It’s springtime! And with fibered animals that means it’s shearing season.
Professional shearers do extensive traveling this time of year. They’re ‘on the road’ for a few months, driving from farm to farm setting up their mats, blades, and equipment, shearing the animals, cleaning up and re-packing their equipment, and off they go to the next farm. Usually they’ll shear at more than one farm per day, and usually late into the night. This is hard, grueling, dirty work, certainly not for anyone who is lacking in energy or cannot function on a few hours’ sleep. There is no time for inefficiency. The animals must be shorn before the hot weather sets in for their health and safety. We farmers all stress over setting up for shearing day, the weather conditions prior to and on the day of shearing, getting enough helpers, and having enough supplies and snacks on hand. In reality though, our job is absolutely nothing compared to what the shearers’ job is.
Let’s hear it for our shearers!! Whhoooo - hoooooooo!!! Thank you all so much.
Our boys were sheared Tuesday. All went well as it normally does at least as far as we humans are concerned. Of course the alpacas don’t like shearing day and are stressing more than we are. For several days before shearing I close them into the barn at night and let them out late morning. Otherwise they’ll roll in the early morning dew, get wet and grind in wet dirt into their fleeces. Cannot have wet fleeces for shearing day! Then on the morning of shearing Dan and I corral them into the 2 corner stalls. That’s when the incessant fussing begins, their eyes widen and don’t blink, and their ears are folded back in obvious concern, wondering what the heck is going on. When Jay arrives you can see their concern instantly change to that fearful look of ‘oh no!’ I try to shear them by color which went right as planned this year! Thankfully I only have one real spitter, Bo, and since he is white, he also goes last. As each one is sheared we let them out of the barn and yup ~ they run right out to the pasture!! They’ll run off to meet up with their buddies and spend the next few hours sniffing each other all over, trying to figure out who each other is. It’s pretty funny to watch. Besides, they all look like aliens when they’re first sheared! Their wide alpaca eyes really stand out on their little shorn faces.
That night I was concerned that they would be cold having no fleece and with the temperature dropping down to freezing. We had returned well after dark from helping out at Val’s and I went right to the barn. Bo and Desi were cushed in the barn and Julio and Cowboy were cushed in the paddock, all chewing their cud contentedly. I walked to the corner of the barn and squinted into the dark pasture, trying to see the others and do my usual headcount. It’s actually harder to see brown alpacas in the dark than black ones. That’s when I realized the other 8 were running around, chasing each other in the dark, playing. I sing-songed a ‘hello boys’ greeting and they paused momentarily to watch me. Then Bo, Desi, Cowboy, and Julio, one by one, got up and sauntered out to the pasture to join their herdmates. They all started to run together in a large circle, in an oval, in a line, and back to a circle. Their path widened effortlessly. They ran non-stop for quite a while. There was no sound in the clear night sky except for the quiet thump-thump of the alpacas running. I leaned against the barn watching them, listening to the rhythmic sounds of their little padded feet tapping the ground as they ran by me. I swear 48 feet were all hitting the ground at the exact same time. And 48 feet were all in the air at the exact same time. They weren’t just running and playing. They were pronking. That’s what happy alpacas do; they pronk. Pronking alpacas make me smile.