Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Shearing

We did our shearing with Ashton Stone Alpacas, and since they have a nice big barn, we took all our animals over to their farm. Because the plan was to start shearing at 8 a.m. on Saturday, we started taking over our animals already Friday evening. It takes us about an hour to load up a trailer full of animals (by the time you halter them and get then in the trailer, it's a time consuming activity). We started with a trailer load of young ladies, weanling boys and a couple bigger boys. Then we took over a trailer load of the really big boys. We did not take over our 2 girls going to the National Show this coming weekend. They will show in full fleece. At the show, there are shearers who will shear those animals. Then on Saturday morning, we took over our pregnant girls. We wanted to limit stress to our pregnant girls as much as possible.

Here are the animals, still in full fleece, in pens at Ashton Stone Alpacas:

The shearer has straps that they wrap around the animals legs. Then they pull the rope and stretch the animal out straight. When shearing, they roll the animal to get both sides, and they loosen the strap at one point to get the chest and inside of the legs.

It works best if everyone has an assigned chore. I learned the hard way that stepping in on a task you don't really know what to do can mess things up (I didn't know I wasn't supposed to let go of the alpaca yet, thankfully no damage done, but it did throw everyone for a loop). It is really important to do your job and do it well. My job was to halter our animals and weigh them (we wanted to get before and after shearing weights so we know how much fiber they produced). Emma helped me with this. I also did some collection of fiber. Other jobs are cutting toe nails, holding the alpacas head (this was often J's job), pulling the rope to drop the alpaca, sweeping up fiber, doing shots, cutting teeth etc.

Some alpacas do get upset when shearing them. For those that spit, we put a sock over their mouth. That way the spit isn't getting all over everyone (it has a very strong smell of stomach acid), and for many, they stop spitting because they don't like it in a sock on their own face. Some alpacas scream the entire time. There isn't much we can do about that. We try to comfort them, but the main thing is to get the shearing done.

With fiber, there is a blanket (the wonderful fiber I can't wait to spin), seconds (neck fiber), which on the little ones is quite soft and usable, and the 3rds that are like the leg fiber. I didn't want the 3rds, and some of the seconds I didn't take either (on the older ones). Now I have multiple bags full of fiber ready for skirting and washing and spinning. After having almost no blankets left in the basement, I now have lots to work with! I will be getting raw fiber on my ETSY shop soon. I'm sure I'll post about my skirting etc. when I get to doing that (no time in the next couples week at least). But I will be sure to show what I do with the fiber. After all, the fiber is the product of our farm.

Here are the animals in their pens after the shearing:

And with some girls who are due with babies soon, you never know if shearing can put them into labor. They say if it does do that, they were ready to deliver anyway, so it's not a bad thing to have happen. We watched Sancha closely, because that baby was doing some dancing in there:

No babies born, and actually, after checking Sancha when we haltered her to leave, J thinks it will be a week or two yet. I was already predicting it will be after we get back from Nationals. It's really hard to say with Maddie, being a maiden, but it did not look like she was ready yet. She's not bagged up with milk (which Sancha is staring to do). Based on looks, Sancha will deliver sooner. But, you never know, sometimes labor starts sudden and goes fast, with no impending signs. Only time will tell.

I am going to post before and after shearing pictures of each animal, but it will take me a bit to edit all the pictures, and post these (we only have dial-up here at our house so these posts really do take awhile to do, the down side to living back in the woods, technology isn't as available). I hope by tonight to have up a post with the big boys before and after shots. Then tomorrow I'll do the little boys and little girls, and by Tuesday I hope to have up the pregnant ladies. We leave for Nationals on Thursday morning, so lots to do this week!

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