We shear the alpacas once a year. Since we do a large number (77
this year), it works best for us to have a professional shearer come in
and to do it all in one day. Our shearer is Mark Loffhagen who lives in
Colorado. Mark and his team travel around the USA and shear over 7,000
alpacas a year. Each year he brings a “head man”. This year it was
Jason from Wisconsin. The head man is Mark’s right hand man and moves
the alpaca into the different positions as Mark shears. Jason also
trimmed teeth and worked some ropes.
I thought I’d walk you through what happens here at Fairhope Alpacas
on shearing day. We start with white animals, then light fawn (pictured
above), darker fawns, browns, greys, and blacks are last. This keeps
the fleeces from getting contaminated by darker colored fibers.
This year we used a blower to blow all the excess dust off the
fleece before we brought the alpacas inside for shearing. We did NOT
blow the fleeces that we intend to show as that would disturb the
natural architecture of the fleece. However, I want to utilize the rest
of my fleeces for my fiber biz this year so I decided to try getting the dust out before we sheared. (We will also process last year’s show fleeces this year.) To begin, the animals are walked in, by color (above).
Our shearer uses ropes to stretch out each alpaca. This restraint
keeps the animal still, which helps to prevent them from getting cut
during the shearing process. When we started shearing over 50, we began
to use two stations. Notice in the background there is another station
where another alpaca will be shorn. After the shearer is finished with
one alpaca, he can quickly move to the next station to shear another
one without having to wait for us to move that one, clean up, and bring
him another one. This makes the process run more smoothly and enables
us to shear up to 100 alpacas in a day. Though today we only had 77 to
The ropes are put above their feet, and the rope man pulls them to the
proper amount of tightness so that the animal is comfortable, yet
cannot flop around and injure itself. Above is Mac, working the ropes.
(Mac is the greatest - be sure to stop by his blog)
Steve snuggles up with Rose Point as she awaits her turn.
Above, Andy trims toenails.
While the alpacas are restrained we take care of other herd health
measure such as administering any shots that need to be given and we
trim the teeth and toenails on those alpacas that need it.
bags we will be putting the fleeces into are labeled prior to shearing
day. We owe a huge thank-you to Jodi for doing this! Clear plastic
bags are preferable, often we purchase shredder bags from an office
supply store. Each alpaca has a bag for it’s prime or blanket fleece.
This is their best grade of fleece and is what is used for next-to-skin
products. Then we have a bag for their seconds, usually neck fiber. It
is usually a bit shorter and can be a bit more coarse than the blanket.
Last is the thirds which is the belly, lower legs, and the rest of the
fibers. This fiber is usually the most coarse and can be used in rugs
and other products that don’t have to be very soft.
Each alpaca also has its own ziploc bag
where we put a 2" x 2" sample that comes from the mid-side of the blanket
fleece. We send this sample to Yocom McColl
for testing. The test results will tell us how fine the fiber is, how
uniform it is, and how much variation there is in the sample. In the
picture above, don’t miss the weeds flowers the kids brought me during shearing. They’re sweeties.
Pink Cyclone is being shorn. The lovely ladies in the picture are the
fiber crew (left to right: Jodi, Carmie, and Sarah of Sierra Echo Accoyo Alpacas.) They help pick up the fiber as it comes off the animal and put it into bags. Merci Beaucoup!
the bags were handed to Mary for weighing. Mary is a wonderful spinner
who is always helpful to us on the farm! During many of our Farm Events,
she and Mac can be found conducting spinning demonstrations and even
giving spinning lessons. The white bundles on the table (pictured
above) are our show fleeces.
Posted by Katy
@ 01:42 PM CDT