Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Shearing Day 2013

Well, this year we had twelve of our own animals, six animals being boarded on our property, and another four coming over from a neighboring farm to be shorn.  Whew!  That's a lot of alpacas!  However, the term "many hands make light the work" was ever true this day.  We are so very, VERY blessed to have so many wonderful friends coming to assist us every year with shearing.  This year was no different.
We began the day by haltering and leading each animal over to the cleaning station.  We begin with a leaf blower.  By blowing on the alpaca's fleece, we are able to get a ton of the dust and debris out before shearing.  This is helpful for two reasons.  #1 It makes the blades on the shears last longer before dulling and having to be changed.  #2 It makes cleaning the fleece much easier after it comes off of the animal if most of the hay and dirt has already been removed.
Some of the alpacas LOVE this part.  It wasn't a really hot day, but the most of the alpacas liked the "air flow" on their back side.  There are always a few who think you are an alien preparing them for the mother ship.  :o)
 The next task at hand is to place each of the alpaca's four feet in ropes, stretch them out and lay them on the mat on the floor.  Our lovely Peggy, who was a vet tech in a former life, goes ahead and clips the toenails while the animals are on the floor.  Erica patiently awaits for the fleece bounty to come her way onto the sheet.  BTW, this was Erica and Chris' first year to help out with shearing and they were AWESOME!!!  Thanks, you two!!!

 Brian was our "head man", holding the alpaca down and keeping it calm while Tim shears.  This is one of the cria about to be shorn.

 The shearer starts with the belly fleece.  He gets this out of the way since this fiber is relatively coarse.  We want this out of the way before we begin collecting the prime fleece... the good stuff!

 Here's a better picture of the belly fleece coming off. The dark spots on this animal are all dirt.  She's a beautiful white under all of that!

 Next, the prime stuff!  The shearer begins on one side of the animal and quickly works his way up to the back.  As the fleece comes off of the animal, Erica is placing it on the sheet, maintaining it's original shape.  This just makes it easier later on to skirt the fleece (pull out the area just behind the neck and above the tail, if it's too dirty to mess with, as well as other coarse or inconsistent areas).

Then, the animal is slowly rolled over to the other side while the shearer continues to shear, until the entire blanket has been shorn.


The legs and butt area are shorn on the side facing up.  Then, the shearer proceeds to the neck.  The neck fibers are considered seconds (not prime) and can be just as soft as the blanket.  Usually, there is more guard hair in this area that needs to be removed.

  Here's another picture of the neck being shorn on the animal.

 We release the ropes for a short period of time to get the armpits and upper chest area shorn, too.

 A little off of the top, please!

 All done and ready to be walked back out to the pasture!
Every now and then, we find an animal that has teeth that need trimming.  I hate this part!  Tim uses a dremel tool to file down the teeth.  Yuk!   Ted holds the animals mouth open while Tim gets down to the business of trimming the teeth.

There's a joke in here somewhere...  "How many guys..." 

Mark has helped out a number of years shearing alpacas.  Every year he seems to get more and more attached to these animals.  He and Charlene have a mutual admiration thing going.  :o)

Kathleen came by to watch some of the shearing, too!  She really enjoyed petting the alpacas and seeing how soft they are.  This was her first trip out to our place and she was excited to meet all of the animals, especially our horse, Belle.  Sorry, I didn't get a picture of that one!  Thanks for coming by, Kathleen!  Another new friend of ours, Masayo and her husband, were able to make it by, too, for a little while.  Masayo, what did you think?

Finally, after all of the animals are shorn, bags of fleece are stored, and the pasture once again filled with happy critters, the workers take a chance to relax, have a beer or a glass of wine, and chill out under the shade of a tree.  We're missing Hailey, Maddie Bata, Erica and her husband, Chris in this picture.  Our farrier, Joe Spearman happened to be out trimming Belle's hooves, so he joined us for some relaxation, too.  Now that's what I call a productive day with some really great friends!  Thanks everyone, for making this another successful year of shearing!

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