Monday, May 24, 2010

Alpaca Shearing

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far - at 94° and I was in Monticello helping a friend with shearing alpaca.

I had a little time to kill before the shearer showed up, so stopped by Vista del Campo and walked to the back line fence. The hay was knee high at the lowest and almost to the waist where the grass had really grown. I felt a pride in knowing that this was Karie and mine, but was disappointed in knowing that there wouldn't be any animals on it for a quite a while.

At a certain point, you are just so hot and wet, that a little more hot and a little more sweat just doesn't matter. As long as you drink, drink, drink. It was so much fun!

Including the two shearers, there was 9 of us, and that wasn’t any too many for 36 alpaca. There was enough of us that it wasn't chaos and between animals you could watch, or take pictures.

We each had our own jobs and my job started as toenail trimmer and turned into toenails, tying off the hind legs and vaccinations. Oh, I had to bungee the head to the front legs too.

When the shearer arrived he introduced himself, and I proceeded to forget his name as soon as he said it, bu he remembered our names.

After introductions, he proceeded to explain what he wanted us to do and how to do it, then showed us with a real live alpaca.

We had two areas for tying off the alpaca for shearing. The shearer would basically move directly from one to the next, and all of us would clean-up and ‘reload’ the other station and get ready for the next.

The shearer kept the busiest. All he would do between animals was blow the clippers off, change blades and stretch his arms and back. He was basically bent over the whole day.

The general process went something like this: fight with the alpacas to get them into the barn; wrangle them (or in some cases just carry them) into the shearing area; tie all four legs; stretch them out lengthwise - on their left side; bungee the head to front legs to minimize movement; trim nails - front first, since you were already there; vaccinate; grind the lower teeth (that’s all alpaca have) if needed; clip the fighting teeth on males; shear; release; and clean up for the next victim.

During the shearing, the prime blanket was shorn first and bagged separately from the seconds and everything remaining after that was just swept up and tossed in the garbage.

I drove up there thinking I would just receive an education in alpaca shearing, but learned so much more. As I drove home I was confident in toenails, vaccinations, and a greater appreciation for shearers.

Oh, in the trunk was a fleece of my choice…I hope I chose right.

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