It’s time to shear the alpacas! Each spring, our alpacas are sheared to remove their fleece. Since this is something that only happens once a year, and there is literally only one chance to get it right – we choose to hire professional shearers for this task. Shearing Day is a very exciting day at the farm. In 2017, the local newspaper came and spent the afternoon with us and documented our day.
Preparing for Shearing Day
As you may imagine, there is quite a bit of preparation before the actual day. Professional shearers start booking appointments around January 1! Typically, they travel on a circuit to make the most efficient use of their time. Once we set the date, fingers and toes are crossed for good weather. Spring in Kentucky is notoriously fickle. 2022 marks our 7th year of shearing, and we’ve had all sorts of weather for the event.
The Shearing Process
Every farm has different facilities available. We don’t have a fully enclosed barn, so we use the 3-sided building (affectionately named the “Paca Palace”) for setup. This works really well for us, as we are able to use the gates and holding areas that the alpacas are already comfortable with. We start with the girls, and work our way from lightest to darkest in color.
We lead the alpaca to the shearing area, and they are tied down and laid on their side. Even though this looks crazy, the alpacas are safe in their restraints, and the shearers can complete their job quickly and safely. Some other services offered by shearers are usually shot administration and toenail trimming. We give shots monthly, and trim toenails as needed; however, when they are restrained it sure is a lot easier!
This is part of our 2019 shearing team, after restraining Willow.
Here is a closer photo of his front leg restraints.
The orange handled tool is what we use to trim their toenails! (Alpaca toenail trimming: #930,384 on the list of “what we didn’t know about alpacas” before they came to our farm.)
The alpacas are usually quite happy once their fleece starts coming off! This photo clearly shows the skill of our shearing team. Donald is carefully removing the “blanket” fleece (this is the best part of their fleece, and what we use for yarn).
However, ALL the fleece is valuable! Even the neck, legs, and underbelly are used in products such as our dryer balls.
It is funny to see how tiny they are under all that fleece!
Emily is the only of ours that seems to struggle with the shearing process. She lets her displeasure be known by stubbornly not moving, as well as being very vocal – and SPITTING. If you’ve never smelled alpaca spit before, count yourself lucky!!! It is one of the grossest smells ever.
You can hear her vocalization very loudly over the clippers. She is not being harmed in any way, and she is not in any pain. She’s just very grumpy about the entire procedure.
After they flipped her to get to her sides, the spitting started. With a firm yet gentle hand, her mouth was restrained so that she wouldn’t shower us all.
Before and after
Old Man Renegade shows the striking difference with his before and after. We removed somewhere around 6 lbs fleece from him.
Drastic Temperature Change
Mostly, the alpacas are very happy to have their winter coats removed. Remember – spring in Kentucky? Friday and Saturday this week were in the 80’s, and as you could imagine they get quite warm with all that fleece.
On the flip side, 2 years ago right after their shearing – it rained and dropped down into the low 40’s. Our little Cypress really struggled with the drastic temperature change!! We snuggled him into a blanket, and he was quite content. And I must say, there is something super adorable about a little alpaca with a blankie.
I mentioned that we schedule the shearing day months in advance, and hope for good weather. As we watched the weather forecast take shape over this week, it became clear that we needed to (a) cancel the shearing appointment or (b) come up with a rain plan.
After last year’s multiple cancellations for weather and the difficulty of getting a late spring appointment with a good shearing company – we chose to come up with a rain plan. Look for details of what we did and how shearing went in part 2!
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This Post Has 12 Comments
Awe! Alpacas are the cutest!! That’s a lot of fleece. Very interesting to get a glimpse into the process!
Oh my goodness they are so beautiful. Emily is such a little cutie with her sweet cries & spitting. I really appreciate hearing & seeing how much care you put into their sheering. I have seen some truly horrible practices and this looks lovely & WAY less traumatizing! Great job.
Oh, wow! I had no idea what went into sheering. I never would’ve guessed it involved the possibility of getting spit on. Thanks for the education. I love having a wealth of knowledge.
What a cutie. Spring can be hot and then cold!
I hope they are staying warm tonight. It swings hot and cold here in Michigan during this time of year as well.
Very fascinating process and procedures!
This is so cool. Sheering day looks like a party of sorts.
I have alpaca dryer balls! Now I can picture the process of creating them.
We had no idea what the shearing process entailed. Thank you for sharing.
I was rather amused by the photo of the freshly shorn alpaca. His look is quite comical.
This was really fascinating to see! I am curious about something, though, and you may or may not know the answer. In the wild, does alpaca fleece eventually shed? I can’t imagine having all that weight to carry around, especially if it gets heavier as years pass.
Hi Carolyn! Great question. The answer is that there are no “wild” alpacas! They are a domesticated species of the vicuña. 🙂