Thursday, 20 November 2014

Shearing time

Alpacas are bred for their fibre, not for their meat.  In the wild, alpacas would move up to higher, cooler ground when the weather gets hot - but, "domesticated" alpacas, being restrained within a paddock, are not able to make that escape.

Consequently, they require shearing once a year - preferably in Spring - which will assist them to handle the heat of the impending summer.  

At the end of last month we had our three alpacas - Kris, an adult male, Miranda, mother and adult female, and Minky, Miranda's cria (baby alpaca), who was born on the 3rd March 2014 - sheared.

Shearing alpacas is a specialist chore.  And finding a shearer who is willing to travel is not always easy.  Last year we only had two alpacas to transport to the shearer, but this year, as there were three of them, we had to try and find someone to assist us, who was willing to travel to our alpacas.  Thankfully, Chris, from Helderstroom Alpacas in Villiersdorp, together with his staff and equipment, was willing to make the 360 kms round trip to our smallholding in order to assist us with the shearing.
Minky - getting the leaf blower treatment to
remove any gritty sand which could cause the
shearing blade to get blunt
It takes approximately 3/4 - 1 hour to shear one alpaca.  First they are given a very good brush, to remove as much loose vegetable matter from their coats as possible.  Then they have a dose of leaf blower treatment, to try and ensure that any gritty sand, which could make the blades of the shears blunt, is not lurking within the depths of their coats.
Miranda - the shearing on the one side of
  the saddle area is complete, now it's time
to turn her onto her other side
Once that is complete the shearing can begin - the alpacas are placed on their sides on a rubber mat on the ground, whilst their feet are held captive within strong fabric coated elastic ties.  However, they still need to be prevented from trying to get up during the shearing process, and a couple of strong assistants ensure that doesn't happen.

The fibre in the saddle area is the most prized fibre - it is called the "1st", the neck is called the "2nds" and the legs are the "3rds".
Kris - getting his nails trimmed.  Note how
his legs are restrained to prevent him moving /
kicking anyone during the shearing / nail
trimming process
Once the alpacas are shorn their "hooves" / nails get attention - like clipping human nails.  Finally, the teeth are examined, and, if it is necessary, the small back "fighting" teeth are carefully trimmed with a Dremel.  Alpaca's only have teeth on their low jaw.

This shearing only needs to be done once a year.  It will certainly ensure that your alpacas are more comfortable during the heat of summer, and, as they are sheared in Spring, there is plenty time for their coat to grow back in order to keep them warm the following winter.


  1. What a great idea this blog is! You may have mentioned on your primary blog, but are you planning to sell your fiber? Alpaca is lovely to work with. I have several bags full which were given to me by a breeder in Florida. They just sheared and dumped! That is a tragic waste in my opinion!

    1. Leigh - Welcome, and thank you for being the first person to comment on my new blog :)

      Noooo! They can't dump the fibre. What a waste? Why do they breed alpacas if they just dump the fibre? Just to sell the animals?

      IF the breeder wants to send me some of his throwaways too I'd love to have it - and would be willing to pay for the transport costs!! Alpaca fibre is so light / volume - with a vacuum sealer it would compress down to almost nothing , so postage, etc would be dramatically reduced according to the volume.


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