After all the shows are over in the spring of the year, the next big thing we do is get ready to shear the alpacas. Not only do they love to be free of their heavy winter coat, but we get to reap the harvest that we've been waiting all year for. 2009 was an exciting year for me because I was able to process all of the fiber that we sheared that year. In years past I wasn't so diligent about it and a lot of fiber sat around in bags just waiting to be turned into something fantastic.
Typically it takes us a few weekends to complete the shearing of the entire herd. Somehow, this year we were a bit more organized. Neal and I were able to shear the yearlings by ourselves on Thursday and Friday. Then for the adults, we recruited as many friends as possible to help on the weekend. We had a wonderful crew of helpers this year and were able to complete all 28 animals by Sunday afternoon.
Here are a few pictures of shearing day.
First step is to get the alpaca on the mat and put ties on all 4 of their legs. Once the ties are on, several people lift the alpaca and put it on it's side. The legs are then stretched out so that they don't fight with the shearer or jump up in the middle of the process. Once down, the shearing of the blanket begins. Everything on their sides and back is considered the prime fiber. Fiber from the neck, and upper legs is considered seconds and is usually not as high a quality as the prime blanket. Fiber from their lower legs, tail and head is usually considered thirds because of it's short length and coarser texture.
We even take care to give them a nice hairdoo on their top-knot. Sometimes, not often, we get one that is none too happy about the shearing event and shows their displeasure with the smelly spit that llamas and alpacas are known for. We have a simple solution for this. It may not be pretty, but it does keep everyone working on the animal clean and stink free.
Because I'm not what is considered a professional shearer, I do each animal in about 20 minutes. (The professionals take about 5). It's a back breaking weekend, but in the end, we have bags and bags of fiber to work with.
For everyone, it's a weekend, well spent!