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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Shearing Day-Part 1

It is the time of year that alpaca farmers love and dread-shearing season.  We love it because that means we get a fresh new crop of alpaca fiber to play with.  We loath it because it is hard and stressful work.  The alpacas are not fans of the process.  The often cry out and spit.  The first year I helped with shearing, I cried as I watched our youngest girl get tied down.  However, it is more humane than letting them go through the summer with too much fleece.  And we are there to give the alpacas plenty of love and support.

This is the second year that I have been part of the ground crew.  This means I have an active role with the shearing team.  First, a team of folks walk the alpaca into the shearing area, place ropes on their legs, and pull the ropes tight to take them to the ground.  It seems harsh, but it is really for the alpaca's safety

Next, the ropes are pulled tightly so that the animal can't move during the process.

Now, it is time for the shearers to start shearing the blanket.

 I sweep the fleece after the final pass of the blanket.

I then wait until the neck pass occurs.  The roper releases the tension on the ropes, and the shearer and I each take one of the alpaca's legs to shear the chest and neck area.

After that, the ropes are pulled tight and I made sure that the alpaca's legs weren't tangled.  I then moved to the back hip to provide counter presser while the shearers finished the neck and the topknot.  At some point in this elaborate dance, teeth are ground and toe nails are cut if needed.  Then, we flip the animal over and move it toward us to finish off the legs.  I move to the head to make sure the halter and lead is put back on the animal and to help move the animal forward and backwards for the shearer.  When the shearer is complete with the animal, he moves on to the the second station while the rope team and I would take off the ropes and let the animal be on their way. 

Here is the end product.  A freshly sheared alpaca!

It is very physical work and I am paying for it today.  We still have three other animals to shear at the other farm we are boarding next Friday.  However, this shearer said they bring their own team and do not need help.  It should be interesting to see the difference in the two teams.  More pictures to come.