Shearing Day!

May 11, 2016

Shearing day was a lot of fun.  We got to help with the shearing process for about 60 alpacas during the first day and Jacquie helped with around another 70 the second day!

Alpacas are usually sheared once a year (suri's can be up to every 2 years as their fleece doesn't bulk out as much).  Marie was looking like she needed it as she could barely see through all the fuzz!

alpaca shearing - before

Marie on the left before shearing

It is a fairly organised process - the shearing of an animal takes around 6 minutes and there are a number of things that need to be done during that time with the fleece of the animal before - its like a mini production line:

  • Put the fleece on the sorting table and lay it flat
  • Skirt the fleece (remove any clumps of guard/coarse/non-uniform patches from the fleece)
  • Remove any loose cuts from the fleece, so just uniform length remains
  • Bag the fleece (potato sacks are good, and left open to allow fleece to dry.  If needed the sacks inner layers can be 'peeled' apart to allow you to store separate parts of the fleece in the same bag without mixing them.  
  • Weigh the fleece
  • Check off the animal against their tag (for your records) and record the fleece characteristics
    • Colour, grade (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th) based on fleece quality, weight
    • Write the alpacas name, tag ID, year and weight on the bag for later
    • Put any scrap fleece into the scrap bin to be used as stuffing

Alpaca Shearing - skirting the fleece

Skirting the fleece on the sorting table

The alpacas are helped onto the table and both front legs and back legs tied to prevent them kicking and hurting themselves.  Their heads are supported by a helper and shearing performed by 2 shearers.  

Alpaca shearing - during

Marie on the shearing table

After shearing they jump off the table and run around again outside - they look very skinny after!

Alpaca shearing - after

Marie on the right, after shearing

Looks like she is missing a coat - its all in the bag!  She lost about 1.5kg of weight that day!!

Alpaca shearing - packed fleece

Massive thanks to Rob and Shirley at Toft Alpacas who let us help out for the day and shared so much knowledge.  If you are interested in learning more about alpacas they run some fantastic courses and are lovely people: http://www.toft-alpacas.co.uk