One of the animals I had discussed about raising on the farm is alpacas. When we first started talking about them, they were way too expensive to really consider and we fear the coyotes might go after them as they are relatively small animals.
Today I had the opportunity to go help with an alpaca shearing for a couple dozen animals. It was quite an experience. I was the first helper there and beat the shearers who got lost by an hour and a half. This gave me an opportunity to get to know the critters. Some are friendly and want attention, others are just very curious and nosy. Some grunt, others hum, sounds almost human. They vary in size depending on age and gender, but the largest weren’t any bigger than our mastiff. Some have longish snouts, kind of Llama like, others that are much cuter, have short stubby snouts.
In addition to shearing, they were also getting their monthly worming injection, which was going to happen just after they were sheared, but as the shearers were late, we held each one while they got their shots. During their shearing, they also got their toenails clipped and the clippers were the size of my garden shears. A few of them also needed their front teeth ground down and I must say that part grated on my nerves.
To shear one, their front and hind legs are stretched out like they are being tortured on a rack.
Some took this stoically, others cried and spit. The first cuts take off the prime fleece, the blanket and that I watched as it was shorn and bagged.
My job was to collect and bag the seconds, the neck, tail and leg fleece and sort it out from the hay and other material caught in the fleece and to also sort out the trash fleece, that which is too short or too full of matter that can’t easily be cleaned. This was a lot of up and down, kneeling and rising and after 6 hours of it, I am sore and tired. When I left, only half were done. I’m sure the other helpers will also be worn out.
The alpaca is not nearly as cute after the shearing.
It was quite an interesting learning experience. Maybe someday, I will be able to buy a fleece like that, clean and card it and prepare it for spinning.