Well, what do you know? Shearers are considered essential workers in agriculture!
And we are so glad!! We got to shear perfectly on time, thanks to BioSecure Alpaca Shearing. John's crew showed up on Thursday night and we dug in first thing Friday. We finished 242 alpacas in 2 1/2 days with the help of lights in the barn and a hard-working skeleton crew.
Some of us wore masks and gloves, some of us didn't, and most of us are still working the fiber dust out of our sinuses. In the midst of it all, somehow all the alpacas all got sheared.
In our process, we bring all the alpacas to the barn pens via a funnel system that Don sets up the day before with portable panels. One by one the 24 pastures get herded to the barn pens where we halter them, and clean them up. Here is a picture of Kindle looking beautiful, waiting her turn.
In the early morning dew, some of these fleeces look particularly lustrous when they get cleaned up. By doing the work of getting rid of as much vegetable matter as possible in this phase, it simplifies the skirting process later, and paves the way for some shiny fleeces for show or processing.
The shearing team is great about getting the alpacas to the mat. Most of them come in on a halter fairly easily, but when someone is "singing" on the next mat, the little ones wonder what on earth is about to befall them! Here, Kyle just scooped up this cria and carried him to the mat.
Once the alpaca is in the hobbles and stretched out on the mat there is sometimes a moment or two to stand back and admire the current fleece for the last time on the alpaca. You can see that this white alpaca (Bracito's Fromage) is holding onto a great deal of luster, even though his fleece is in "pasture condition". It was a beautiful, heavy, shiny fleece once it was off.
We have 2 mats running at the same time. There are 4 guys on the crew-- 2 do the main shearing, and 2 do the clean up and the extras, like shots. Our alpacas get their annual Coven 8 immunization at shearing every year, and due to new discoveries about the importance of vitamin D, we also give a shot of Vitamin AD. We spray inside their ears for ear ticks using Catron, treat them with a pour on fly repellent, and lice prevention before they go back out. If their incisors or fighting teeth need trimming, this is the ideal moment to take care of that.
We fix their name tags to be readable if the writing has rubbed off, and they get their toenails trimmed. It's a real once-over. It also gives us the opportunity to look at them critically for any little lesions or potential skin problems we can prevent.
We try to "noodle" as many fleeces as we possibly can during this process. "Noodling" is a processionals of using a piece of paper or plastic that lays down next to the alpaca's blanket fleece just before it is shorn. As the blanket fleece comes off, it goes onto the sheet of paper/plastic in the approximate order that it was on the body. We then roll it up into a "noodle" and put it in the bag with the 2nds and 3rds. When it's time to skirt the fleece, it's easy to unroll it and see where the edges of the blanket are so we can remove any coarser fiber and prepare it easily for show or processing. The coarser fibers go into another category. Each category has its uses so that we get as much production possible out of every fleece.
WOW! Look at that luster!!
By the looks of the wall, you can see that not everyone is pleased to be weighed... I don't blame them!
After shearing each group, we herd them back to their pasture and bring in the next one. On the way home, they gleefully run, buck, kick and pronk, so glad to be free of the pen, the fleece, and the whole process. It's so much fun to see them so joyful!
Thanks for joining our shearing adventures! Here is a picture I drew of us quarantining at home. It actually doesn't look too different from every other day out here.
We hope to see you all soon!