Friday, 4 July 2008

Shearing Day

We booked Colin Ottery, the Alpaca Shearer, at the end of last year and as arranged he arrived yesterday to shear our herd. We had fewer numbers than booked as we have sold some, and some are away being mated.

The weather forecast was mixed and so we took no chances and prepared the barn so that the alpacas could come in overnight to keep dry. They cannot be sheared wet and it would have been a mini disaster if they had been caught in the rain. Who knows when Colin could fit us in again. He is very busy and travels the length and bredth of the country and even flies over to France.

We managed to fit all the females into the barn but had to get the males into their field shelters and pen them in. It worked pretty well and in the morning we let them out in the sunshine until Colin arrived.

Today's photos show one alpaca being sheared.

They are sheared on the ground, although Colin is thinking of getting a hydraulic table so that he can shear at a more comfortable height. They are stretched out with ropes for their own safety. They are too big to be held like sheep and most will not stand still enough to be shorn standing. With sharp electric shears passing over their bodies and given that they have quite thin skins it is quicker and less stressful to tie them down. Even though some scream and spit, they all get up very calmly once they are released, and often try to come back into the barn to be with their friends. So they are obviously not too upsetby it all. They must be relieved to get rid of their huge fleece in the heat of the summer.

Colin shears about five alpacas an hour and it is my job to bag the fleece and keep the shearing area clear so that he can work properly. The mat is swept clean after each animal to avoid colour contamination from one fleece to another. We also take the opportunity to cut their toe nails and administer any injections that are needed such as vaccinations, worming etc:

Today all is back to normal, although there is still quite a lot of clearing up to do in the barn.

We allocated a new paddock to the females which is bigger than the one they were in. When we opened the gate they all galloped in. The cria starting pronking round and round and many of them rolled in joy. They probably feel light hearted at losing their heavy fleece and having such lovely fresh grass.

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