A couple months ago I was able to attend an Alpaca shearing. I have been to one before, when I was much younger and working on the Alpaca farm in Texas. The shearer at this one was excellent, I loved being able to watch the way with each stroke of the shears the Alpaca fiber would fall off the back of each alpaca. Creating such a beautiful perfect Blanket fleece, with virtually no second cuts. He did a great job creating a wonderful fleece for me to send off to the mill. One of the things I really love about alpacas (this is probably true about many fiber animals) is that their yearly shearing allows you to give them most of their shots and trim their toes and teeth all at once!
At this shearing there was many helpers so I mostly was just able to observe. First, two big strong guys stand on one side of the alpaca and flip it onto its side, then stretch it out by its legs with some ropes. Alpacas are naturally skittish animals and stretching them out like this immobilizes them in the best possible way and keeps the animal and shearers safe. They start by shearing half the blanket, which is the fiber from the top of the shoulder to the hip. They then shear all the seconds and thirds on the same side, which is the legs and neck. After shearing one side of the Alpaca they simply flip the alpaca over to the other side and do the same process. While all of this is going on other people are able to run around and clip the toenails and give any necessary shots. The whole process is very efficient, and I love that around the rest of the year Alpacas are pretty easy to take care of. Aside from a few extra shots and depending on the Alpaca maybe another toenail clipping. Pretty easy maintenance.
The day was a wonderful experience, and I came home with some lovely black and white fleeces. I went up this weekend and finally picked up my Grey fleeces I had reserved from another farm, they are beautiful! I am really excited because I have finally decided on a mill, I am going to use Zellinger Wool Co. I do wish I was able to use a more local mill, but Zellinger’s has very affordable prices per pound and also a great turn-around time, both factors are very important to my growing little business. And also being in the middle of a move across the country this make shipping a whole lot easier. Although this does lead me to another slightly off topic but very important point. I really feel in the United States we could use a lot more mills. Me and my husband may get into this later in life, but when the average turnaround time for return of fiber is 6 months, I believe there’s definitely room for growth. I am excited to see growth and revival happening within the fiber community, and it will be great to see how it will change in the years to come. Nevertheless I will let you all know how my experience with Zellinger’s goes and how the finished product comes back.
I have been working with two Alpaca farms and I have been loving both of them, they have great animals with wonderful quality fleeces and colors. It was a real joy to get to see the fleeces I will be using being sheared. And I can’t wait to be surrounded in piles and piles of wonderful Alpaca roving!