Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shearing Day

Shearing day is a blur of activity. All the Alpaca at Highland get sheared in May. Their fiber is thick, heavy and dirty. If there are any warm days in April and May they are definitely ready to get rid of their coat.

I drove up to the farm and got there about an hour after they started. The two guys who came to shear are originally from New Zealand, but now live in the states and travel around to farms shearing animals all over the country. It is really hard, back breaking, work bending over animals all day on your knees. When I walked in the barn they had two mats set up on the floor so there is always an animal to shear. The guys work together and they move from one animal to the next. They only take about 4 mins per animal. That day they had 85 Alpaca to shear. They separate them by color and sex to shear. Fiber is flying around along with the dust from the barn floor. All you hear is the buzz from the shears. The animals are all restless and crying, especially the ones being sheared. The only breaks are to oil the shears and briefly for lunch.

The blanket, which is the middle section of the Alpaca is the best fiber. The blanket is placed in a plastic bag marked with the Alpaca's name. The neck and butt fiber is segregated by color, which is still good quality, and placed into large bags. This fiber can be made into socks. I had some of this fiber made into yarn last year and it is spectacular. I am making a sweater from the yarn. The fiber from the legs is courser and very dirty. It is usually thrown away, but can be used as nesting for other animals. One of the ladies last year brought some home for her chickens. I brought some home for the birds to use in their nests.

When you see Alpaca being sheared for the first time you think the contraption they put them in is a torture device. They have to keep them still so they aren't hurt during the shearing process. Ropes are put around all four legs and the front and back legs are gently pulled apart until they are lying on the ground. The ropes are around pulleys, so they go down nice and smooth. They shear one side at a time. This is also a great time to trim their nails, as Jenny is doing below.

Once they are done the ropes are taken off and they are able to get up. At first they are disoriented from the shearing process and need to be guided out into the pasture. It takes a couple minutes, but then they begin to eat and act normally.

I was beat after shearing day. I was soar all over and couldn't wait to get into a hot shower. But have such great memories and can't wait for shearing day in 2009.

Below is what they look like sheared and at the top is Boudica before she was sheared.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe they can shear an alpaca in four minutes!