Thursday, June 12, 2008


After booking the date in January, planning and prepping for days, our herd of 20 went from heavy winter coats to summer skivvies in just over three hours. It had rained lightly the night before, so first thing that morning, Mike and I haltered the boys and towel-blotted them as dry as we could. The girls had mostly slept inside the barn, so were much dryer.

Since we are still so new to handling our own animals, we invited a few other alpaca owners to come and help us. Our shearer, Allan Godsiff, shears while the alpaca is standing, rather than anchored down with restraints, so we knew it would take confident holding.

For a few of the younger ones, this was their first shearing. Some of the more experienced dams put up with the indignity with a smattering of reserve, while others let us know their displeasure by screeching, spitting and/or peeing. For the spitting, we had a sock ready to loosely put over the culprit's mouth, and rags to mop up when needed.

The two 'most pregnant' dams were given Rescue Remedy to help soothe their stress. Sheba is due 'any day now'... and shearing did not bring on labor. Nutmeg is due mid-July, and thankfully she has held her pregnancy fine. Some dams have been known to stress-abort a few days after shearing, so that is always a concern for late-term pregnancies. But overheating is also stressful, so we take off minimal fleece as a compromise, just to cool them. After giving birth, we will trim their legs.

Even 10-day-old Ladyhawke had all of her fuzzy blanket sheared. The ultra-fine baby fleece, called 'tui' fleece, is just like velcro for pasture debris, so getting it off makes for a much cleaner alpaca for a year.

Our shepherdess-neighbor Elissa was in charge of collecting the fleece as it came off. We sheared inside the barn, and the only place large enough to lay out the damp fleeces was upstairs. So she and her helpers collected it in batches of 'blanket' and 'seconds' (marked with the alpaca's name on colored-coded paper) and laid it out on big sheets of plastic to dry in the open air.

Thankfully the new barn cats have not yet been transitioned to the barn, so the upstairs world of fleece has remained undiscovered by them. Our indoor cat loves her alpaca-fleeced box, so I'm sure Charlie and Pangur would reek havoc if they knew it was there.

Nights are still cool (40s), so we put a cria coat on Ladyhawke. We had borrowed one when she was newborn, but a friend suggested going to the thrift store and getting some toddler jackets. Even though I have flannel and nylon fabric to make simple cria coats, the time to do so doesn't yet exist. So I got 4 jackets, cut the sleeves short on the smallest one and put it on a squirming Ladyhawke, buttoning along her back. Immediately, all of the aunties had to come over to sniff it and check out her new jammies.

Boyz in full fleece: Dakota, Dargan, Sorrento, and Sundancer

Boyz shorn: Dakota, Dargan, Sulaymon, and Sundancer

Now looking more like a herd of deer than alpacas!

1 comment:

Tami said...

We had our shearing day last weekend also. So glad for it to be over. It is so amazing how they look after being shorn.

Have a great weekend.