Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cria Shearing

I recently learned there is a difference between cria shearing and cria tipping. I did not know there was a difference. I've been using both terms interchangeably. I thought they both meant to shear a cria. I thought it was called tipping on a cria because they don't have a years worth of growth, only a tip. Turns out, cria shearing does mean to shear them down, like you shear all the alpacas in the spring (like I had thought they both meant). Cria tipping means to go over the very top of the cria fleece and only get the very tip of the tui tips (tui tips are the fleece the cria is born with). I may have used the wrong terminology in the past, but I know we have always had our cria shorn all the way down, cria shearing (not tipping).

I'm not sure why one would cria tip. If you only get the very tips, there is still the rest of the tui tips in there. As a spinner, I don't want any tui tips on my years worth of spring shearing because it's hard to spin (it holds onto debris more, and isn't the same consistency of the fleece that grows later). And the tui tips sometimes makes it hard for the fiber to organize itself (this affects bundles and crimp). These are the reasons we cria shear, to get rid of the entire tui tips. Another thing about cria tipping, is it's against the show book rules. The reason for this is because if you say you had your cria shorn on July 13th, but you only got the tips not to the skin, your cria would have longer staple length than is real for that shearing date. Say the alpaca next to yours in the show ring also had a shearing date of July 13, but they did a cria shearing (not tipping, but all the way down) that cria is going to have shorter staple length and the judge might rate yours better for the longer length. For the show ring, you either need to not shear them at all, or do a real full shearing.

Alpaca farms handle cria shearing very differently. Some farms shear in the spring and that is it. If the cria was already born, they get shorn. If they are born after shearing, they don't. Some of this might be due to finding a shearer. If the farm has a shearer come in the spring, but they come from a long distance, it might not be practical to get the cria shorn later on in the summer. I've heard of farmers who are completely against shearing cria at all, they feel the cria should be judged with all their tui tips on. We see juvi's at spring shows who have never been shorn (though I would say there are less who have never been shorn than have been). Other farms cria tip. I don't understand the whys of this, as I've stated above, it doesn't make sense to me to do this. If you want more information on this, I'd suggest finding a farm that does this and ask them why. Most farms I know do participate in showing their animals, so they would not cria tip since it is against the rules. I know there must be farms out there that do cria tip, and they would be best able to advocate why. Then there are farms that cria shear. We cria shear for several reasons.

Reasons we cria shear:

1) to help the cria not get too hot. Their fleece is warm, and as it grows longer, it's warmer. August is often our warmest month, so having less fiber on them by that point makes life more pleasant to them. By late September into October when our temps start getting cooler, the cria is older, and is better able to regulate their temperature, and has started fiber regrowth. We have not had problems with them being cold when the cold weather hits (we have cria coats if necessary). I'm not sure what we would do if we had a cria born in late August or in Sept/Oct. Our latest cria due this year is the end of July, so we haven't had to face a later summer/early fall birth yet.

2) to give me wonderful fiber in the spring! Those tui tips, the fleece they were born with that was exposed to amniotic fluid, is sometimes a lighter color than what grows in later, is a different texture (while often softer, is can be wispy and frizzy), often has a different structure (doesn't have the bundling or crimp that the later growth does), and holds in debris like nothing else. It doesn't mix into yarn like the new growth. I much prefer to have their shearing in the spring to be free of those tui tips. Then I have all wonderful fiber to spin. (I don't keep their 6 week old cria shearing, since it's only a few weeks of growth, it is short in staple length, and all those reasons listed above, make it less fun to spin, and doesn't make the best yarn).

3) to help their fiber grow out to their full potential. Last year we had our cria shorn when they were a couple weeks old (I think most of them were shorn around 3 weeks old). When we were at shows this spring, we found that we had them shorn too soon. While they were shorn all the way down, it wasn't enough to get the entire tui tips. As their fiber grew out, they still had some tipping. This affected the fibers organization (for crimp and bundling). When talking with other farmers, we were told to wait at least 6 weeks before cria shearing. That way you will get all the tui tips, and the fiber has the best chance to regrow with good organization. This year we are making sure to wait at least 6 weeks. I'll let you know if we notice any difference ;)

On Friday, we had Copper shorn down. I haven't had a chance to post about this, with Chaz being born on Saturday, his story took priority.

Here Copper is before shearing:

Here he is after shearing:

This is what his cria tui tips looked like:

I love his zig zag crimp! And the color, such a rich brown. I took a picture of it near the color chart.

It looks to me like "light brown" though it might be a bit darker, not quite medium brown. Usually at a show color check, if they think it is between colors, the animal will show in the darker color. It will be interesting to see which color he ends up showing in.

In the mean time, we are excited to see how his fiber grows back in!

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