With the exceptionally warm and mild weather the Midwest has experienced this spring, alpaca shearing will most likely be happening a little earlier than normal. Our herd is getting a little warm and listless on these unseasonal days near 80 degrees F, which I cannot ever recall occurring in March before – at least not while we’ve done alpaca farming. Heck, we’re still usually submerged in snow.
As most people know, shearing is an annual spring alpaca farm activity. It’s not particularly fun in my estimation – and I’m someone who could spend days on end in a barn.
Want me to muck the poop from pens? No problem.
Trim toes? OK.
Give worm shots? Bring it on.
I’ll rake hay, wipe pen gates, clean feeding troughs, train cria on halters and leads, scrub water buckets, spread gravel, stack bales and do whatever else needs to be handled.
Shearing? It’s more like an exercise in spit avoidance with some of our alpacas. Other alpacas handle it just fine. But two of ours should be given a stiff drink and then hooded with a pillowcase. Some farms tranquilize their animals before shearing. Some don’t. We’ve worked with experienced farms who swear that are the way to go. But other farm who have been in the business for more than 20 years swear the opposite. Who do you believe? We decided to go to shearing school and find out what works best for us.
JR took a two-day shearing seminar and workshop last year, and since then, he’s been shearing not only our own herd, but he’s done several other area farms’ alpacas. He learned about the equipment, techniques and procedures for effective, efficient shearing. Magical Alpacas, the farm hosting the seminar, said it wasn’t their standard practice to tranquilize their animals. And, so far, we’re in the non-tranquilizing camp as well. The medicines that calm an alpaca can kill a human, and I’m not comfortable with having these medications on my property, especially since we’ve got 4 kids and they all have friends who come over and hang out in our barn. I don’t want youngsters getting into things they shouldn’t.
By the way, I don’t touch the clippers. That’s JR’s job. My kids and I help wrestle the animal to the floor and tether its legs to posts with special pulley cables designed by the good folks at Myers Flock and Fiber. Jill and Harmon Myers turned us on to their invention a few years ago, and we’ve found that it works great at securing even the strongest alpacas. I help hold the alpaca’s head and maneuver it into the proper position for JR to remove the fleeces.
Now, we’re just waiting for the return of our repaired clippers from the manufacturer. As soon as they arrive, we’ll start this year’s shearing. So, any farms in the northeast Ohio area looking for shearing services, leave us a comment and a way to reach you. We’re looking forward to seeing this year’s alpaca fleece harvest.
We’ll post photos and videos of our shearing adventures in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!
Sirius Alpacas is a family farm in Chardon, Ohio that raises and boards alpacas for fun, therapy and profit. The farm uses its fleeces in the production of high-quality yarns and felted goods. Sirius Alpacas also imports fair-trade Andean items including socks, scarves, hats, gloves and more from Peru and Bolivia, offering the style and culture of South American goods while helping the farmers, artists and craftsmen of that region. Lori Weber, co-owner of Sirius Alpacas, is the creator and writer of this alpaca blog. You may reach her at Lori@SiriusAlpacas.com.