Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shearing Day 2009

Shearing Day was a success this year. We sheared 22 alpacas in 5 1/2 hours. We had 7 of our own alpacas present, 4 boarding alpacas, and 11 from Oak Haven Alpacas. We decided to share a shearer this year to make sure we both got a good shearing date and to reduce costs. Oak Haven brought their alpacas over the night before and we locked all 22 alpacas in the barn for the night because there was a threat of rain and the alpacas need to be dry when being sheared (although it did not actually rain). The night before, our barn sounded like a cow barn with all the loud humming which can resemble cows mooing at a distance. Pictured below are some of the alpacas waiting to be shorn that morning. We sheared in the large barn pictured to the left.

Our shearer is amazing. Very quick and efficient which reduces stress on the animals. He has shorn for us the last 3 years and when we were first getting into alpacas, we helped him shear at 4 other farms for experience. He arrived at 8:00am last Saturday and did not take a break until everyone was shorn by 1:30pm. We make sure to have all the shearing supplies ready the night before to help things run more smoothly.
Picture above is some of our supplies for shearing. We make sure to have large clear plastic bags, large leaf bags, small sandwich bags, markers, fiber bins (round fold up hampers), brooms and dustpans, shots drawn and ready, toe nail trimmers, dremmel, bloodstop powder, halters, knee pads, lots of towels (for holding the mouth open when trimming teeth and for alpacas that pee when they are being shorn), and old socks. Some of the alpacas scream and/or spit when they are being shorn. If they are a spitter, we place an old sock over their muzzle to prevent us being covered in dark green, oozing, smelly spit. All alpacas don't need the sock and it does not harm them in any way. Our Snowflake got the award for loudest,'spitiest' alpaca this year. She screamed like she was being murdered and brought up so much dark green smelly spit, she filled an entire sock. Pictured below is the filled sock. Very disgusting and was later trashed.

During shearing, we started with the two overdue females in case the stress of shearing induced labor (which for us did not work unfortunately...they both had their crias 3 days later). For shearing, we strap the alpacas legs and stretch them out on the floor. The shearer shears one side and then flips them and does the other (we are very careful when doing this with very pregnant females so we prevent uterine torsion). Other people help with flipping, holding the head and legs, pulling and breaking the ropes that the alpacas are strapped to, and collecting fiber. We collect the blanket first, which is the prime fiber and place it in its own bag with the name and date for each alpaca. We also take a small fiber sample to send away to have tested for each alpaca. Then we collect the "seconds" which are the rump, hips, and neck fiber and place them in a bag together. Then we collect the "thirds" which are leg, belly and face fiber which get trashed because it is often short and full of sand and debris. We also took one "show blanket" this year from our herdsire Smokey. For this, we spread out a sheet and the shearer shears the blanket in one complete chunk onto the sheet. Then we folded the sheet over the blanket and roll the blanket up in the sheet so it stays in tact. We later unrolled the sheet and are letting the blanket dry before we skirt it for a show. Also, when the alpacas are strapped to the floor, we give them any shots they are due for, trim their toe nails, and trim their teeth with a dremmel or OB wire if they need it.
Pictured above, Cinderella is getting a new hair-do and a pedicure at the same time.

Pictured above is Snowflake filling up the sock with spit. Pictured below is Jolly Roger getting a little taken off the top.

We also had some visitors on shearing day including a family who is currently putting up their structures and pastures and just getting started in the industry. I believe getting hands on is always a great way to learn and they were a big help! Shearing was a great success this year and we look forward to next year. Pictured below are all the alpacas with their new stylish do's. I think they were anxious to get out on the lush green pasture and in the sunshine with their new haircuts.

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