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Avalanche shorn

This is an aid to you, the alpaca owner, on what to expect and have on hand when I come shear your animals. Shearing day is THE big day of the year for alpaca people, for it is the day you harvest what your alpacas have given to you. With some preparation it will go smoothly and efficiently; and not be too stressful for the alpacas (or the people).

1) Shearing Area- We will need a dry, semi-flat, shaded area of at least 12 feet square. That being said, I have sheared animals in the hot sun, on hillsides, and in the mud, so conditions don't always have to be ideal. What's really needed is an area where the animal can be stretched out on a tarp on the ground and the shearer and helpers have room to move about. This will help insure your fiber comes off and is bagged in as good a condition as possible.

2) Animal cleanliness- Your animals should be as clean as you can make them. This will increase the value of your shorn fleece. Commonly, alpacas are cleaned by using a high-speed blower, such as a Circuiteer II. A quick 5 min. blow of each animal will do wonders for your fleece. In my opinion a vacuum does not work as well as a blower, and is much slower. Also, to rid the fleece of the dirty tips of each lock a quick comb out with a slicker brush will do the trick. Show fleeces should not be cleaned or blown in any way, other than to carefully hand pick large pieces of debris. Please tell the shearer which fleeces are for showing as they are sheared differently.

3) Sorting Animals- Sort your animals for shearing from light to dark when possible. Do not mix males and females, i.e. light to dark females then light to dark males.

4) Helpers- Helpers are always welcome and needed. A minimum number of helpers, for shearing 1-5 animals only, would be two. More animals mean more helpers needed. For 10-20 animals four to five helpers would be excellent. If you have a large herd (35+) you might consider setting up two shearing stations adjacent to each other, each station with it's own crew. The shearer can work constantly, alternating stations, so there is one animal on the ground being sheared at all times. If this is not practical, one station will suffice; it will just take a bit longer to complete the herd.

5) Things You Will Need-

a) A heavy duty tarp to lay your alpacas down. Minimum size 10x12.

b) Large plastic garbage bags to hold the shorn fleece- clear bags are best (available at Costco). You will need three bags for each animal. Blanket fiber in one bag, neck and upper leg in another, then a third bag for the trimmings, ends and contaminated fiber, This third bag can be used for several alpacas.

c) Small zip lock sandwich bags- These are for the small fiber sample you will likely want to send in to be tested (histogram).

d) Nail clippers- This is a good time to clip nails if time allows. As I'm shearing, a very adept person can hop around the animal clipping nails as I shear.

e) Permanent marker to mark bags

f) Broom or blower to clean tarp after each shearing.

g) Towels - for the nervous alpacas that have "accidents" during shearing...this will help keep your fleece clean.

h) Finally, a nearby electrical power source. The shears are electric and draw quite a bit of power, so try not to plug me in to a circuit with an air-conditioner, refrig., or other heavy electrical consumers.

fleeceIf you have show fleeces to shear, have on hand the corresponding number of old sheets to carefully wrap and protect your show fleece until you can skirt it later (old sheets at Goodwill cheap).

6) Shearing is strenuous business. Please be prepared to work very hard. It helps to be in reasonable physical condition- I recommend stretching well beforehand- and have plenty of water available for everyone. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes you don't mind getting very dirty.

Each alpaca, as you know, has a different personality; and they will all approach being sheared with different attitudes. Most don't mind too much, some even seem to like it. Some definitely don't like it and will protest mightily. They will all be fine and secretly thankful at how good they feel.

A word about pregnant animals; I would not recommend shearing a female who has just become pregnant. After holding the pregnancy two months or so I feel it is relatively safe to shear them. Animals due very near the shearing date are problematic. I have shorn alpacas on their due date with no deleterious effects, conversely I have heard of late term pregnancies being aborted after shearing. Heat stress is real and prolonged. Shearing them only takes 15 min. and in my opinion is far less stress than the heat. So as an owner it's your call to make.

Well, that's about it. You may have questions that come to you before shearing day about the whole process. Please feel free to call me or e-mail me at any time. I'll be glad to answer your questions.

Thank You.


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