It’s time to shear the alpacas!
In part 1, I explained how we “typically” shear at the farm. But with most things the past few years – this year was anything but typical. Last year through no fault of our own, we ended up in the middle of June with some super hot alpacas. We did not want a repeat of last year, so I researched several options and decided to book 2022 with Shear Relief. I mentioned in the last post that bookings are made very early in the year so as to get on the “circuit.” Our date was booked for April 25.
We started watching the weather forecast about a week out, and our date looked great! That is, until Thursday, when Monday’s rain chances were showing 80%. If the alpacas are wet, they can’t be sheared. We don’t have an enclosed barn on our property. (You can see why this is starting to cause panic?) We were faced with the choice to (a) cancel the shearing appointment or (b) come up with a rain plan.
We chose (b) come up with a rain plan
Emily definitely needed those bangs trimmed, and we wanted to be sure we had a first-rate shearing team to take care of our farm this year!
Very lucky for us, my mother in law lives < 1/2 mile away – and her farm has a very large barn that we use for our square bale hay and equipment storage. We decided to move the equipment out and temporarily move the alpacas in. However, there were a few drawbacks:
- No electricity in the barn (this meant no lighting, and no power to run the shearing equipment). But as with many good farmers, we have generators for these types of situations.
- Coyotes are very common in our area, and the hay & equipment barn is not protected by the same woven-wire fencing as our farm. This also meant the dogs couldn’t come and spend the night with them.
- The alpacas have to be moved (they are not used to moving!)
No electricity, no problem!
Big generator + heavy duty extension cord = POWER!
Since we were counting on rain and cloudy skies, we also added 2 temporary LED lights
Building protected areas
Aren’t pallets wonderful?! This is the area of the barn where we store our square hay bales. We lay down pallets to keep the hay from coming into direct contact with the ground.
Since this section is very well protected from the elements, we decided that the boys would have their sleepover here. Using a few more pallets, we constructed a makeshift fence and pen for them.
On the other side of the barn, we did something very similar for the girls. Using the equipment readily available to us, we actually used part of our truck racks for their pen! With the addition of a few more pallets, they had a very nice and safe area.
The barn is very old, and at this point is only used for storage. We plugged up the biggest holes the best we could.
Moving the Alpacas
Our alpacas are very used to staying at home! (We don’t show our animals at competitions, and our farm vet travels to us if needed.) But, haltering and being lead is a skill that we practice a few times per year. Sunday night, we realized we need to do some more practicing in case we need to temporarily relocate again!
We haltered the boys first, and loaded them into the trailer.
The girls came next:
After getting everyone settled in with fresh hay and water buckets, we bid them a good night with the promise we would be out first thing in the morning to check in.
There is no rain
We both took the day off from our “regular” jobs, and since our appointment time was for late afternoon / early evening, we took advantage of time off from work.
Brian worked on building new compost bins for the goat area (more details on this adventure to come), and I made a few loaves of goat milk soap.
Later that afternoon, we got the call that the shearing team was 10 minutes out! We met up at the barn, and started prepping for our part.
Since we’ve had a few years of practice now, we have a pretty good routine established for our roles in shearing day. Brian handles gates and helps to move the alpacas when needed. Meanwhile, I draw up their monthly meningeal worm preventative (yes, Ivermectin for farm use was difficult to find for a bit…)
And I also prep their fleece collection bags.
The rest of the “heavy lifting” is on our shearing crew!
Because of our setup, they decided to run 2 mats – one for the boys, and one for the girls.
While the main shearer was doing his job, the others were working to get the next alpaca situated. Before shearing, they received their shots, and had their teeth checked! Camelid males naturally grow fighting teeth, and they could be quite dangerous to their farm mates. While safely restrained, a battery operated grinder was used to get Aspen’s fighting teeth under control.
The shearing went very well, and the alpacas were super excited to finally have their “quarantine haircuts” fixed!
You’ve heard of Alpaca Yoga, right? This is what it looks like in the “real world!!”
The team decided to save Emily (our Drama Queen) for last. After a funny discussion about how sometimes when owners prep for their alpaca’s behavior, once they are in someone else’s hands their demeanor completely changes. With Beate, Jewel, and Gina now complete – Emily is the last to be taken to the mat.
But you know what?
Our dear Emily acted just like we warned them she would! Thank goodness you can’t smell through the blog…
2022 Shearing is complete!
The day ended with a few minutes of very light sprinkles, but we were very glad that we planned for the worst. The alpacas are much cooler, and we now have bags of fiber to sort for processing!
Little Liam didn’t recognize them without their full fleece, so he introduced himself to them when he saw them on Sunday 🙂
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