Monday, May 21, 2012

Shearing Weekend

This past weekend we sheared the rest of our alpacas.

Last weekend we got a small start to our shearing by completing: Maddie, Latte, Miss Kitty, Victoria, Jewel and half of Bay when our shears bit the dust.

This past weekend on Saturday we sheared:

Pregnant girls~ the other 1/2 of Bay, Tehya and Sancha.

Young girls ~ Rose, Twilight, Mysteria, Gigi, Cocoa (a boarder), Dutch, Lady Bing and Princess

Then on Sunday we sheared all the boys:

Young boys ~ Thunder, Shamballa, Challenger, Gabe, Vamil, and Chaska

Big boys ~ Bo, Harley, Tucker and Greyt

I didn't get any pictures this year of the process.  We were so busy doing it all ourselves there just wasn't time to do so.  I took tons of pictures last year, including all before and after pictures: Shearing 2011, Shearing the Boys 2011, Shearing the juvi's 2011, Shearing the dams 2011

I do have the pictures of our set up from last year, which was quite similar this year (although we did not use the tarp, that proved to not work well as it was too slippery on the alpaca's feet).
From our backyard pen, you walk into our shearing area (AKA garage) first going over the scale so that we can get before and after shearing weights:

Inside the garage we have ropes set up to help tie the alpacas down so that they do not get injured during shearing.
  Our routine is this:

+ halter the alpaca
+ walk them to the scale to get a before weight
+ walk them into the shearing area
+ attached ropes to their legs
+ one person pulls the rope (J did this) while others help the alpaca lay down (I was at the head end to help them slide to their side and our kids took turns being at the hip area to help the lower half of the alpaca tip and lay down)
+ J sheared all the alpacas
+ I stayed by the head (with a sock handy for any alpaca who chose to spit - can't really blame them as this is a stressful time for them)
+ our kids took turns between holding down the lower end of the alpaca by their hips and picking up the fiber as it is shorn off
+ after shearing J would clip the toe nails and trim any teeth that needed it
+ weigh the alpaca again to get an after weight
+ walk them back to their herd
+ back in the pen all the alpacas sniff each other, their new hair cuts make it hard for them to tell who is who

We do the before and after shearing weights so that we can see how much fiber they produced.  This can tell us something about the density of the animal, and how much product they are giving us.  Though you do have to be careful as a higher micron fiber will weigh more, so we also send out for histograms to give us their micron.  All this information is used in considering how to price an alpaca, and for us it is essential for making breeding decisions.

We decided that for our shearing process, it would be ideal to shear about 8 alpacas a day.  The days we did 11 and then 10 the next day was a bit over our comfort level. It's hard work, and safety is critical so there is some stress in the day.  Our kids are great helpers, but that's a long hard day of work to expect out of them. It's very hard on J's back (as he's shearing he bends over the alpacas) and Emma and I had sore knees (not to mention we all have very achy muscles and joints today).  It's not a job we'd take on the road to shear for other people, simply because it's hard on our bodies physically.  We'll stick to our day jobs :)  but it is nice to be able to shear our own alpacas and we plan to continue to do so.

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