sheared

Shearing Tyler

Shearing Tyler

Tyler Sheared

Tyler Sheared